Good morning, I’m State Rep. Bob Duchesne of Hudson.
It’s election time, so this morning I have a pressing question for you: Who owns our democracy?
Most of us go into the voting booth to hire our elected leaders with the expectation that they will be working for us – to create jobs, lower our health care costs, improve our schools and support fair taxation policies that don’t hurt middle class families.
We don’t hire them to grow the profit margins of campaign donors, like insurance companies or out of state corporations.
But that’s exactly what’s happened here in Maine during the past two years. Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, an independent, nonpartisan watchdog organization, highlights how the insurance industry bought and paid for a new law that allowed them to increase rates on 90 percent of small businesses across the state and nearly all middle aged Mainers.
More than 1 million dollars was spent on campaign contributions to candidates and political action committees by those in health insurance and health care.
And, Republicans received 84 percent of the contributions from Maine’s largest health insurance company.
So what exactly did the insurance companies get for their money?
Anthem alone will receive $11 million in taxpayer dollars generated by a new tax on all insurance ratepayers to pay part of the law. $11 million is a pretty good return on Anthem’s investment.
Let’s hope somebody kept the receipt. This law backed by Big Insurance already needs major repair. It’s made it harder for small businesses and middle aged Mainers to pay for medicine and health care. The Republican health insurance law stripped key consumer safeguards. It allows Anthem and other insurance companies to charge higher premiums to businesses and individuals based on factors such as geography and age.
If you are a middle aged Mainer, you can now be charged 500 percent more for your health insurance than a younger Mainer.
And, insurance companies can now hike rates up to 10 percent without a public review. Even if you are one of the few who didn’t get hit in the first wave of hikes, how long can that last when insurance companies can now raise rates at will? Who owns our democracy?
It wasn’t just the health insurance laws that were for sale. We saw Republican lawmakers pass laws that siphoned taxpayer dollars from public schools to virtual and charter schools. A Portland Press Herald news investigation shows that those new laws were influenced by out of state corporate campaign donors that would stand to profit from running such schools in Maine.
This kind of pay to play politics will hurt our families, our small businesses and our schools.
In Maine we like to think we are immune to the kind of pay to play politics we see in Washington and other states.
Now we see: we’re not. This is the wrong direction for Maine. We need leaders who will put people – not special interests first.
Thank you for listening, and thank you for caring. Our democracy is not for sale.
I’m State Representative Bob Duchesne of Hudson.