How political hacks and cronies influence wildlife management…
By guest blogger Val Philbrick
Many of the vocal proponents of the powerful hunting lobby in Maine are paid lobbyists who work for various state and national hunting organizations. According to the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices at www.mainecampaignfinance.com, Don Kleiner, as a registered lobbyist in Maine, made a total of $21,000 in 2015, by lobbying for the Maine Professional Guides Association in support of LD 156, which proposed to lower the minimum age of a child to hunt from ten to eight years; it was later changed to no minimum age due to outside lobbying efforts. Mr. Kleiner also lobbied in support of LD 754, sponsored by Stephen Wood, (R-Sabattus), a constitutional amendment that never made it out of committee, but would have prevented Maine citizens from voting on wildlife issues as well as other pro-hunting bills. Kleiner currently serves on the recently formed steering committee for the Maine Department of Fisheries and Wildlife for the management of the four big-game species in Maine: moose, deer, turkeys and bears.
It should be noted that Don Kleiner on behalf of the Maine Professional Guides Association lobbied against the bear referendum of 2014, which would have outlawed bear baiting, hounding, and trapping. Maine is the only state in the union that still allows the trapping of bears by cable restraints. Two bills, LD887 and LD801, proposed in 2015 to eliminate the hounding and trapping of bears were unanimously rejected by the Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Legislative Oversight Committee, the majority of whom are members of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine (SAM).
David Trahan, a former legislator and director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine (SAM), is a paid lobbyist for SAM and also a member of the new MDIFW steering committee. Mr. Trahan has made a total of $3,521.74 thus far in 2015, paid for by SAM. In March of 2015, Mr. Trahan received $424.61 from SAM for his support of LD 156, sponsored by Gary Hilliard (R-Belgrade), which eliminated the minimum age requirement for a junior hunting license so that children under ten years old can now carry a firearm and hunt within twenty feet of a parent or adult guardian. Like Kleiner and Trahan, Rep. Hilliard is also a member of the new MDIFW steering committee. David Trahan lobbied for other bills, including LD 424: “An Act to Allow the Use of Suppressors for Hunting Nuisance Wildlife”, sponsored by Stephen Wood, (R-Sabattus), which failed to make it out of the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee and was replaced by the current LD 942, sponsored by Sen. Garrett Mason (R-Androscoggin), which allows the use of noise suppression devices or silencers on firearms while hunting with a permit enacted on June 25, 2015, on a trial basis until August 1, 2018.
Mr. Trahan received $1209.65 from SAM in May of 2015, for his support of LD 156 and other bills, including LD 652: “An Act to Authorize the Carrying of Concealed Handguns without a Permit”, sponsored by Sen. Eric Brakey (R-Androscoggin), which became law on July 8, 2015.
James Cote received $1,000 from the Maine Trappers Association in March and April of 2015, for a total of $2,000 for his lobbying efforts for pro-hunting bills, including LD 754: “Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine to Ensure that Laws Governing Hunting and Fishing are not Subject to the Citizen Petition Process”, which failed to make it out of IFW Committee. Hunters are reportedly just 11% or less of the population in Maine, yet some groups inside and outside this state would curtail the voice of the majority of our citizens on issues of wildlife as if these special interests “owned” the wildlife, which belongs to all Maine citizens.
Mr. Cote was also paid a total of $9,000 ($3,000 per month in March, April, and May 2015) by the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance of Columbus, Ohio to support LD156, which eliminated the minimum age for a junior hunter. During his pubic testimony at the bill’s hearing on March 26, 2015, Cote provided the Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee with information about the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Families Afield coalition, which stated, “The Families Afield coalition supports LD 156 because it will remove yet another barrier that prevents the introduction of hunting to the next generation by lowering eligibility for a junior hunting license from ten to eight. However, the coalition strongly encourages the Maine legislature to remove the references to age for the junior hunting license…It is true that some individuals would end up hunting if apprentice licenses were not available; however the vast majority would not.”
According to the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, “The future of hunting in America depends on its ability to attract newcomers from the urban and suburban areas of the country. The growth of metropolitan areas has increased their political clout so that it is a growing reality that city dwellers will determine future hunting and firearm laws.”
James Cote proposed two amendments on behalf of the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance during his public testimony in support of the bill. The first amendment proposed to eliminate the minimum age requirement for a junior hunting license and increase the number of times a person may hold an apprentice hunter license. The second amendment provided that children under 10 years of age may accompany a parent while the parent is hunting. Both amendments were designed to swell the ranks of young hunters and were promptly approved by the IFW Committee and added to LD 156, which was passed by the Legislature on June 2, 2015.
John Hohenwarter, lobbyist for the National Rifle Association of Fairfax, VA, who also lives in Fairfax, has been paid $16,185.02 thus far in 2015 for his lobbying efforts on behalf of the NRA for the passage of such bills as LD 652: “An Act to Authorize the Carrying of Concealed Handguns Without a Permit” without a requirement for sensible background checks and responsible gun education and safety courses for new gun owners, which passed on July 8, 2015, and took effect on October 16, 2015. Mr. Hohenwarter also lobbied for LD 868: “An Act to Remove Limitations on Reciprocity for Concealed Handgun Permits”, sponsored by Sen. Paul Davis (R-Sangerville) in April of 2015, which removed the previous authority of the Chief of the State Police to enter into reciprocity agreements with other states and eliminated the required equivalency provisions and simply recognizes a concealed handgun permit issued to a person by that person’s state of residence if that person’s state of residence honors a permit to carry a concealed handgun issued under Maine law. This ill-advised law, which further erodes the protection of the public, was passed by the legislature on June 5, 2015.
For more information, click on the following link:
Click on lobbyist list and hit search. Choose a year, for example, 2015, and choose a lobbyist by the first letter of their last name from the list of lobbyists. Click on the name for the records of how much they received for each month and what bills they supported.
–Val Philbrick is a local writer, talk show host, and animal advocate.