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Maine State Representative Jon Hinck (D-Portland) said today that Maine’s Attorney General, Bill Schneider, should not be using taxpayer or public funds to pay for his trip to Washington, DC to watch Supreme Court arguments. Both Hinck, a Democrat, and Schneider, a Republican, are vying for the United States Senate seat being vacated by Maine’s Senior Senator Olympia Snowe.

“If he wants to be in Washington to join a protest of the Affordable Care Act, he should do so with his Senate campaign funds, not our taxpayer dollars,” Hinck said. “The trip involves no legal work and offers no benefit to the people of Maine.”

Since the Attorney General is not a part of the legal team prosecuting the case, Hinck argues, the trip to Washington is merely symbolic and thus, should not be paid for by the government. Shortly after being elected Attorney General, Schneider moved rapidly to sign onto the amicus brief. “I’m determined to do it,” Schneider told the media just days after taking office.

Jon Hinck, an attorney, is one of more than 500 State Legislators from across the nation who signed on to an amicus brief defending the law. Maine State Senator Margaret Craven (D-Androscoggin), Hinck’s campaign treasurer, and State Representative Sharon Treat (D-Hallowell) also signed onto the brief and were in Washington to witness the proceedings.

“Senator Craven, my campaign’s treasurer, did not travel to Washington at taxpayer expense,” Hinck said noting that Craven’s impressive resume as a legislator and health care advocate is just one reason he is proud to have her as a part of his campaign team. “She is there making a political statement, advocating for a position that I am very proud she is taking.”

Schneider told the media his trip is partly funded by the Maine Attorney General’s Office “settlement account,” suggesting that they are not “taxpayer” dollars.

“That is a distinction without a difference,” Hinck said, “funds in the ‘settlement account’ is still the people’s money.” He noted that those funds, acquired with State resources by staff paid for by taxpayers, are public dollars. “The checks deposited into that account were written to the State of Maine not Schneider for Senate, which is the entity really benefiting from his trip.”

Hinck contends that travel to advance a political agenda should not be covered by any public money. “Opposition to health care reform plays favorably with the Republican base he is trying to win over, but should not be an excuse pay for a trip that is politically motivated.” Hinck added, “True fiscal conservatives would frown upon this use of public funds because he is serving the interests of his campaign more than the taxpayers of our State.”  

“I can understand that the Attorney General and I have differing opinions on the law, and over the course of this US Senate campaign, I look forward to discussing the issue and the merits of health care reform,” Hinck added. “I can even understand that he may want to be in Washington for historical value, but he should not leave tax payers on the hook for making a political statement.”

Cross-posted At DirigoBlue

Jon Hinck is the Ranking Member of the Legislature’s Committee on Energy. He has spent his career as an advocate, teacher, and champion for working people. In 1979, Hinck was co-founder of Greenpeace U.S.A., and has successfully represented commercial fisherman after the Exxon-Valdez Oil Spill, Maine well owners with MTBE groundwater contamination, and children affected by the toxic compound BPA. He is a leading progressive voice on education, equality, and economic opportunity. Hinck is seeking the Democratic nomination for the Unites States Senate seat being vacated by Senator Olympia Snowe.

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