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Political Notebook

Snowe, facing primary fight, shifts to right on votes

May 7, 2011

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WASHINGTON — Maine’s Olympia Snowe has long thrived as one of the Senate’s leading GOP moderates, but she has recently sided with Tea Party movement activists on high-profile votes as she braces for a primary challenge from the right.

Such votes could help Snowe fend off conservatives who mock her as a RINO — Republican In Name Only — and hope to sink her bid for a fourth term next year.

Snowe insisted she has been true to her moderate roots. “I am who I am,’’ Snowe said. “I haven’t changed.’’

Last month, she backed a motion by Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, a hero to the Tea Party, to undercut President Obama’s use of military force in Libya.

Snowe joined nine Republican senators, most of them conservatives, supporting Paul’s motion, but it failed 90-10. Her vote was a protest against Obama’s failure to consult with Congress on Libya, Snowe said.

Snowe backed Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell’s measure to ban the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases. She said new regulations could hurt financially struggling manufacturers that have made strides to curb emissions.

Snowe also voted for a Republican House budget pact that included a ban on federal money for Planned Parenthood. Snowe, a supporter of abortion rights and women’s health issues, criticized the cuts before voting for the bill.

The ban was championed by conservatives who object to Planned Parenthood as the country’s largest abortion provider, although federal law already bars the use of federal funds to perform most abortions. Snowe later voted against a resolution to ban federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

New England Republicans have long survived as centrists, touting fiscal responsibility while often siding with Democrats on social issues like the environment and abortion. But Snowe has voted with her party 91 percent of the time in the new Congress, compared with just 69 percent in the previous Congress, a Washington Post voting database showed,

Snowe, 64, is facing her first primary fight after cruising to a third term in 2006 with 74 percent of the vote.

— Associated Press

League of Women Voters won’t name donors for ad WASHINGTON — The League of Women Voters has strongly supported calls for disclosing who pays for political advertising, but the voter education group yesterday would not name the donors funding its TV ads attacking Senator Scott Brown.

“We comply with the spirit and the letter of the law and report all contributions in our annual reports,’’ said Elisabeth MacNamara, national president of the organization, in a phone interview. The group’s annual report covering 2011 will be out early next year, she said.

Last fall, MacNamara offered a passionate call for more disclosure of funding behind political advertising:

“Secret money, whether foreign or domestic, has no place in America’s democracy,’’ she said in a statement backing federal legislation that would have forced more disclosure. “Voters have a right to know — whether it is a corporation, union, trade association, or nonprofit advocacy group making unlimited political expenditures and influencing elections. This is not only common sense — it is crucial if voters are to remain the cornerstone of our democracy.’’

Reminded of her earlier statement in favor of disclosure, MacNamara said the group’s current ad “is not about an election 18 months from now, this is about a vote [Brown] took last month.’’

The group is running ads against Brown and Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, over environmental issues. Both senators are up for reelection next year. The ad against Brown, which started April 29, shows a young girl struggling to inhale and accuses Brown of standing with polluters when he voted in favor of stripping the Environmental Protection Agency of its power to regulate greenhouse gases.

The League said it is spending more that $1 million on the ads.

“It’s surprising that a good-government-type organization is using undisclosed money to fund what amounts to campaign ads,’’ said Charles Franklin, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Brown has complained vociferously about the ad. In a column published in the Boston Herald he said the League went “into the gutter’’ with the attack on his record. The senator’s political adviser, Eric Fehrnstrom, accused the League, which says that it is nonpartisan, of going easier on McCaskill because she is a Democrat.

— Mark Arsenault

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