Reading reports on emails between General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works shipyard VP John Fitzgerald and Rep. Jennifer DeChant (D-Bath) has been illuminating, to put it mildly.
According to investigative reporter Alex Nunes, who filed a Maine Freedom of Access Act (FOAA) request to be privy to their email exchanges, DeChant wrote:
“Hi Jon- Have you see the LTE by Bruce Gagnon. Is there a communications plan around responding, etc.? I hope this bill is run early. Jennifer.”
Ok, I get why DeChant reached out for help responding to her constituent Gagnon's letter to the editor offering eloquent opposition to her corporate welfare bill to benefit BIW: “General Dynamics has no business asking for more tax breaks.”
DeChant is in over her head and has been from the start in sponsoring a $60 million tax giveaway to benefit the 5th largest defense contractor in the world.
She's made a few blunders along the way, but here we see her being deliberately misled by Fitzegerald in his reply which read in part:
"...Bruce is a one man band who is also using this as an opportunity to raise the profile of his organization and its central message. While I have no doubt about the sincerity of his convictions, he is attempting to frame the debate about General Dynamics and to demonize the ‘big bad corporation.’ I am not going to oblige him and debate with him on his terms in the media.”
Fitzgerald wants DeChant to think Bruce is out there on his own, rather than one of dozens of people who've had similar letters published in 14 different papers over the last few weeks. Or of scores of people who have protested at BIW. Or the many who've been arrested there over the years.
Since Bruce has been so diligent in confronting BIW for years now from his perch right on their doorstep, I'm going to guess Fitzgerald knows that what he told DeChant is not true.
I bet he knows Bruce Gagnon works as a coordinator for a major international peace organization (Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space), that he is also an active member of a local chapter of the national group Veterans for Peace, and that he often organizes with a local group, Peaceworks of Greater Brunswick. Gagnon has also been the lead organizer for the annual Maine Peace Walk for years. He told the judge in the Aegis 9 case just concluded that he estimates having protested outside BIW at least 100 times.
Certainly the judge assumed BIW executives know exactly who he is when he remarked to the prosecutor during the trial, "Do you really think Bruce Gagnon is getting through that gate?"
So DeChant underestimates the band that Gagnon plays in at her peril. That band numbers in the hundreds, and it successfully resisted an enormous tax rebate by the city of Bath in 2013 (BIW got something, but much less than they had been demanding).
In addition to 350 Maine and the Maine Green Independent Party coming out against the bill, there have also been many public statements against LD1781 by individuals other than Gagnon. A sampling:
The Right Thing by Eric Herter (Times Record 2/9/18)
Tax break for BIW by Jim Anderberg (Lewiston Sun Journal 2/2/18)
No tax giveaways for General Dynamics by Leslie Manning (Bangor Daily News 1/30/18)
No need for Maine taxpayers to subsidize BIW by Mary Beth Sullivan (Portland Press Herald 1/28/18)
General Dynamics doesn't need tax handouts by Robert Hayes (Bangor Daily News 1/25/18)
No Tax Giveaway for General Dynamics by Mark Roman (Morning Sentinel 1/18/18)
General Dynamics has asked for enough money by Peter Morgan (Portland Press Herald 1/3/18)
No more handouts for General Dynamics by Dud Hendricks (Bangor Daily News 12/25/17)
No More Tax Breaks for General Dynamics and BIW by Lisa Savage (Kennebec Journal 12/3/17)
Gagnon is the opposite of a lone wolf, but it's convenient for Fitzgerald to dismiss him as such.
BIW wants to ensure that DeChant and co-sponsor Sen. Eloise Vitelli see the corporation as their most important constituent, far more important than the mere humans who make a mark next to her name at the ballot box.
Before she stopped replying to my emails and blocked me on Twitter, DeChant told me something that is probably not true but might come in handy for those who live in Bath: "When a constituent (corporate or individual) asks me to put in a bill, I do so."
Unless I am completely mistaken, this means When BIW tells me to jump I ask, How high?
But at least one of her constituents (and it's not Gagnon) is interested in asking her to put in a bill for conversion, that is, turning BIW production capabilities away from building warships and toward building sustainable energy solutions.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Meanwhile, LD1781 is tabled and its unclear when or even if the Taxation Committee will move the bill as amended to the floor.
First DeChant and some of the the other legislators have to get BIW to explain the amendments to them.