Poliquin’s eye-popping haul and policy priorities

Rep. Bruce Poliquin

Rep. Bruce Poliquin

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin has started filling his campaign coffers while voting to loosen controls on Wall Street, redistribute taxpayers’ money to the very wealthiest Americans, and undermine Medicare and other popular programs.

When Poliquin announced raising $700,000 in the first three months of his first term, the Maine Republican Party was certainly correct in saying “these fundraising numbers are truly eye-popping.”

Poliquin’s 2016 fundraising set a national record for the most money raised by a freshman House Member in the first quarter.

In just three months, Poliquin raised over 40 percent of his total for the entire 2014 race against Emily Cain and Bruce Richardson. In that campaign, both Cain and Poliquin each spent more than Mike Michaud ever did for a 2nd Congressional District race.

While these “eye-popping” numbers are rather striking, in early February I predicted that Poliquin “will be a champion fundraiser. Because he is on the committee overseeing banks and financial institutions, and since he opposed much in the way of regulating them, he’ll be able to raise a lot of money from those sectors.”

Indeed, two years ago, first-term members of Congress on the House Financial Services Committee raised an average of $100,000 more in the first quarter than other freshmen legislators.

There’s already a clear nexus between the committee’s focus and Poliquin’s fundraising. As Kennebec Journal reporter Michael Shepherd notes, in 2015, “Poliquin raised nearly as much money from financial services industry political action committees as Cain raised overall,” plus there were “many individuals in the financial sector that gave generously to the campaign.”

But no one should think this is a case of money buying votes. Poliquin comes from the world of finance and sincerely opposes strictly regulating what investors, insurance companies and banks do. As a true believer, he’s a great bet for businesses regulated by his committee.

In his first week in Congress and about a week later, Poliquin voted for a bill removing limits on risky Wall Street practices. It would “let large banks hold on to certain risky securities until 2019, two years longer than currently allowed,” according to New York Times columnist Gretchen Morgenson. “It would also prevent the Securities and Exchange Commission from regulating private equity firms that conduct some securities transactions. And, finally, the bill would make derivatives trading less transparent, allowing unseen risks to build up in the system.”

Since then, Poliquin has cast tax and budget votes that would undercut core programs that help the middle class, purportedly because the country can’t afford them, and would give a massive tax cut — $269 billion over 10 years — to the top two-tenths of 1 percent.

The tax cut Poliquin supports would benefit only 5,400 estates in 2016, giving them an average of more than $3 million. As the Center on Budget and Policies Priorities notes, this is “more than a typical college graduate earns in a lifetime,” while the “318 estates worth at least $50 million (some of which are worth hundreds of millions of dollars) would receive tax windfalls averaging more than $20 million each.” Farmers may worry about the estate tax but a very tiny percentage are affected at all.

While Poliquin voted for tax cuts for the very, very wealthy, the House budget he voted for raises taxes on low-income working people. Sixteen million people would be pushed below the poverty line or deeper into poverty.

Candidate Poliquin said that people now under 55 should have to wait longer than age 65 to receive Medicare. By voting for the House budget, Poliquin voted to do that.

If what Poliquin just voted for were to become law, you would work until you’re 69 to get Medicare. That would amount to a massive benefit cut. It would really hit people who do physical work, who may not be able to wait to retire later, and who haven’t seen their life expectancies rise.

Poliquin also voted to turn Medicare into a voucher program down the road.

The House budget also cuts medical and scientific research, college grants, job training, transportation funding, and programs to combat fraud and abuse.

Those cuts undermine economic growth, which is essential for American jobs, and which increases federal revenues and decreases costs for struggling Americans.

No doubt Poliquin’s 2016 opponents will highlight the incumbent congressman’s priorities. Will the big money he’s raised insulate Poliquin from fallout from these unpopular actions?

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Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.