Mal Leary

Maine Public Political Correspondent

Journalist Mal Leary spearheads Maine Public's news coverage of politics and government and is based at the State House.

A lifelong journalist and Maine native, Mal has worked as both a reporter and editor in broadcast and in print, in both Washington, D.C. and in Maine. He has won numerous awards for his reporting on state government issues and politics.

For several years he owned and operated Capitol News Service, which was located in the State House complex providing news coverage to radio stations as well as newspapers.

Mal is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters & Editors and has long been an advocate for open government. He is the SPJ Sunshine Chair in Maine and is currently the president of the National Freedom of Information Coalition based at the University of Missouri Journalism School and is a Vice President of the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition.

Mal is married with three grown children, several grandchildren and lives in Augusta, within sight of the Capitol dome.

Ways to Connect

Lawmakers spent hours Friday questioning Health and Human Services acting commissioner Ricker Hamilton, who has been nominated by the governor to take over the department as commissioner.

“My commitment is to ensure the Department conducts consistent, rigorous and fair oversight, both internally and with our partners,” Hamilton said, asked about his top goals.

Committee members from both parties raised questions about the ongoing lack of communication between DHHS and the Legislature. Hamilton, whose entire career has been at DHHS, promised to do better.

At a meeting Thursday of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, Maine independent Sen. Angus King grilled Defense Department officials over efforts to defend the country against cyber attacks. 

King said simply bolstering defenses against cyber-attacks is not an effective strategy.

“Just being on the defensive is not going to work in the end," he said. "If you are in a boxing match and you can bob and weave, and you are the best bob-and-weaver in the history of the world, if you can’t punch back, you are going to lose that boxing match.”

A judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Maine Gov. Paul LePage against Attorney General Janet Mills. At issue was Mills’ refusal to pay for LePage’s legal costs to weigh in on the federal battle over President Donald Trump’s executive orders on immigration.

When he filed the lawsuit last spring, LePage told the court he believed Mills must either represent him in the federal courts or pay for the attorneys he would use to make his arguments. Mills responded that she had no obligation to represent the governor and cited past court opinions to back her up.

U.S. Navy

One of Maine’s largest employers is growing, but its future depends in large part on the actions of Congress.

Maine independent U.S. Sen. Angus King is criticizing the procedure majority Republicans are using to pass a tax cut bill, a process he says will end up costing seniors.

 The measure would allow a simple majority to pass the legislation, blocking any attempt at a filibuster.

“We still don’t know what the plan is," King said Wednesday in a speech on the Senate floor. "We have an outline, we have principles, we have bullet points, we have lists - but we don’t have a plan. Therefore, it is difficult to analyze.”

Mary Schwalm / Associated Press

Congress is poised to embrace the Navy’s goal of expanding from its current fleet of 275 ships to 355. Doing so will be costly — the Congressional Budget Office has estimated a price tag of more than $26 billion a year. But if the spending is approved, it will mean a ramp-up in production, and that will likely be good news for one of the state’s largest employers, Bath Iron Works.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage laughs as he speaks during a conference of New England's governors and eastern Canada's premiers to discuss closer regional collaboration, Monday, Aug. 29, 2016, in Boston.
AP Photo/Elise Amendola

All sixteen Maine sheriffs met privately with Gov. Paul LePage Monday to discuss his concerns about sheriffs not cooperating with ICE, federal immigration and customs enforcement.

J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press

The U. S. Senate Health committee is exploring why drug prices are so high and what can be done to lower those costs. 

Maine Sen. Susan Collins chaired the hearing, in which representatives of various trade groups were asked to explain why some drugs purchased out of pocket are less expensive than the same drug purchased through insurance.

“A wide variety of prescription drugs on certain insurance plans are actually cheaper when the consumer pays out of pocket," Collins said. "That makes no sense to me.”

Mal Leary / Maine Public

Green Party candidate Betsy Marsano today kicked off her campaign to win the party's nomination in Maine's 2018 governor's race.

The Waldo resident told reporters at a State House news conference Tuesday that Maine needs new leadership. Marsano has a long history of working on behalf of Green Party issues, particularly those aimed at improving the environment.

“We are a large state and a very small community," she said, "and it is that community that I will most approach and try to work with as I go forward in this campaign.”

Next month, voters in Maine will head to the polls to weigh in on four statewide ballot questions, including one that would allow a casino in York County, and another that would expand access to Medicaid. It’s expected that the casino campaign will generate millions of dollars from both supporters and opponents. But in this off-year election, with no candidates on the ballot, some observers believe that it’s the Medicaid question that will drive voter turnout on November 7.

Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine’s 2nd District told the House Commerce Committee Wednesday that more needs to be done to combat that nation’s drug crisis.

Poliquin told the panel Maine is suffering a death about every day from drug overdoses.

“There was a recent study that said 6 out of 10 families in our great state — 6 out of 10 Mr. Chairman — are impacted directly or indirectly by this epidemic, including, I might add, my own family,” he said.

A day after Gov. Paul LePage ordered the transfer of nearly $11 million out of a fund controlled by the Maine Attorney General’s Office, the attorney general is speaking out.

Janet Mills told Maine Public Radio that she’s still assessing the effects of the governor’s action and considering a lawsuit.

Progress for Maine

The two political action committees supporting and opposing the creation of a casino in York County have filed their first campaign finance reports.  So far, they have raised only a fraction of what's expected to be spent for the duration of the campaign.

Progress for Maine, the campaign committee supporting Question 1 on the ballot, has raised $1.8 million and spent $1.5 million, mostly for advertising. A Bad Deal for Maine, the group opposing the York county casino, has incurred debts of about $28,000 to set up the committee. 

Gov. Paul LePage is challenging Attorney General Janet Mills’ use of funds that resulted from legal settlements the state of Maine received from lawsuits against Volkswagen and the financial ratings company Moody’s.

In a written statement, LePage says he has ordered the settlement funds, which total more than $10 million, transferred from an account in the attorney general’s office to another account that will require legislative approval before it can be spent. He says it’s wrong for Mills to have sole control over the money.

J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press

More than a decade into the nation’s opioid crisis, Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and other members of the Senate Health Committee are pressing for solutions to the escalating number of overdose deaths.

At a hearing of the Senate Health Committee on Thursday, Collins referenced a newspaper article about the Maine Municipal Association’s annual convention, where first responders in Portland and Falmouth discussed their concern about the deepening drug epidemic in Maine.