Susan Collins, left, and Sara Gideon Credit: Patrick Semansky and Robert F. Bukaty | AP

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I like setting stuff on fire,” said Travis Healey, who is opening a restaurant in Ellsworth. (He’s talking about a flambe.) Here’s your soundtrack.

What we’re watching today

After months of under sustained attack from Democratic groups, Maine’s senior hit back at her top challenger on the air.  A TV advertisement from Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, criticizes House Speaker Sara Gideon over her record on money from corporate political action committees and campaign finance laws. Gideon has pledged to not take money from corporate PACs, though her campaign has taken money from others who take it while Collins has taken the eighth-highest total among incumbent senators this cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

It’s part of an at least $90,000 ad buy the Collins campaign has dropped over the last few days, according to federal filings. Those ads were largely bought before a Colby College poll dropped on Tuesday afternoon showing Collins and Gideon virtually tied in the Senate race, but they are another sign that the incumbent’s camp is worried about the Democrat’s rise.

One can see Collins’ ad also as a response to the litany of attacks against her for months on the air by outside groups. Just this week, Majority Forward, a nonprofit “dark money” group affiliated with a PAC that supports Democrats in Senate races, is out with a new, half-million dollar TV ad buy that criticizes Collins for not holding town halls, while groups like Maine Momentum and MoveOn have also gone after the Republican senator on that and a range of other issues.

Outside groups, such as One Nation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have supported Collins with TV ads, too, but they largely haven’t attacked Gideon, who is one of four Democrats competing in a June primary take on Collins later this year. That could soon change.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Firm did ‘independent study’ of electric line while working for energy giant that could make billions from the line,” Josh Keefe, Bangor Daily News: “In late 2017, Maine energy regulators hired an outside firm to analyze the economic impact of the 145-mile hydropower transmission line proposed for western Maine. But while that firm was conducting [that study], it was … working for the Canadian energy company that stands to make billions from the line.”

It comes as lawmakers advanced a bill saying Central Maine Power did not go through the proper process to put the corridor on public lands. A legislative committee on Tuesday advanced a bill that questions the legality of a lease on state land that CMP needs for the proposed corridor, saying state law required a two-thirds majority vote because land would be significantly altered by the proposal, according to Maine Public. If the bill succeeds, the project could be put in jeopardy. 

The company’s reputation is one of its biggest hurdles to overcoming a potential November referendum that may sink the project. On Wednesday, CMP announced that it has brought back former CEO David Flanagan to serve as the company’s executive chairman. He told reporters his mission is to “restore public trust” in CMP, which received the lowest score on a national ranking of customer satisfaction with utilities last year. Two years of scrutiny of billing and customer service issues recently led to a state penalty of up to $10 million.

— “Conservative legal group sues Matt Dunlap over denial of Maine’s registered voter list,” Judy Harrison, BDN: “The Public Interest Legal Foundation, which describes itself as a watchdog group whose mission is to ensure voter lists are properly and accurately maintained, requested Maine’s list last year from [the secretary of state’s] office, its complaint in federal court said. It allegedly was denied because the group was not involved in a ‘get out the vote effort.’”

— “Tribal gaming rights opposed by Bangor casino in debate over sovereignty overhaul,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “The gaming change would adopt provisions of a 1988 federal gaming law that applies to tribes, which are afforded relative autonomy to operate casinos in the rest of the U.S. that has not applied in Maine largely because of a 1980 land-claims settlement between the state and tribes.”

Broadband action plan gets a public airing

The need for expanded high-speed internet is one thing lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree on. They’ll get a better understanding of what that could look like when ConnectMaine’s annual report and action plan is presented this afternoon. It calls for $200 million to be invested in infrastructure over the next five years. Proposals that have recently made their way through the Legislature haven’t been that hefty — but Gov. Janet Mills is advancing a $15 million bond proposal that failed last year. Here’s your soundtrack.

Today’s Daily Brief was Jessica Piper and Caitlin Andrews and edited by Michael Shepherd. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, email (we’re setting up a new subscriber page soon) to subscribe to it via email.

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