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Maine Listening Tour; WSJ Follow-Up on UPenn-Biden Story

“Listening” was the keyword this week, as TBAF President John Pudner joined Maine-based Eastern Field Director Johnny Babilon on a listening tour through that state. And former University of Pennsylvania Trustee Paul S. Levy could well have been listening to the concerns raised by Pudner in this letter to the Pennsylvania Attorney General when Levy wrote “Professor Biden and His Ambassadors,” published by The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.


Back in July, Pudner and the President of TBAF’s sister organization wrote the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office questioning the propriety of Biden nominating UPenn’s president as U.S. envoy to Germany after UPenn paid Biden personally more than $900,000, perhaps funded at least in part by the millions in donations the University received from China (the AG has yet to respond to the letter, which can be read in its entirety in the previous post $68M CHINA>UPENN, $911K UPENN>BIDEN ).


The new Wall Street Journal piece, subtitled “The University of Pennsylvania paid the future president more than $900,000” follows up by noting:


After Mr. Biden left the vice presidency in 2017, Penn created the Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement and appointed Mr. Biden to the bespoke position of Benjamin Franklin Presidential Practice Professor. Mr. Biden was paid personally for this job—$371,159 in 2017 and $540,484 in 2018 and early 2019 before launching his campaign.


While the numbers, names and scenarios may not have been as eyebrow-raising as the Biden-UPenn affair, citizens up the coast in Maine were equally concerned that issues important to them be heard and addressed by elected officials.


To help ensure that TBAF listened to real Mainers who work on the water rather than vacationers from elsewhere, Babilon timed the tour for the off-season. One logical stop was Moody’s Diner, still run by the descendants of its 1927 founders. Another was McSeagull’s, which the Boston Globe reports is tended during season by an amiable 71-year-old who pours 200 drinks a day for beaming patrons -- none other than former Governor Paul LePage. Much to our disappointment, we were greeted by a notice the owners had to post on both their website and the door, that the famous establishment closed early this season “due to the staffing shortage and in inability to fully staff our restaurant for full service.”


(While we wouldn’t have found LePage at McSeagull’s this time of year even if it were open, the listening tour did get to hear from him, and witness his standing ovation, in a gathering of pastors in a church north of Auburn, Maine.)


The staffing shortage is connected to one of the three recurring concerns we heard from Mainers during the listening tour: the need to match neighboring New Hampshire in eliminating the taxes on wages, which would help both workers and the small businesses that serve residents. The other two issues most often cited were Covid-related: that schools need to be “brought back better” after the disruption of the pandemic, and that the state being ranked first in per capita nursing home Covid deaths demanded a change of course.


TBAF also made the rounds in a series of meetings near the capitol in Augusta, and looks forward to listening to more Mainers in the coming weeks, as it continues to work toward fixing our antiquated election system so as to make meaningful progress on concerns of citizens from Maine to Pennsylvania and throughout the rest of the country.



The TBAF team was part of a standing ovation north of Auburn, Maine.



Between stops along the water, the TBAF team caught lunch at Moody’s Diner.




A classic Nor'easter dumped rain in Augusta, Maine during the TBAF team's meetings this week and produced power outages that canceled a planned event in Massachusetts, but Eastern Field Director Johnny Babilon was ready to resume activity as soon as the sun came out.






The team still wanted to detour between stops to visit McSeagull’s, despite being closed as mentioned above.