Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Ducks, TrainRiders Northeast, and confirmed suspicions…


On a number of occasions, we’ve asserted that TrainRiders Northeast (TRNE) is a lobbyist organization for NNEPRA and the Downeaster.  Recently, F. Bruce Sleeper, shown

here in action at the DEP SWPA hearing on March 25th in Brunswick, challenged us on that view.

The challenge took place at the Public Hearing for LD 439 before the Legislature’s Transportation Committee, in the State Capitol, on March 26th of this year, the day after the DEP hearing.  We were in attendance, and sitting off to the side of the podium from which members of “the public” would address the committee.

Sleeper was one of those speakers, rising to speak in opposition to LD 439 (IE: asking for an “Ought Not To Pass” referral to the full legislature).


As he addressed the committee and introduced himself, he turned towards your reporter and pointedly stated “by the way, we are not lobbyists for NNEPRA, but the Downeaster would not exist were it not for us.”

He then proceeded to deliver his remarks, the opening page of which is shown here:


You can read the entire document here: http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/getTestimonyDoc.asp?id=23166

Note that he submitted the testimony on the TRNE official letterhead, and that he is an officer and legal counsel for the organization; one who knows all about their finances.

Now as Sam Ervin might have said, ‘we’re just an old country blogger.’  And ‘we’re also an old country bumpkin retired engineer.’  But as we see it, the statement above is “lobbying.”  Which is defined thusly:

  • verb (used without object), lobbied, lobbying.

4. to solicit or try to influence the votes of members of a legislative body.

  • verb (used with object), lobbied, lobbying.

5. to try to influence the actions of (public officials, especially legislators).

6. to urge or procure the passage of (a bill), by lobbying.

Furthermore, TRNE is a 501(C)3 non-profit organization under federal law, which is readily verifiable through a variety of public sources:



Harking back to our ‘old country blogger’ stature, it’s our understanding that 501(C)3 organizations are prohibited from lobbying, which it clearly seems that our man Sleeper did in this case.

                                    Image result for bruce sleeper maine attorney

We also recall that last year, Wayne Davis, founder and head of TRNE, issued a statement threatening that his organization would work to defeat Governor LePage in his re-election bid because of his ‘interference’ with the Federal Railroad Administration’s adjudication of the Environmental Approval process for the Amtrak Maintenance and Layover Facility.

                             Image result for wayne davis TRN

We don’t think 501(C)3’s are supposed to do that, either.   On a related point, we note that Sleeper’s testimony reflects a substantial amount of detailed effort on his part, all of which must take away time from his participation in his law firm’s business.  We trust there are no other means by which he’s being paid for his TRNE Downeaster related professional efforts.


But what do we know about such things?  We’re more adept at identifying ducks when we see them.


We can’t help but think, however, that young F. Bruce forgot one of the lessons his parents tried to teach him when they caught him telling fibs.


In closing, let’s just celebrate the ducks’ involvement with our beloved Downeaster.


We understand they’ll soon be marketing a computer game (not for profit, though) to easily influenced youngsters.  And that they’ll be selling TRNE Train Host tchotchke's at the Brunswick Departure Center in Maine Street Station, and on board the trains as well.



Which suggests a new sticker needs to be printed up for Downeaster advocates to go along with their AAB (All About Boochever) stickers:

                              Image result for duck on tracks

We had hoped one day to see this happen in the seat of our town’s government and the State Capitol:


But even we know what a snowball’s chance in hell is.  At least in the warmer seasons there.

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