Maine mayor pushing bill to post welfare recipients’ addresses online

A Maine mayor is proposing a controversial name-and-shame strategy for welfare recipients, saying he plans to push a bill requiring the state to publish the names and addresses and other details for “every individual on the dole.”

Robert Macdonald, mayor of Lewiston, Maine, pitched the plan in his regular column for the Twin City Times. He noted that a website already lists information on state pensioners, and complained that “liberal, progressive legislators” think similar information on welfare recipients should be private.

“Well, the days of being quiet are gone,” he wrote. “We will be submitting a bill to the next legislative session asking that a website be created containing the names, addresses, length of time on assistance and the benefits being collected by every individual on the dole.

“After all, the public has a right to know how its money is being spent,” Macdonald said.

As Macdonald is a local official, he would need to get a state lawmaker to introduce the plan in the legislature. He told the Portland Press Herald he has discussed the plan with two state lawmakers.

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    The idea, though, quickly drew criticism in the state and beyond – including from his opponent in November’s election.

    "Mayor MacDonald is wasting everyone's time,” Democratic candidate Ben Chin told in an email. “He's never passed a single policy at the local level, let alone in the state legislature. Resorting to publicly shaming poor people is a sad, desperate act.”

    Maine, though, is no stranger to controversial restrictions on welfare. Though the program commonly known as “welfare” uses federal dollars, states have the authority to set conditions on the funding, and Maine Gov. Paul LePage has pursued such reforms including drug-testing some recipients.

    Macdonald defended his plan in an interview with the Press Herald.

    “Go into a grocery store. They flaunt it,” he said of welfare recipients. “I’m not sorry. I hope this makes people think twice about applying for welfare.”

    In his column, Macdonald also said he’d introduce a bill limiting assistance to 60 months total.’s Ross Powers contributed to this report.