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“Just Ask Me To Leave, You Don’t Have To Impeach Me”: LePage Receives Plenty Of Letters Asking For His Resignation

Last summer, with the possibility of impeachment hanging over his head, Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) appeared on a radio show and said he’s prepared to give up his office – under the right conditions.

“If the people of Maine want me, I’ll do the job,” the Republican governor said. “If they don’t want me, just ask me to leave, you don’t have to impeach me.” LePage added that in his state of 1.3 million people, a grand total of four Mainers wrote to him, urging him to resign.

And that gave those of us here at The Rachel Maddow Show an idea. In fact, we filed a Freedom of Information Act request, asking the governor’s office how many other letters he may have received. Rachel explained on the show what happened next:

“We finally got the letters and a couple people did write to him. So, now, we know why it took so long. And this is just the letters, it turns out, that came in, in the first month, after Paul LePage asked for letters from the people from the state of Maine to tell him if they wanted him to resign.

“By our count, more than 1,800 people in Maine, just in that first month, did actually take the time to write to him and ask him to resign. Just in the first month after he asked. We don’t even have the letters that came in after the first month. This is just what came in, in that first month.

“And it’s interesting. Going through them, they are heartfelt letters, polite letters. There are a few rude letters. There’s a lot of hand-written letters. Most of them, though, are very short and polite and to the point.”

If you watch the segment, note the very large piles of paper – all of which show the letters LePage received in the first month after issuing the challenge.

All of which raises the question of what, exactly, the threshold might be for the governor. He told his constituents, “[J]ust ask me to leave.” Quite a few of them did.

How many letters would it take for LePage to follow through? We’re not sure, but if we find out, I’ll let you know.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 1, 2016

July 2, 2016 Posted by | Impeachment, Maine, Paul LePage | , , , , | Leave a comment

“House Republicans Want To Impeach Someone, Anyone”: Republicans Get Serious About Impeachment, But Not Obama’s

Quick quiz: when was the last time the U.S. Congress actually impeached an appointed executive branch official? It was 1876 – 140 years ago – when the House impeached Ulysses S. Grant’s War Secretary, William Belknap, over corruption allegations.

Nearly a century and a half later, House Republicans appear eager to give Belknap some company. The Washington Post reported yesterday:

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) introduced a resolution on Wednesday to censure IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, raising the stakes in the GOP war against the tax collector days before a hearing on whether to impeach him.

The four-page resolution seeks Koskinen’s resignation or removal by President Obama and calls on the IRS chief to forfeit his federal pension.

Chaffetz, the far-right chairman of the House Oversight Committee, explained in a statement yesterday, “I view censure as a precursor to impeachment.” He added a few weeks ago, “My foremost goal is impeachment and I’m not letting go of it.”

No, of course not. That might be responsible.

By any sane metric, the idea of congressional impeachment against the IRS commissioner is bonkers. House Republicans are apparently still worked up about an IRS “scandal” that doesn’t exist, and though Koskinen wasn’t even at the agency at the time of the alleged wrongdoing, GOP lawmakers want to impeach him because they disapprove of his handling of the imaginary controversy.

Given that the year is half over, Koskinen won’t be in the job much longer – he’ll likely leave office when the Obama administration wraps up – and there’s no credible reason to believe the Senate will remove the IRS chief from office, why bother with impeachment? Politico reported something interesting yesterday:

Two weeks ago, in a closed-door meeting with Paul Ryan, Reps. Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows gave the speaker an ultimatum: They would force a House vote to impeach the IRS commissioner — unless he allowed the Judiciary Committee to take action against John Koskinen instead.

The two founding members of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus had been working behind the scenes for well over a year to take down Koskinen for accusations that he obstructed a congressional investigation. GOP leaders and senior republicans, however, had never been keen on the idea, fearing it was ultimately futile and that the spectacle would backfire on Republicans.

Right-wing lawmakers would not, however, take no for answer. Jordan and Meadows vowed to force an impeachment vote onto the floor unless House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) signed off an impeachment hearing in the Judiciary Committee, and the Republican leader relented. The hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.

But given the fact that Koskinen hasn’t actually committed any impeachable offenses, it’s hard not to get the impression that many House Republicans want to impeach someone, anyone, just for the sake of being able to say they impeached someone.

As we discussed last fall, congressional Republicans have spent years talking up the idea of impeaching President Obama. At various times, GOP lawmakers have also considered impeaching then-Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. In October, one Republican congressman said he’s eager to impeach Hillary Clinton, and she hasn’t even been elected.

I continue to believe much of this is borne of partisan frustration: Republican investigations into Benghazi and other manufactured “scandals,” including the IRS matter itself, have effectively evaporated into nothing. That’s deeply unsatisfying to GOP hardliners, who remain convinced there’s Obama administration wrongdoing lurking right around the corner, even if they can’t see it, find it, prove it, or substantiate it any way.

Unwilling to move on empty handed, impeaching the IRS chief will, if nothing else, make Republican lawmakers feel better about themselves.

But that doesn’t change the fact that this partisan tantrum is indefensible. Koskinen took on the job of improving the IRS out of a sense of duty – the president asked this veteran public official to tackle a thankless task, and Koskinen reluctantly agreed. For his trouble, Republicans want to impeach him, for reasons even they’ve struggled to explain.

It’s ridiculous, even by the low standards of this Congress.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 19, 2016

May 20, 2016 Posted by | House Republicans, Impeachment, Internal Revenue Service, John Koskinen | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“America’s Craziest Governor”: Just When Things Couldn’t Get Worse For Paul LePage…

Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) is caught up in a doozy of a controversy. As regular readers know, a Maine charter school recently hired state House Speaker Mark Eves (D), but LePage, a fierce opponent of Democratic legislators, threatened the school – either fire Eves or the governor would cut off the school’s state funding. In effect, LePage played the role of a mobster saying, “It’s a nice school you have there; it’d be a shame if something happened to it.”

The school, left with no options, reluctantly acquiesced. The problem, of course, is that governors are not supposed to use state resources to punish people they don’t like. By most measures, it’s an impeachable offense.

As of today, as the Portland Press Herald reported, it’s also the basis for a civil suit.

Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves will file a civil lawsuit Thursday against Gov. Paul LePage, alleging that the governor used taxpayer money and the power of his office to prevent his hiring at a private school in Fairfield.

The lawsuit, to be filed in U.S. District Court in Portland, has been anticipated ever since the board of directors at Good Will-Hinckley voted to rescind its offer to pay Eves $150,000 a year to become the organization’s next president. Eves said that the board told him before his contract was terminated that LePage threatened to eliminate $530,000 in annual state funding for the school unless it removed him from the job.

“Acting out of personal rage, vindictiveness and partisan malice, Gov. Paul LePage blackmailed a private school that serves at-risk children into firing its president, the Speaker of Maine’s House of Representatives,” the complaint reads.

The discovery phase of this case ought to be a doozy.

Remember, the Tea Party governor hasn’t actually denied the allegations, and neither have LePage’s allies. The Maine Republican did argue this morning, however, that when he threatened the school it was comparable to LePage intervening in a domestic-violence dispute.

“It’s just like one time when I stepped in … when a man was beating his wife,” the governor said. “Should have I stepped in? Legally, No. But I did. And I’m not embarrassed about doing it.”

I honestly haven’t the foggiest idea what that’s supposed to mean in this context. Unless the state House Speaker intended to physically assault the charter school, the comparison appears to be gibberish.

And just in case this wasn’t quite enough of a mess for the beleaguered governor, LePage is simultaneously facing a parallel controversy in which he claims to have vetoed bills that have already become state law.

This morning, the GOP governor said he’s “not going to enforce” the state laws he doesn’t believe exist, even if the state legislature and state Attorney General’s office believes those state laws do exist. The Maine Supreme Court hears arguments in the veto issue tomorrow.

Politico recently characterized LePage as as “America’s Craziest Governor,” asking whether the Republican is still “playing with a full deck.”


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 30, 2015

July 31, 2015 Posted by | Impeachment, Maine Legislature, Paul LePage | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Idiot Thug Running Maine”: Maine’s Ultra-Conservative Governor May Have Finally Messed With The Wrong People

Last week, members of the Maine legislature’s Government Oversight Committee unanimously called for an investigation into Tea Party Governor Paul LePage. At question is whether or not he inappropriately—and potentially illegally—abused his control over the state’s budget to force a charter school to fire a political opponent.

The “combative” governor, as The New York Times called him—which is New England shorthand for “asshole”—hasn’t so much protested his innocence as he has thumbed his nose at the bipartisan committee’s authority.

In a letter to Beth Ashcroft, the director of the oversight group, his counsel cited the legally-binding “You’re Not the Boss of Me” doctrine.

“The Governor and the exercise of his discretionary executive power are simply not subject to OPEGA’s jurisdiction and/or oversight,” the letter explained. “If members of the Legislature wish to ‘investigate’ the Governor, they should look to the Constitution for the authority to do so.”

They might do just that. Six state lawmakers recently said they would begin looking into the process of impeachment over the imbroglio, in which LePage has been accused of withholding more than $500,000 in state money from Good Will-Hinckley—which, sadly, isn’t a straight-to-DVD sequel, but rather a charter school for disadvantaged children.

LePage admits to demanding that the school sever ties with recently hired president Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves. Fearing the substantial and immediate loss of funds, the school promptly did just that. Eves, a long time political foe, has said he’s considering a lawsuit against the governor.

He might have to wait in line.

Joining the chorus calling for LePage’s sizable head on a buttery roll is the Portland Press Herald, who outlined other instances in which LePage has toed the line of propriety. This time, at long last, the paper’s editorial board argues, he’s gone too far.

“If this is allowed to stand, the governor could intervene in the legislative process at will by using the full power of the state to threaten the livelihood of anyone who doesn’t vote his way,” the state’s largest paper wrote.

For those unaccustomed to the darkened corners of the Maine political process, the larger question might not be what LePage is up to now, but how he ever got elected in the first place—let alone re-elected four years later in 2014. His rap sheet of bizarre, brazenly unilateral proclamations would be funny—if there weren’t, say, the futures of disadvantaged children at risk.

Actually, even if you ask state representatives, it’s still funny. Even Democratic Representative Pinny Beebe-Center—one of the lawmakers considering an impeachment investigation—admitted as much, telling the Bangor Daily News that LePage has given the state a bad name.

“We’re the laughingstock of the country,” she said of the man the right-wing politics site Politico called “America’s craziest governor.” “This is lower than low.”

As any lobsterman can tell you, the lowest depths are even deeper than you’d ever imagine, and if you trawl them long enough, you’re bound to dredge up something unsavory. For LePage that sort of thinking doesn’t seem to be just a metaphor, but an actual governing policy.

Back in 2011, LePage garnered headlines when he memorably told the NAACP that they could “kiss his butt” after saying he would not attend Martin Luther King Jr. Day events around the state.

“They are a special interest,” he said of the NAACP. “End of story. And I’m not going to be held hostage by special interests.”

LePage accused the group of playing the race card, then materialized an entire deck of his own, and kicked over the card table for good measure.

“And if they want, they can look at my family picture. My son happens to be black, so they can do whatever they’d like about it,” he said. The LePages took a Jamaican teen, who they did not formally adopt, into their home about ten years earlier.

Speaking of his children, critics of LePage called his hiring of his 22-year-old daughter to a $41,000 staff position shortly after he was elected “brazen nepotism” that would be “illegal in most states.”  Then again, considering how he attempted to unsuccessfully make the legal working age 12 instead of 16, 22 is nearing retirement age.

Perhaps, you might be thinking, LePage is simply in favor of the concept of hard work? Only as long as it’s not organized labor. One of his earliest appearances on the national stage came when he demanded the removal of a mural dedicated to the history of the labor movement in the state, saying that it was disrespectful toward corporations.

And then there are the governor’s efforts to weaken environmental laws. LePage controversially overturned on a ban on bisphenol A in baby bottles, something that, at worst, the porcine governor cracked, might mean “some women may have little beards.”

Naturally, all of his farcical exploits have been dutifully documented by the state’s press, which has rankled LePage so much that he tried to order state employees not to talk to the Press Herald, an institution which he joked at one point he’d like to blow up.

Another instance of LePage’s infamous sense of humor came when he referred to a Democratic state legislator’s proclivity toward symbolically anally penetrating citizens without the courtesy of any lubrication.

As for his new-found concern for the well-being of Maine’s school children, LePage had some bracing advice for them a while back. “If you want a good education, go to an academy,” he said back in 2012. “If you want a good education, go to private schools. If you can’t afford it, tough luck—you can go to the public school.”

Unfortunately, if LePage gets his way, there might not be any money left to go toward those public schools, as seen in his most recent foray into the Austerity Bucket Challenge. LePage’s efforts to completely eliminate the state income tax, which generates around $1.7 billion in annual revenue, came to national attention earlier this year when he found himself in a pissing match with Maine’s most famous resident, Stephen King. The plan was defeated last month, but LePage has remained steadfast, saying he’s considering initiating a public referendum on the matter.

So how does such a spittle-lipped, gaffe-prone, “business-first” governor get elected in the traditionally mild-mannered state of Maine? It’s complicated, but it essentially comes down to two factors: Maine’s peculiar electoral voting system, and its polarized identity.

LePage’s election in 2010, which he won with just over 1 percent more votes than the next runner-up in a three-way race—and only 39 percent of of the total vote—was emblematic of just how little of a statewide mandate the governor ever really had.

Alex Steed is a columnist for the Bangor Daily News who wrote last week about how frustrated he’s become explaining what the deal is with LePage to people outside of Maine. He tells The Daily Beast that it’s confounding that LePage managed to pull off another slight victory in 2014 “despite having become known for telling the NAACP to kiss his butt and warning school children against the dangers of reading newspapers.”

“Those things actually happened,” he says.

Chris Korzen, a political activist and former head of the group Maine’s Majority, an organization dedicated to “highlighting the disconnect between LePage and Maine voters,” says LePage got elected for two reasons.

“Many if not most voters hunger for leaders who are strong and decisive, who don’t kowtow to outside interests, who aren’t afraid to tell it like is and be themselves. LePage is all of that,” he says.

“Secondly, the Democrats have utterly failed to communicate a coherent vision for Maine’s future, and have instead focused much of their time attacking the governor and cutting back-room deals. The bottom line is that Democrats have not given the people what they want—and LePage has. Whatever misgivings they may have about LePage are outweighed by the lack of a suitable alternative.”

Despite all of that, Steed says, Lepage found his way back in office in 2014 when voter turnout was high because of a referendum on, of all things, trapping bears.

“This was widely known as the ballot question about whether or not it was cool to bait bears with donuts and then trap them,” he said. “This rallied the outdoorsmen to come out to the ballot in huge numbers, particularly in Northern Maine, and while out, they voted for LePage, the most conservative candidate. This speaks generally to a complex and layered scenario, of course, but in short, he owes his second term, which he clearly perceives as a mandate even against his own party, to the lack of a runoff voting system, and trapping bears with donuts.”

That’s about as good of an explanation for the duality of Maine’s voting bloc as any. In short, there are two Maines: the place people around the country think of when they imagine it—the Vacation State of craggy shores and sea-side lobster shacks. And there’s the other Maine, basically the South of the North.

There’s the Maine you picture when you want to send someone a postcard from vacation, and the one that you picture when sending a ransom note from an abandoned hunting shed.

In other words, it’s a liberal’s worst nightmare. LePage’s frequent sparring partner, Stephen King— who addressed the latest controversy on Twitter recently—knows a thing or two about those.

“Paul LePage has become a terrible embarrassment to the state I live in and love,” he wrote. “If he won’t govern, he should resign.”

It’s not hard to imagine LePage inviting King and those who agree with him to direct their comments in the vicinity of the nearest toilet bowl. If only he weren’t dragging the rest of the state into it as well.


By: Luke O’Neil, The Daily Beast, July 6, 2016

July 8, 2015 Posted by | Impeachment, Maine, Maine Legislature, Paul LePage | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Mollifying The Extremists”: GOP Back To ‘Impeachment,’ ‘Jail Time’ For Obama

As the 2014 cycle progressed, the number of congressional Republicans talking about impeaching President Obama faded, and there’s no real mystery as to what happened. GOP leaders, fearing a public backlash, told Republican incumbents and candidates to dial it down a notch. Why rile up Democrats, who too often stay home in midterm cycles, when they’re tuning out?

And as a consequence, for months, the “i” word more or less faded. That is, until very recently.

Last week, Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas), less than a month into his first term in Congress, announced his belief that President Obama, without a doubt, “deserves impeachment.” He’s not the only one talking like this.

Republican Rep. Tom Marino of Pennsylvania says President Obama is “getting close” to impeachment. “People say, ‘should the president be impeached?’ I say, we’re getting close to that,” Marino said in a video posted on YouTube Wednesday by the local newspaper, the Wellsboro Gazette.

Marino said he was talking about impeachment because “it comes up consistently at town hall meetings.”

Well, that’s a good reason. Marino was a little fuzzy on what, exactly, would be the grounds for presidential impeachment, but for many GOP lawmakers, that’s a minor and inconvenient detail that shouldn’t interfere with reckless rhetoric.

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), meanwhile, has no use for subtlety and is already talking publicly about “jail time” for the president:

In an appearance on “The Steve Malzberg Show” [Tuesday], Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., continued his crusade against President Obama’s executive actions on immigration reform, calling on the federal courts to find that the president’s actions violated the law.

If Obama defies such a ruling, Brooks said, then Congress should pass a contempt citation against the president for his “reckless conduct” and demand that he comply with the court’s decision.

He said that Obama would then drop his executive actions since he, like Richard Nixon, doesn’t want to “incur the wrath that comes with a contempt citation with potential fines and jail time.”

At this point, I still consider it unlikely that GOP leaders will go along with the far-right’s impeachment crusade, but conservative media appears to be on board, and the number of congressional Republican talking up the idea since the elections keeps growing.

Even if party leaders balk, this only means they’ll have to think of something else to mollify the extremists in their midst, and pointless anti-Obama lawsuits probably won’t cut it.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 4, 2015

February 6, 2015 Posted by | Conservative Media, GOP, Impeachment | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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