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“Just A Clownish Governor”: Paul LePage’s Latest Tantrum Is A Doozy, Even For Him

Susan Deschambault, a Maine Democrat, recently won a state Senate special election, and as part of the process, she was invited to Gov. Paul LePage’s (R) office for an official swearing-in ceremony. So, Deschambault and her family drove 72 miles, arriving at the governor’s office bright and early on Friday morning for her 9 a.m. appointment.

What she did not know, however, is that LePage preferred to throw a tantrum, refusing to swear Deschambault in because the far-right governor is mad at Democratic legislators. The Portland Press Herald reported:

Gov. Paul LePage abruptly canceled a swearing-in ceremony Friday morning for a newly elected senator in response to Democratic lawmakers’ votes against one of his nominees.

Senator-elect Susan Deschambault, a Democrat who won a special election Tuesday for the Senate District 32 seat representing the Biddeford area, showed up with her family at LePage’s office for her scheduled swearing-in at 8:50 a.m. only to be told the event had been canceled.

According to LePage’s spokesperson, the governor – a grown adult – was looking for payback. Apparently, the Republican nominated a conservative talk radio figure to serve on the Maine Unemployment Insurance Commission, but Democrats defeated the nomination last week.

The unhappy governor, in an “I’ll show you…” frame of mind, took out his frustrations on Deschambault, turning her and her family away when they showed up for the ceremonial event.

The newly elected Democrat reportedly thought this was some kind of April Fool’s joke, before realizing that LePage wasn’t kidding. He simply wouldn’t swear her in.

The Bangor Daily News ran a piece over the weekend, wondering what in the world LePage hoped to gain from this: “What was gained by refusing to swear in Susan Deschambault? Nothing. Literally nothing…. Now the story is about how a woman who won an election had her family travel to the capital to celebrate her accomplishment, only to have made the trip for nothing because of a partisan disagreement. How is this a win?”

The NBC affiliate in Portland reported yesterday that the governor’s office announced that the newly elected lawmaker will eventually be sworn in – when LePage feels like it.

Two days after the ceremony was postponed, Gov. LePage attended the opening of a store in Swanville. When asked whether or not the oath would happen, he answered, “Yeah, she’s going to be sworn in. But it’s not on her schedule. My schedule is a little busier than hers.”

When pressed further if he would be the person to administer the oath, he said, “Of course I am. You know, they kick you and beat you and slap you over the head. And then the very next morning at 8 o’clock, they’re there before you put your briefcase down, your cup of coffee on the desk, they want to be sworn in. She will be sworn in according to the laws of the Constitution of the State of Maine.”

In case you were wondering, Deschambault’s special-election victory did nothing to change the makeup of the chamber – the 35-member Maine Senate will still have a Republican majority, 20 to 15, even after she’s sworn in. In other words, there’s no legislative or policy reason to delay the process.

Rather, this is just a clownish governor throwing the latest in a series of tantrums, simply because he can.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 4, 2016

April 5, 2016 Posted by | Maine, Maine Legislature, Paul LePage | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Race-Baiting Rants, Xenophobic Fear-Mongering”: Maine’s Racist Gov. Paul LePage Is A Preview Of President Trump

If you want a vision of the Donald Trump presidential future, look no further than Maine’s tantrum-throwing, race-baiting, loves-to-be-hated Gov. Paul LePage.

Since being elected in 2010, LePage has repeatedly made use of rants designed to rally white middle-class resentment and garner media attention for his pet causes. The New York Times calls him “combative,” Politico says he’s “crazy,” and the Huffington Post brands him a “racist.”

For those following the Republican presidential race, this all sounds quite familiar.

In the span of just seven months, frontrunner Trump has dispensed with any sense of decorum or restraint—whether it’s calling John McCain a “loser” who, despite surviving a Vietnamese prisoner camp, is no war hero; branding Mexicans “rapists”; making sexist remarks about rival candidate Carly Fiorina and Fox News host Megyn Kelly; demanding an outright ban on all Muslim immigration; or gleefully repeating a fan calling Ted Cruz a “pussy.”

LePage, too, relishes in “tellin’ it like it is” brutishness.

For instance, the governor has blamed the spread of infectious diseases on undocumented immigrants. “I have been trying to get the president to pay attention to the illegals in our country because there’s been a spike in hepatitis C, tuberculosis, and HIV, but it’s going on deaf ears,” he lamented, while failing to provide evidence for his claims.

While on the campaign trail in 2010, he proclaimed that he’d tell President Obama to “go to hell.” And within weeks of taking office, the businessman-turned-governor declined invitations from the NAACP to attend Martin Luther King Jr. Day events, adding that the civil rights organization—a “special interest” who will not hold him “hostage”—should “kiss my butt” if they feel slighted.

It’s not hard to envision President Trump, leaning back in his solid-gold Oval Office chair, telling a Muslim-American activist group they can “kiss my ass” after he declines to visit a mosque or entertain religious leaders.

As Maine’s executive, LePage frequently makes uncouth remarks to bash his legislative rivals. “Sen. [Troy Dale] Jackson claims to be for the people,” he said during a budget dispute, “but he’s the first one to give it to the people without providing Vaseline.”

One could easily imagine POTUS Trump making anal sex references to pressure Senate Democrats during tense negotiations.

And just like Trump has lobbed personal insults and veiled threats at media outlets he perceives as unfair, LePage, while at the controls of a flight simulator, publicly joked, “I want to find the Portland Press Herald building and blow it up.” A few months after the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, the Maine governor said he’d “like to shoot” a Bangor Daily News political cartoonist.

All of this seems to be part of LePage’s plan to thump his chest and offend or embarrass everyone until he gets his way. Just like The Donald.

The uber-conservative governor made national headlines last month when he suggested “we ought to bring the guillotine back” as punishment for drug traffickers. Before that, he went on a screed about “guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty” coming from other states to “sell their heroin” and ditch, but not before “they impregnate a young, white girl.”

LePage’s communications director, Peter Steele, denied the governor’s comments had anything to do with race. But then a month later, mini-Trump admitted the racial connotations, and noted it was all part of his tantrum to get the state’s legislature to do as he wanted.

“I had to go scream at the top of my lungs about black dealers coming in and doing the things that they’re doing to our state,” he told a WVOM radio show on Tuesday. “I had to scream about guillotines and those types of things before [state lawmakers] were embarrassed into giving us a handful of DEA agents. That is what it takes with this 127th [Legislature]. It takes outrageous comments and outrageous actions to get them off the dime. They just simply don’t move.”

Interestingly, as the Bangor Daily News noted, lawmakers from both parties agreed to LePage’s drug-fighting plans before he ever threw a hissy fit. And when it came up for a vote, all but one legislator voted yes.

So his racist stand was all for show. Sounds familiar.

Oddly enough, when asked for his thoughts on the likely Republican nominee, LePage, who had endorsed Chris Christie in the primary, said, “I’m not a big fan of Donald Trump, although he should give me a stipend… for starting this whole thing about being outspoken.”

 

By: Andrew Kirell, The Daily Beast, February 11, 2016

February 13, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Maine Legislature, Paul LePage, Racism | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Maine Court Smacks Down GOP Governor”: Caught Abusing His Power, Gov. Paul LePage Is In A World Of Trouble

Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) is in a world of trouble, which may even lead to his impeachment, after the far-right governor was caught abusing his power to punish the Democratic state House Speaker. An official investigation and civil suit are already underway.

And then there’s his other problem, which in policy terms, is just as serious. The Portland Press Herald reported this afternoon:

Maine’s top court has ruled unanimously against Gov. Paul LePage in his dispute with the Legislature over whether he has more time to veto 65 bills already processed into law, delivering a significant blow to a governor already engulfed in withering criticism and scrutiny seven months into his second term.

The court’s advisory opinion ruled that the governor misread the Maine Constitution when he failed to veto 65 bills within the 10-day period prescribed by law. LePage’s legal team argued that the Legislature prevented the governor from returning the vetoes because lawmakers had temporarily adjourned. However, the ruling by six of the seven justices on the Maine Supreme Judicial Court rejected that reasoning. The seventh justice recused himself and did not participate in the proceedings.

The entirety of the unanimous, 55-page ruling is online here (pdf).

It’s hard to overstate what a disaster this is for Maine’s Tea Party governor.

To recap our previous coverage, the procedural aspect of this gets a little complicated, but in practical terms, LePage thought was giving a “pocket veto” to dozens of bills, letting them expire without his signature.

But that only works when the state legislature is adjourned and no longer in session. When the governor tried this little gambit, Maine’s legislative session was still ongoing.

And when the legislature is still in session, a bill becomes law automatically after 10 days if a governor doesn’t sign or veto it.

In other words, LePage, in his fifth year as governor, thought he was derailing dozens of pieces of legislation, some of which he strongly opposes, but he was apparently allowing them to become law – by accident.

Lawmakers and the state attorney general said those laws had become, well, law, but the GOP governor balked. Now, the state Supreme Court has ruled against LePage, too.

The governor has suggested in recent weeks that he’ll refuse to enforce the state laws he considers illegitimate, though that was before today’s state court ruling. If LePage’s posture doesn’t change, it would seem state lawmakers would have additional grounds for his impeachment.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 6, 2015

August 7, 2015 Posted by | Maine, Maine Legislature, Paul LePage | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“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

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