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“Dated And Bizarre Attitudes”: Maine’s LePage; ‘That’s Like Giving My Wife My Checkbook’

Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) is already facing an abuse-of-power scandal that may lead to his impeachment, which might lead a typical governor to take steps to bolster his or her statewide support.

But there’s nothing about the far-right Mainer that’s typical.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) compared public campaign financing [last week] to handing his checkbook over to his wife to spend money, reported website and podcast mainebeacon.com.

 An initiative on the November ballot in Maine would allow candidates who were being far outspent by their opponents to “re-qualify for additional public financing,” according to the report.

At a town-hall gathering, LePage added, in reference to public financing, “That’s like giving my wife my checkbook. I’m telling you, it’s giving your wife your checkbook. Go spend.”

The comments were captured on video and were not well received.

“The governor’s attitude toward women, toward relationships and toward money are so dated as to be bizarre,” Eliza Townsend, executive director of the Maine Women’s Lobby, said.

Making matters just a little worse, LePage also announced last week that he’s appointed a creationist to serve as Maine’s acting commissioner of the Department of Education.

[Dr. William Beardsley, the former president of Bangor-based Husson University] expressed unequivocal support for teaching creationism during his unsuccessful 2010 bid to become the Republican nominee for governor.

According to The Bangor Daily News, Beardsley articulated his position in response to a simple debate question from Maine Public Broadcasting’s Jennifer Rooks.

“Do you believe in creationism, and do you think it should be taught in Maine public schools?” she asked candidates. “I would teach creationism,” Beardsley replied.

Because LePage appointed Beardsley as an acting commissioner, Beardsley bypasses the legislature’s confirmation process. He can serve for six months, at which point the governor would have to either formally nominate him or appoint someone else.

The editorial page of the Portland Press Herald responded, LePage gets to put a buddy in charge of one of the most important departments of state government, and Beardsley doesn’t even have to sit in front of a legislative committee to answer a lot of stupid questions, like ‘What did you mean in 2010 when you said that you would teach ‘creationism’ in public school?’”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 27, 2015

October 28, 2015 Posted by | Maine, Paul LePage, Public Campaign Financing | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Maine’s GOP Governor Faces Intensifying Scandal”: Paul ‘Rage LePage’ Playing The Role Of A Mobster

Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) is caught up in a scandal that’s likely to get worse before it gets better.

To briefly recap, a Maine charter school hired state House Speaker Mark Eves (D) for a top position, 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 abuse of power that constitutes an impeachable offense.

Yesterday, the school’s chairman spoke to state investigators who said the governor did precisely what he’s accused of doing. The Bangor Daily News reported:

The chairman of the Good Will-Hinckley board of directors told lawmakers on a government watchdog panel Thursday that Gov. Paul LePage’s threat to withhold state funding because of the school’s hiring of Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves placed the school’s existence in jeopardy. […]

 [The] testimony confirmed much of what has been uncovered by the media and the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability: That by threatening the funding, LePage, his staff and acting Education Commissioner Tom Desjardin were directly responsible for Good Will-Hinckley’s board canceling a $120,000 per year employment contract with Eves.

Soon after, the Portland Press Herald reported that the state’s Government Oversight Committee voted to subpoena two of LePage’s senior aides – his legal counsel and the governor’s senior education adviser – as part of the same investigation.

It’s entirely possible that the end result of the probe will be the Republican’s impeachment – a topic mentioned explicitly in the Press Herald article.

Remember, the Tea Party governor hasn’t actually denied the allegations, and neither have LePage’s allies. The Maine Republican did argue in July, 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 still haven’t the foggiest idea what that’s supposed to mean in this context.

For what it’s worth, the bizarre governor’s public support is woefully low, but it has not yet collapsed. The latest statewide poll in Maine, released this morning, shows LePage with a 32% approval rating.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 16, 2015

October 19, 2015 Posted by | Maine, Paul LePage, Tea Party | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Paul ‘Rage LePage’, You Don’t Have To Impeach Me”: GOP Governor To Voters; ‘Just Ask Me To Leave’

Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R), among his many other legislative problems, is facing the possibility of impeachment as part of an abuse-of-power scandal. In an unexpected twist, the Tea Party governor has said impeachment may be unnecessary – because he’s willing to resign from office.

If you missed last night’s show, the Bangor Daily News reported this week on a LePage interview from July 30, in which he suggested he’ll step down if Mainers personally ask him to.

When LePage was asked if he’s worried about an impeachment proceeding, he responded:

“If the people of Maine want me, I’ll do the job. If they don’t want me, just ask me to leave. You don’t have to impeach me…. So far, I’ve only got four people write me that wanted me to resign.”

We know of a retired librarian in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, who wrote to his governor, asking LePage to step down. The note was not well received – LePage wrote back personally, saying, “Not going to happen.”

But might it happen? In that radio interview, the governor made it sound as if resignation is on the table – if enough Mainers write to the governor’s office, asking him to step down, he’d actually consider it.

Hmm.

As Rachel added, “For the record, the governor has never really explained whether he was serious about his offer to resign if he got enough letters asking him to. He also hasn’t said how many people, exactly, would have to ask him resign in order for him to actually do it. He also hasn’t said how many Mainers so far have taken him up on his offer now that he said that’s what it will take.

“We did ask his office about those things today. When we hear back, we will let you know but I suggest you don’t wait up.”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 21, 2015

August 24, 2015 Posted by | Maine, Paul LePage, Tea Party | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“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

“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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