Facing the very real possibility of impeachment, Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) learned yesterday that state lawmakers are moving forward with their investigation into the alleged misuse of public resources. The Portland Press Herald reported:
The Legislature’s watchdog committee voted unanimously Wednesday to investigate Gov. Paul LePage’s threat to withhold state funds from a school for at-risk children unless it withdrew a job offer to Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves.The probe will focus on whether changes were made in the flow of state funding to Good Will-Hinckley, a private school in Fairfield, and the effects of the Republican governor’s threat on the school’s hiring process with Eves.
To briefly recap, a Maine charter school recently hired state House Speaker Mark Eves (D). LePage, a fierce opponent of Democratic legislators, threatened the school – either fire Eves at LePage’s demand 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. That, by any fair measure, is an impeachable offense.
For his part, LePage, an often-clownish Tea Partier, does not deny the allegations. As of yesterday, however, he is arguing that the state legislative committee examining the scandal lacks the authority to investigate him.
The Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, or OPEGA, will carry out the investigation and submit its findings to the six Republicans and six Democrats on the Government Oversight Committee. They could use the OPEGA findings to pursue sanctions against the governor or his administration.The committee acted in response to requests for an investigation from several lawmakers, voting just hours after a letter from LePage’s chief legal counsel telling OPEGA that it doesn’t have the constitutional authority to investigate the governor became public.
I won’t pretend to be an authority on Maine’s legal system, though the accountability panel’s director seems to have made a compelling argument that OPEGA’s probe can and should proceed.
Broadly speaking, though, when governors caught up in scandals start looking for ways to shut down investigations into their alleged misdeeds, it’s not a good sign. Indeed, politicians accused of abuses of power generally try to maintain a “I have nothing to hide” sort of posture.
LePage is skipping past this, instead telling reporters yesterday, “They can’t investigate me.”
Rachel had more on this on the show last night, including the oddity of seeing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) cozy up to LePage yesterday.