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.