It’s very unusual for a sitting governor to be impeached. In fact, over the last century, it’s only happened six times, the most recent being former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), who’s currently serving a 14-year prison sentence.
In Maine, there’s a very real possibility that this small club will gain a new member. Consider this powerful editorial published yesterday by the Portland Press Herald.
Sabotaging House Speaker Mark Eves’ private career revealed more of the mean-spirited, small-minded revenge politics for which Gov. LePage has become famous. But this time, he may have gone too far.The Maine House should immediately begin an investigation of the governor, and if no new facts emerge that put his conduct in a positive light, he should be impeached and tried in the state Senate.That may sound like an extreme reaction, but the governor’s conduct takes Maine into new territory.
For those who’ve followed the far-right governor’s strange career, LePage has earned a reputation for buffoonery, offensive antics, and a regressive policy agenda, but this new controversy points in a far more alarming direction.
When the governor tells unfortunate jokes about killing media professionals he doesn’t like, it’s cringe-worthy. When he’s accused of using his office and public resources to punish political rivals, it may well turn out to be impeachment-worthy.
Let’s back up and consider what the controversy is all about. Over at Daily Kos, Bruce Bourgoine published a good summary:
On June 9, Republican Maine Governor LePage complained that a charter school that selected Democratic Maine House Speaker Mark Eves to be its future President should not hire him based on the Governor’s political personal opposition. The school decided otherwise based on Mr. Eves qualifications and planned to employ Mr. Eves.[On Wednesday, June 24], Governor LePage, after a long month of dozens of veto overrides and legislative action designed to put in place a budget that would be veto-proof, struck back personally at Speaker Eves’ future livelihood. The Governor actually threatened to withhold $530,000 per year from the school in state funds because of the Speaker’s eventual leadership of the institution. This thuggish action unfortunately resulted in the school breaking down and rescinding its offer of employment to Mr. Eves.
If the allegations are true, it would appear to be the kind of abuse of power that’s simply unsustainable for any elected official. Governors aren’t supposed to use public resources to punish partisan foes.
Yesterday, in an unexpected twist, LePage made no effort to deny that he did exactly what he’s accused of doing. Soon after, six members of the Maine state House – four Democrats and two Independents – said they’re moving forward with impeachment plans.
A Portland Press Herald editorial added, “LePage does not have to have committed a crime or violated civil law in order to have abused the power of his office. Legislators should get to the bottom of this apparent political misconduct. From what we know now, it looks as if the governor has finally gone too far.”
For those wondering, Maine’s state House has a Democratic majority, but the state Senate is run by Republicans. Whether Maine’s GOP lawmakers intend to stand by LePage in light of allegations of such brazen abuses is unclear.