It must really suck to be Gov. LePage’s lawyer

I would imagine some of the hardest jobs in Gov. Paul LePage’s administration belong to the legal and communications staff who so often have to make excuses for his actions or, as was the case yesterday, claim they never occured.

In a legal proceeding in U.S. District Court, the governor’s attorney, Patrick Strawbridge, argued that LePage “never acted on his threat to withhold money from a charter school when he urged the nonprofit to fire his political rival as its president last year” and that LePage “was acting in his budget-making role” and not out of political animosity toward Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves.

This is contradicted by LePage’s own clear statements.

“Yeah, I did,” LePage told reporters in June when asked if he threatened the funding in order to force Good Will-Hinckley to fire Eves. “If I could, I would. Absolutely. Why wouldn’t I? Tell me why I wouldn’t take the taxpayer money, to prevent somebody to go into a school and destroy it. Because (Eves’) heart’s not into doing the right thing for Maine people.”

“I’ll tell you what my mindset was. This guy is a plant by the unions to destroy charter schools… I believe that’s what his motive is… That man had no heart,” the lawsuit also quotes LePage as having said on a radio show.

Even in a an official release from his office in June titled “Governor Stands by His Decision to Oppose Selection of Speaker Eves to Run Charter School,” LePage declared: “To provide half-a-million dollars in taxpayer funding to a charter school that would be headed by Maine’s most vehement anti-charter-school politician is not only the height of hypocrisy, it is absolutely unacceptable.”

The LePage administration halted a $100,000 payment to GWH the day Eves was hired and the money started flowing again once he was fired.

If Strawbridge’s contention is that LePage never had to continue to follow through on his threats because the charity knuckled under, I guess that’s technically true. Maybe somehow that’s the key to winning the dismissal they seek. I don’t know, I’m not a lawyer, but on its face it seems like a ridiculous argument to have to make.

The whole thing reminds me of LePage’s recent, racist comments about drug dealers coming to Maine, where, he said, “half the time they impregnate a young white girl.”

“The governor is not making comments about race. Race is irrelevant,” said LePage spokesperson Peter Steele at the time.

In a later news conference LePage himself declared that he didn’t know if the drug dealers he referenced were “white, black or Asian.”

A few weeks later, however, he made clear exactly who had been talking about and that it was (of course, obviously) a specifically racial remark, saying on the WVOM morning show, “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.”

Mike Tipping

About Mike Tipping

Mike is Maine's longest-writing political blogger and explores state politics and policy with a focus on analysis and explanation. He works at the Maine People's Alliance and Maine People's Resource Center.