Republicans divided in response to LePage’s alleged abuse of power

REUTERS | Jonathan Ernst

REUTERS | Jonathan Ernst

In the latest episode of the Beacon Podcast (which you can listen to here and is available on iTunes or by RSS), Ben Chin and I discuss the background and likely outcomes of the LePage/Eves/Good Will-Hinckley affair (for which we really need to find a simple name).

I also talk a bit about the Republican response to the scandal, which has been diverse and fascinating.

Right away, Some Republicans realized the gravity of what Governor Paul LePage had apparently done.

“I am very saddened by this situation and shocked by what is being alleged. Nearly all legislators depend on a career outside of the State House to provide for their families, said GOP Senate President Mike Thibodeau. “For that reason, I am deeply concerned about what has happened to Mark Eves and his family. I am still trying to learn exactly what transpired. Above all, we must ensure that the people of Maine can continue to have faith in their public institutions.”

Republican Senator Tom Saviello requested an investigation of the governor’s actions and Republicans on the Government Oversight Committee joined Democrats in a unanimous decision to begin that probe.

Others, the more stalwart of LePage allies, have attempted to carry the governor’s water, but that has proven a difficult thing to do. Without any real defense for what LePage did, they’re left instead attempting to smear House Speaker Mark Eves.

“Do I feel particularly inspired to defend the governor and his actions in this case? Not really. I wouldn’t have done what he did,” admitted Maine Heritage Policy Center head Matt Gagnon in the middle of a 3,000-word attack on the Speaker, titled “Spare me your tears, Mr. Eves.”

The governor’s staunchest defender has been Jason Savage, the executive director of the Maine Republican Party and a former Mardens’ employee who owes a lot to LePage’s patronage. The party apparatus he operates has engaged in some fascinating contortions in order to back the governor. They have spent most of their time attacking Eves, while failing to specifically defend the governor’s actions, but they have also gone further, including  proposing strange and baseless theories for the events in question, despite the clear evidence of what happened (including the govenor’s own admission that he threatened to withhold the funding).

“Did Speaker Eves’ plans to run for higher office in the First Congressional District, or for Governor, ultimately conflict with the desire of Good Will-Hinckley to remain ‘apolitical’?” they wondered, completely without evidence, in one release.

In another attempt to muddy the waters, Savage attacked Eves for a non-existent conflict of interest during the budget negotiations, a tactic even some prominent fellow Republicans felt the need to repudiate.

“It’s time for Republicans to push back on this kind of nonsense. You work for the whole party, not just the governor, and most of the people you work for are not interested in maligning people for no reason,” wrote Republican operative Lance Dutson (former head of the MHPC and communications director for Susan Collins’ re-election camaign) in a comment on Facebook directed at Savage. “You lied in the press release. That hurts Republicans. It makes the press and the public lose trust in our Party.”

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.