Gov. Paul LePage is corrupt.
For any other politician, I would hesitate to use such a loaded term when describing their actions, but LePage has given us a special license to use that word.
At a town hall in April, LePage declared that state workers in middle management were “about as corrupt as can be.” His spokesperson claimed that this was a legitimate charge, even with a complete lack of evidence of any misdeeds, because one of the dictionary definitions of corruption is “spoiled or contaminated.”
The next day, LePage doubled down on his attack, writing in a letter to state workers that they had been “corrupted by the bureaucracy” and that it was “union bosses” who had done the contaminating.
The LePage definition of corrupt isn’t used much now. Webster’s New World College Dictionary lists it as “obsolete,” but it is a technical meaning of the word. Perhaps LePage, as part of his new state education plans, just wanted to teach us some etymology and show that corrupt came from the Latin corrumpere (to destroy or spoil) and rumpere (to break — also the root of “rupture”).
A different definition of the word might apply to LePage: The first meaning listed by Merriam-Webter’s Dictionary of Law, which states that corruption is characterized by improper conduct “intended to secure a benefit for oneself or another.”
Specifically, it applies to LePage’s actions with regard to doling out community development funding and assistance to towns in Maine.
Last month, I wrote about how LePage had blocked issue of voter-approved community development bonds slated to help 11 towns, claiming that he was against bonding in general and how he then selectively helped five of those communities receive alternate funding for their planned development projects by agreeing that he would issue future bonds.
Every one of the five — Norway, Livermore Falls, Dover-Foxcroft, Eastport and Monmouth — is represented by Republicans in both the House and Senate. None of the four towns with Democratic representatives — Rockland, Skowhegan, Bath and Belfast — had received similar assistance.
At the time I wrote that “this playing of favorites with local development funding gives the impression that LePage is out only for himself and his friends.”
LePage however, has now moved beyond impressions and into the realm of obvious favoritism.
Democratic Representative Jeff McCabe had been pressing the governor on this issue in public and in written correspondence, demanding fair treatment for the people of Skowhegan. His requests finally prompted action and in early August LePage issued a memo guaranteeing funding for the project.
The public and the media didn’t learn about this change of heart from the Governor or the Representative or even from the town of Skowhegan, however. Instead the news came in a release from the Maine Republican Party.
And instead of mentioning McCabe’s work on the subject, the release went out of its way to laud Donald Skillings, chairman of the local planning board, who just happens to be McCabe’s Republican opponent in November’s election.
“It was a pleasure working with Donald on this issue. We both felt it was necessary to reach out to the Governor on his terms instead of hurl insults,” reads a quote from republican Senator Rodney Whittemore in the release. (The line “instead of hurl insults,” an obvious reference to McCabe’s persistence, was later deleted from the version of the release posted on Whittemore’s official Senate website.)
Skillings also posted the release on his own Facebook page, along with this taunt: “Just wanted the people of our town to understand what I can do for the folks in Skowhegan if I’m given the chance in November. Vote for results not rhetoric!”
So not only does LePage play favorites, but if you call him on it, he’s not above using all the advantages of his office to make your life difficult. He’s also obviously not above using strategic guarantees of taxpayer money to prop up his political allies.
If we apply LePage’s standards for defining words and actions, I don’t think there’s any question that LePage’s actions meet the dictionary’s definition of corrupt. He’s improperly twisting what should be a relatively non-partisan issue of public money and public good in order to secure the benefit of his political allies and hurt a political opponent. You might also look up the definitions for cronyism and graft.
Another definition of corrupt may apply to the governor as well, one that’s usually reserved for reference to documents: “Not genuine; infected with errors or mistakes.”
Mike Tipping writes a blog at MainePolitics.net and works for the Maine People’s Alliance and the Maine People’s Resource Center. Twitter: @miketipping.