It’s a tough call to say whether we learned more about Gov. Paul LePage from a federal Department of Labor inquiry into his treatment of unemployment-claims hearing officers last year or from his response to the report when it was released Thursday.
The report told us how the governor works, taking actions that “could be perceived as an attempt to influence the appeals decision-making process” when he called a mandatory meeting of the quasi-judicial officers at the Blaine House and gave them a piece of his mind.
The response told us how the governor thinks. LePage issued a statement calling the study authored by the Department of Labor’s regional administrator and the Office of the Solicitor General a politically motivated attack, “starting with Democratic activists in Maine and reaching all the way to the White House.”
The hyperpartisan governor sees hyperpartisanship wherever he looks. According to LePage, a yearlong investigation of a Republican governor by a federal agency can’t be taken seriously because the president of the United States is a Democrat.
LePage accuses the Obama administration of the same overuse of executive power that he exercised when he summoned the hearing officers to his home to yell at them. It may be that the governor thinks all government studies are cooked to please the chief executive because that’s how he operates.
The tongue-lashing the governor gave the impartial hearing officers is just one example. The governor awarded nearly $1 million in a no-bid contract to hire a partisan, anti-government activist to study the MaineCare system. The governor refuses to issue voter-approved bonds because he has a disagreement with the Legislature over its use of state reserve funds.
The governor acts as if everybody in state government works for him, all the money in the budget belongs to him and the only reason anyone would disagree with him is that they are as partisan as he is.
In LePage’s world, the president of the United States has enough time on his hands to think about ways to embarrass the governor of Maine — as if the governor needs help on that score.
We often hear that the governor learned about management in private business, where there may not be any good reason for there to be truly independent departments, but the same’s not true for the state or federal government. We have a system of checks and balances, and no one official’s power is absolute.
It would be reassuring if the governor showed a sign that he had learned something from the episode with the hearing officers, but the rebuke just seems to have reinforced his view of a winner-take-all government run by the whims and prejudices of the chief executive.
That’s something we’ve seen too much of already in Maine.