Imagine what the tea party would be doing right now if a Democratic governor had offered a no-bid contract for nearly a million dollars to an ideological crony whose primary job was to set up arguments for the governor’s re-election. The indignation and outrage would be deafening.

Now go a step further and imagine that the contractor — we’ll call him Alexander — had produced a report riddled with math errors and stuffed with plagiarized building blocks. What would any self-respecting small-government fiscal conservative do? Why, they’d call for the governor’s impeachment and the election of a Republican governor and legislative majorities to clean up the mess in Augusta.

But what would the tea party do if the governor were a Republican? Can you hear the sound of crickets? Pastoral silence? Gently lapping waves on a windless, calm sea?

It’s enough to make you wonder whether the tea party is really more interested in partisan politics than government fraud, waste and abuse.

It turns out that tea party behavior has an unmistakable pattern in which members rail against Democratic scandals and either change the subject or go silent on Republican ones. In those latter cases, it’s just “boys being boys,” or in this case “LePage being LePage.”

Tea party silence about the current Gary Alexander scandal — there’s no other word for it — is in sharp contrast to what they were doing a few years back when they launched a relentless attack, led by then-State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin, on the Maine State Housing Authority. In that case, they fired off daily barrages of charges, innuendo and insinuations against both the agency and its director, Dale McCormick, who, not surprisingly, was a prominent Democrat.

After hounding McCormick out of the position, and in the process carelessly damaging both her reputation and her career, the clean-up-the-mess insurgents found a few dust balls, some policy differences about how to balance historic preservation and low-cost housing and ordinary bureaucratic behavior. Where was the scandal? Where were the missing millions?

After turning over every rock they could, the anti-MSHA posse produced little more than the smoldering ashes of a nakedly partisan attack against an agency that deserved better and a director who is still owed an apology from everyone involved.

If you want to see the closest thing to McCarthy-style politics in Maine, folks, that was it.

The tea party’s silence in the face of this most recent — and real — scandal has created a problem for LePage that isn’t going away, in part because it has forced him to do something that he’s not very good at, which is defending himself.

When news about plagiarism in the report first broke, thanks to columnist Mike Tipping, LePage responded with a predictable “blame the Democrats” counterattack. A few days later, that response looked utterly silly, when a more thorough analysis showed that the Alexander report was larded with cut-and-paste impersonations of independent thinking.

Those revelations reduced the report to little more than a million-dollar, taxpayer-funded paperweight.

With the facts pressing in on all sides, LePage went into the wardrobe room and came out as Mr. Outraged Taxpayer, angrily declaring that Alexander might not get the final half-million he’s owed (at least until he meets with the governor, it turns out). LePage threatened to punish all the guilty parties, without once looking in the mirror.

LePage’s outrage didn’t last long. By Monday of this week, he’d returned to attacking Democrats. When Senate President Justin Alfond and Speaker of the House Mark Eves sent Lepage a letter to confirm that Alexander was being cut off, and asking if LePage would try to recover the money already spent, LePage took his predictable “when-in-trouble-lash-out-at-somebody” approach to new heights of absurdity.

In what can only be called a remarkable display of political lunacy, LePage responded to the legislative leaders with a fireball letter calling on the Legislature not to “stick their noses” into the work of the executive branch of government.

So where is the tea party when we need them? Is none of them going to even mildly criticize the governor for this blatant mismanagement and abuse of power? Won’t even one constitution-loving activist step forward to offer the governor a tutorial about how a democratic government in America works?

They could start with the whole three branches concept, and the purpose of checks and balances to rein in power. Then maybe spend a little extra time on the difference between a democracy, a monarchy and a dictatorship.

Alan Caron, a Waterville native, is president of Envision Maine, a nonprofit organization working to promote Maine’s next economy, and co-author of an upcoming book titled “Maine’s Next Economy.” Email at [email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.