The LePage administration is approaching complete lawlessness.
Everyday, it seems, a new threat from the governor is revealed, another vindictive act uncovered, another law ignored.
Early this week, there were two on the same day.
On Tuesday, Republican Gov. Paul LePage launched an attack against fellow Republican state Sen. Roger Katz.
Katz, who’s been critical of the governor’s inappropriate — and possibly illegal — efforts to get Speaker of the House Mark Eves fired from a job as the head of Good Will-Hinckley, is also the chair of the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee.
The governor, with little credibility left of his own, said that Katz is conducting a political “witch hunt” by investigating potential illegal activities in the firing scandal.
Katz is an honest and reasonable lawmaker. While Democrats can certainly find issue with some of his votes, he’s demonstrated his integrity and honesty time and time again. And he hasn’t been afraid to stand up to the governor and his bullying ways.
While LePage was throwing verbal bombs at Katz, it was revealed that he’s been conducting his own “witch hunt” against the Maine Human Rights Commission.
The commission investigates allegations of discrimination. Earlier this year, it refused to buckle under pressure from the governor, who then withheld funding from the commission and, as was just revealed, launched a secret inquisition of the agency.
As the Bangor Daily News reported at the time: “Gov. Paul LePage inserted himself into a state law enforcement proceeding about a religious discrimination case and threatened to go to court if the legal process was not postponed, according to an internal memo.”
When he didn’t get his way, he held back state dollars, which is similar to what he did with Eves. He threatened to withhold state money from a school that serves at-risk kids unless it fired Eves. The nonprofit school gave in rather than risk closing.
He tried to bully the commission into changing its position. He failed. His double secret probation stinks of political retribution.
The Human Rights Commission, which knew of the order, chose silence after learning of the probe out of fear of further retaliation.
The pattern of abuse is striking and clear. LePage is using the power of his office to punish anyone who disagrees with him. He’s done it over and over and over again.
LePage this week also thumbed his nose at the Oversight Committee by refusing to allow two members of his office to testify in relation to the executive branch’s activities surrounding the Good Will-Hinckley mess.
The committee has subpoena power, and LePage has given them a clear reason to use it. The members should compel the staffers to testify.
And, last week, the Portland Press Herald revealed that the LePage administration was simply ignoring the law in regards to the Fund for a Healthy Maine.
The fund was set up with money from the master tobacco settlement to provide resources for tobacco cessation and other health care needs.
In 2012, the Legislature passed a number of changes intended to improve the oversight of the program and increase transparency. Two of the laws were never implemented.
The LePage administration ignored them.
Ignored the law. Again.
Administration officials could offer no explanation, and instead stayed true to form and attacked both the Fund for a Healthy Maine and legislators who had sought greater accountability from the government.
There is a clear and persistent pattern of abuse and lawlessness by the LePage administration.
Instead of being cowed by his threats and attacks, the Government Oversight Committee has an obligation to continue its investigation and seek the truth.
In fact, the scope of its review should be broadened, and the committee should undertake a systematic evaluation of the governor’s activities.
The oath of office does not give the governor the authority to pick and choose which laws he will enforce or which laws he will follow.
LePage has forfeited the benefit of the doubt. While it’s a task that they are reluctant to accept, it now falls to the members of Legislature — Republicans and Democrats — to uncover the truth, determine the facts and, if appropriate, hold the governor accountable for his actions.
The governor has left the Legislature no choice. Nothing less than the rule of law is at risk.