Gov. LePage’s corporate backers are being heard. Are you?

Gov. LePage’s corporate backers are being heard. Are you?

It’s almost election day, Maine! So what does that mean? What, that is to say, is the point of voting?

That “if you don’t vote, you can’t complain”? Lies! You can complain all you want, whether you vote or not.

That your complaints don’t matter if you don’t vote? Nah. One of the greatest protest events of this millennium was staged by non-citizens.

Voting promises representation, it promises that the people who make policy in American politics are mindful of the preferences of the people who live in this country.

So, how’s Maine doing with that? Well, Mainers’ voices are being heard. That, in and of itself, is something to be happy about. Not long after Governor LePage’s first election, after all, the legislature passed LD 1376, eliminating same-day voter registration, which was designed to drive down voter participation in Maine.

And, although a People’s Veto was able to rid us of that vile attack on the right to vote, the administration hasn’t been much better on popular sovereignty since then. The governor has cut funding to the Clean Elections Fund and, predictably, he opposes passage of the Clean Elections Initiative, Question One on your ballot, which is designed to increase the transparency of Maine elections and to reinforce the autonomy of Maine voters.

But that’s not to suggest that representation has ground to a halt in Maine.

Governor LePage announced, in a bond attached to his budget, that the offices of multiple state agencies that are currently located at diverse locations around Augusta, would be consolidated at one location. It’s not necessarily a bad idea; the move could save on rents and it will certainly increase efficiencies. The governor’s office then released the specifications on any property that could be used to house the multiple offices. The state’s specifications in its “Request For Proposals,” sound fairly generic — it says only that the state government is looking to lease a space of roughly 225,000, with commensurate parking, within a one-mile radius of the State House.

According to Keith Luke, Augusta’s deputy development director, however, there is only one building that really fits that RFP. Indeed, it’s almost as if the RFP were written with that building in mind.

Peter Anastos is an ally of the governor, a contributor to both of LePage’s gubernatorial campaigns, and a LePage appointee to the State Housing Authority. He is owner, and co-founder, of Maine Course Hospitality Group, which currently manages fifteen hotels throughout Maine. And, in April, he purchased a building from the state Department of Transportation that perfectly matches that RFP.

In other words, the governor’s budget includes a bond that says that some 1400 state employees have to work in a building owned by one of the people who gives him money to run for office.

I should point out here that none of this is illegal. It may not even actually be fishy, though it certainly looks fishy (between you and me).

After all, running for elections in the United States is incredibly expensive. The Supreme Court has come in for a lot of criticism for deciding, back in the 1970’s, that campaign money is akin to constitutionally protected speech, but the Court was merely recognizing an unhappy fact. And just because someone contributes their time, labor, or money to a candidate should, in no way, suggest that their voice is any less legitimate than the voice of voters in general. Peter Anastos’ voice is heard by policy makers in Augusta. Good.

What about yours?

About author

Ron Schmidt
Ron Schmidt 45 posts

Dr. Ronald Schmidt is an Associate Professor of Political Science in the Department of History and Political Science at the University of Southern Maine.

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