WINDHAM — I am writing in response to the editorial on May 4 titled “Bill to outlaw nepotism would protect Maine.”

I object to both the article’s view and the author’s tone. This bill, proposed by state Sen. Cynthia Dill, D-Cape Elizabeth, when she was a member of the House, is what I like to call “thoughtless reform.”

You take a complicated issue like political corruption, reduce it to the most simplistic form, and then pass a “reform” that does not really satisfy the issue.

This proposed bill is in relation to Gov. LePage’s appointment of his (allegedly unqualified) daughter to a job on his staff that includes a nice salary.

So clearly, the solution is to simply overhaul the entire system to make sure this “travesty” could not possibly happen again.

Would it be more moral if LePage had just hired an unqualified friend as opposed to a relative?

Or what if LePage had hired an unqualified friend whose family, in gratitude, then gave a job at their firm to the governor’s unqualified daughter?

Would we see some “reform” to abolish the apparent corruption in the form of networking?

The tone of the entire editorial suggested that the United States’ own Kennedys could not be an example on which to rely. It said: “The U.S. Department of Justice Building in Washington is now named for Robert F. Kennedy, indicating that some people must think he deserved the job.”

Some people? Considering Kennedy, a liberal Democrat, was honored posthumously in 2001 by President George W. Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft, two very conservative Republicans, I think Kennedy’s appeal goes beyond just “some.”

The article goes on to insist that it “would be wrong to judge this practice by one successful example.”

OK, so how about two examples?

In addition to Robert Kennedy, we also have – in the same administration – the appointment of the president’s brother-in-law, R. Sargent Shriver, to head the newly founded Peace Corps.

I think that one turned out all right. In a little over five years of service, Shriver had the organization running in 55 separate countries with more than 14,500 volunteers.

Where is the epidemic? Have we a long list of governors who have been appointing siblings, children and cousins to all sorts of jobs to which they were not worthy?

In 1967, the federal government passed its own anti-nepotism law – which is constitutionally questionable at best – so no Robert Kennedy could ever happen again.

Since only one sibling of any president had ever sat on the Cabinet during his or her brother’s administration in the 222 years since the U.S. Constitution was enacted, that was a reform that the American people had been long waiting for.

Is America now better off because of the federal anti-nepotism law? Do Americans, who are concerned for our civil liberties, feel better knowing that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was not President Bush’s cousin while he was wiretapping U.S. citizens without warrants?

Would a state law like this benefit Maine?

Would it solve our budget problem? Would this law help curb the amount of young people who leave this state every year?

Would it lower our taxes? Could it help us get health care coverage to the uninsured? I cannot see any evidence that would suggest that this proposed law would help Maine in any measurable sense.

What we need in this state, and country, is not laws that constrain but rather an informed and vigilant public.

When a president, governor or mayor is elected, it is the people of the nation, state, or city who eventually determine the success of the politician.

Voters of Maine will decide whether or not LePage and his staff — including his daughter — did a good job when they vote in 2014.

Mainers do not need laws preventing a future where, say, Gov. Chellie Pingree could not appoint her daughter, Hannah Pingree, to be her chief of staff, despite the former House speaker’s clear qualifications.

 

– Special to The Press Herald