AUGUSTA — Republican Gov. Paul LePage was back at the State House on Monday after nearly two weeks away. But details about what he did in Washington, D.C., and who paid for his trip are still unclear.
LePage’s communications director said the governor returned to Maine last Thursday, although he didn’t appear at the State House until Monday.
LePage left Maine sometime around Feb. 17 to attend a series of meetings and conferences in the nation’s capital, including the Republican Governors Association winter meeting, the National Governors Association annual gathering and a meeting between a group of governors and President Trump. LePage also participated in a panel discussion on welfare reform at the Conservative Political Action Conference and made a television appearance on Fox News, but his staff has refused to release details about what else the governor was working on. Information about whether LePage’s trip was paid for by taxpayers or funded some other way have also not been released by the governor’s office.
LePage’s press secretary, Adrienne Bennett, told a Portland Press Herald reporter Monday that he could look at the schedule for the RGA’s winter meeting to determine what the governor was working on. But an official with the RGA responding to a Press Herald inquiry for a copy of the schedule said there were no events that were open to the press and a schedule was not being made public.
Jon Thompson, the RGA’s communications director, referred the Press Herald back to LePage’s office for information.
“I’ll have to refer you to Governor LePage’s press office for them to confirm his schedule or meetings,” Thompson wrote in a series of email messages. “I don’t have access to Governor LePage’s schedule. We don’t release agendas of RGA closed-press meetings.”
LePage campaigned for Trump and appeared with him several times last year in Maine. His longish absence from the State House, during a lawmaking session, fueled speculation that LePage may be in line for a position within Trump’s administration.
Questions about whether LePage was using any vacation time while he was away and whether he spent his entire time in Washington or traveled elsewhere have also gone unanswered by LePage’s staff.
Bennett said reporters could tune in Tuesday morning to LePage’s weekly radio appearance on the “George Hale and Ric Tyler Show” on WVOM-FM in Bangor if they want to learn more about what the governor was doing over the last two weeks.
The Press Herald also filed a request Monday under the state’s Freedom of Access Act for information about LePage’s trip and how it was being financed. The request asks for copies of expense reports and scheduling details for activities LePage, in his capacity as governor, participated in.