AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul Le- Page has hired a former communications adviser to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions as a senior policy adviser.
Garrett Murch, who worked for Sessions while he represented Alabama in the U.S. Senate, most recently was a senior editor for a conservative news and commentary website. The Maine native will serve in LePage’s Office of Policy and Management, which is headed by Auburn Mayor Jonathan LaBonte.
Murch also has tangential ties to the White House, having worked in Sessions’ Senate office with Stephen Miller, who is now President Trump’s senior policy adviser.
LaBonte confirmed in a text message Monday that Murch has joined LePage’s staff, saying, “He’s a good hire to help OPM’s work.” Neither LaBonte nor Peter Steele, the governor’s communications director, would specify what policy areas Murch will work on.
Murch has a lengthy political resume, including working most recently as a senior editor for LifeZette.com, a website operated by conservative talk radio host Laura Ingraham.
LaBonte said Murch is filling a position that was left open when another analyst, Jennifer Tarr, took a position in the Maine Department of Education. Tarr was paid $74,126 in 2015, according to Maine Open Checkbook, the state’s online transparency site. Murch’s salary is not yet listed on the site and Steele said he could not immediately provide it.
Murch, who lives in Windsor, announced his new job in a Facebook post April 2, writing, “I’m excited to share that I’ve accepted the position of senior adviser in the Office of Policy and Management in Maine Gov. Paul LePage’s administration. Ready and honored to work for our great state of Maine and its great people.”
Murch did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
Murch also has worked for former Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and served as deputy director of U.S. House communications for the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., according to his Linkedin profile. The profile says he left LifeZette in February. Murch is a 2003 graduate of the University of Vermont with a degree in political science.
LifeZette.com, the right-leaning site where Murch was an editor, has been highly critical of the “mainstream” media for alleged liberal biases. It has been criticized for publishing false stories about murder conspiracies involving Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign. The site also has come under fire for promoting false claims that voting machines in as many as 16 states were susceptible to tampering.
LifeZette’s editors have dismissed that criticism, saying the video reports were “made in jest” and were only pointing out that such conspiracy theories existed. The website was sued by The Associated Press for nearly $50,000 in February after its check to pay for AP’s wire services bounced.
Ingraham, the radio talk show host who founded LifeZette, praised Murch in a July 2016 statement announcing his hiring.
“We are always seeking the smartest, most insightful, most courageous thinkers on politics and the culture as we build out our operation.” Ingraham said. “Garrett Murch checks every box – and then some.”
Murch was quoted in a January Associated Press report about Miller, the Trump policy adviser, noting that Trump and Miller seemed to share a similar perspective about the problems facing the Republican Party.
“What seemed to drive Stephen as much as anything was his rightful disgust with how inadequately Republicans communicated with everyday working Americans,” Murch said. “Stephen saw a lot of incompetence in the Republican Party and its messaging that I think he’d spent years thinking about. It would only seem natural that they would bond over that alone.”
Jason Levesque, an Auburn resident and businessman, hired Murch as his campaign manager when he made an unsuccessful bid for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District seat in 2010.
“He is thoughtful, motivated and a great example of a local guy done good,” Levesque wrote to the Press Herald. “He worked hard in D.C. and we should be excited that he decided to move back to Maine. He actually even brought his girlfriend (a staunch Democrat) from D.C. to Maine so we are now plus one with regards to population.”
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