Friday May 11, 2012 | 05:29 PM

Could former Gov. Angus King use the U.S. Constitution – and his iPhone – to shake up the U.S. Senate?

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The independent Senate candidate spoke to Chris Matthews on MSNBC’s Hardball Thursday evening and said he’s not convinced that, if elected, he would need to side with either party. King said the Constitution, which he carries around on his iPhone, doesn’t say anything about having to caucus with the Democrats or Republicans in order to sit on a committee or serve as a full member of Congress. Senators are customarily assigned to committees by the leaders of each party, and independent members choose a favorite party to caucus with in return for getting committee assignments.

Matthews asked King whether he would stay a true independent even if means giving up any committee assignments. “Why don’t you hold onto that independence?” Matthews asked.

“That is one of the options that I’m considering," King said. "But on the other hand, Chris, I don’t want to go down to just stand on principle and be a potted plant."

King also said he’s not convinced the parties could deny him a committee seat because the Constitution doesn’t say he has to choose sides. It's another example of what's wrong in Washington, he said.

“Congress is absolutely not working and until you make the institution work that the framers gave us to solve our problems, you’re never going to get to the solutions to the problems,” King said.

Republicans say King is simply a Democrat masquerading as an independent. One of his potential GOP opponents criticized King Friday for not understanding the Senate’s rules.

"Without committee assignments, Angus King would be half a United States Senator," Attorney General Bill Schneider said in a written statement. “The roads, bridges and destroyers that get built in Maine originate in Senate committees…. Angus King is apparently willing to sacrifice Maine's national interests to advance his campaign's misleading message of independence.”

Schneider said it is the Senate’s rules, not the Constitution, that spells out how committee assignments are made. "Angus King's lack of understanding of Senate rules could put Maine at a big disadvantage."

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Open Season is your guide to the 2014 campaign. Our team of political writers has its sights set on Maine’s major elections, from the Blaine House to the U.S. Capitol.

Steve Mistler is covering the 2014 governor's race. He covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.
Steve can be reached at 791-6345 or
On Twitter: @stevemistler

Eric Russell is covering Independent Eliot Cutler during the 2014 governor's race. He is a general assignment reporter for the Portland Press Herald.
Eric can be reached at 791-6344 or
On Twitter: @pphericrussell

Matt Byrne is covering Republican Paul LePage during the 2014 governor's race. He covers Falmouth, Cumberland, North Yarmouth, Yarmouth and Freeport for the Portland Press Herald.
Matt can be reached at 791-6303 or
On Twitter: @mattbyrnePPH

Randy Billings is covering Democrat Mike Michaud during the 2014 governor's race. He covers Portland City Hall for the Portland Press Herald.
Randy can be reached at 791-6346 or
On Twitter: @randybillings

Kevin Miller is covering Maine's U.S. Senate race and 1st Congressional District race. He covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald.
Kevin can be reached at 317-6256 or
On Twitter: @kevinmillerdc

Michael Shepherd is covering Maine's 2nd Congressional District race. He is a news and State House reporter for the Kennebec Journal.
Michael can be reached at 621-5632 or
On Twitter: @mikeshepherdME

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