May 26, 2010

Profile: Cutler combines deep experience with 'keen strategic mind’

He learned public policy under Ed Muskie, fiscal restraint in the Carter administration and the law at Georgetown University.

By Matt Wickenheiser
Staff Writer

CAPE ELIZABETH — The Harvard Lampoon magazine was struggling for money in 1966, so a group of students did a spoof edition of Playboy magazine to attract national advertisers.

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Independent Eliot Cutler talks recently at Arabica Coffee on Free Street in Portland with customers Hannah Payeur of South Portland, left, and Cassandra Grantham of Portland.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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July 29, 1946
FAMILY: Wife, Dr. Melanie Stewart Cutler; three grown children
EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree, Harvard College; law degree, Georgetown University
PUBLIC OFFICE EXPERIENCE: Legislative assistant to Maine Sen. Edmund Muskie; special assistant and counsel to the Subcommittee on Air and Water Pollution; Senate Committee on Public Works; associate director of the White House Office of Management and Budget for Natural Resources, Energy and Science; principal White House official for energy policy; senior leadership roles in five presidential campaigns

This is the 12th
and last in a series profiling candidates for governor. Independent Eliot Cutler will chat with readers live at noon today

See our special section on the governor's race at:


It worked. The spoof raised enough money to set up a Lampoon endowment, setting up the magazine financially for the future. After a few similar take-offs of other national publications, some of the students decided to launch a commercial enterprise – National Lampoon.
Some of the Harvard Lampoon students chose other career paths.

“I decided instead to go work for Ed Muskie,” said Eliot Cutler. “I won’t pretend it wasn’t a difficult choice. It was in part the right thing to do, in part a different challenge, in part, it was growing up.”

He worked for the Maine senator, and for President Jimmy Carter, then went into environmental and land-use law for the next 25 years, working on issues around the globe.

Today, he’s an independent candidate for governor. As an unenrolled candidate, he has no primary. The June 8 Republican and Democratic primaries will narrow the field of party candidates from 11 to two. And because Cutler has gathered enough signatures, he’ll be on the Nov. 2 general election ballot with them, along with other unenrolled candidates who have qualified.

Cutler’s campaign has raised $571,000, according to the latest state filings, including $240,000 of his own money.
After Lampoon, Cutler’s life took a serious path.

Dick Spencer, an attorney at Drummond Woodsum in Portland, was president of the Harvard Lampoon in the mid-1960s, and has been friends with Cutler for 45 years. He watched Cutler’s career as it progressed from one position of responsibility to the next.

“I remember after I started practicing (law), I was working on how much to charge for a sewer connection in Kennebunkport,” Spencer said. “Then I read in The New York Times how Eliot Cutler was deciding how much the United States should spend on space exploration in the next century.”

On the campaign trail and in debates and forums, Cutler can come across as brusque, sometimes pointed.

“I have little patience for drivel, and slogans. I’ve been around the track too many times, for one thing. When I’m asked a question, I answer it. I try not to indulge the audience,” Cutler said. “The importance of what’s at stake for Maine now is so great, so fundamental, that we need to be clear about what we think we need to do. We need to be strategic about it, we need to be focused.”

Some have criticized Cutler as out of touch, because he lived away from Maine for 25 years. He moved back in 1999 to a home on Shore Road in Cape Elizabeth, then lived in China for several years as he opened his law firm’s Beijing office.

“The fact is, I did move away. There’s not a single experience I’ve had that I’d trade, or that hasn’t equipped me better to be governor,” Cutler said. “My heart’s always been here. People forget – I grew up in Bangor. It’s still my home.”

Cutler’s father was an internist and longtime head of medical services at what was Eastern Maine General Hospital. Cutler’s earliest memories are of going on house calls with his father, driving hours to visit patients in Aroostook or Washington counties.

The elder Cutler served on the University of Maine board of directors and fought former Gov. James Longley’s disinvestment in the college.

Cutler’s mother was an economist by training, and worked on social issues such as mental illness, family services and children’s services. She helped start eastern Maine groups such as the Family Services Society and Spruce Run.

(Continued on page 2)

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