AUGUSTA – Dan Demeritt, Gov. Paul LePage’s former communications director, has opened his own political consulting and public relations firm and is looking for clients.

Demeritt stepped down in April after his personal financial problems became public. He worked for the governor for just a few months, but the job gave him invaluable experience, according to the website of Demeritt’s new company, Winning Initiatives, which says:

“Working for the country’s most free-spoken chief executive provided plenty of opportunities to demonstrate an unflappable professionalism and a knack for creative problem solving.”

Considering that sales pitch, Demeritt obviously has an ability to spin a story, said Sandy Maisel, a professor of government at Colby College.

Maisel, a Democrat, questioned how successful Demeritt will be in attracting clients. He said Demeritt failed at the most important part of his job — keeping his boss from getting in trouble in the first place.

In the first months of his administration, LePage gained national notoriety — and a public rebuke from a group of legislators in his own party — for a series of statements that enraged labor groups, women’s groups, environmentalists, artists and the nation’s oldest civil rights organization.

Demeritt said he contained the damage by putting some of LePage’s statements — such as his “kiss my butt” remark in January to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People — in a broader context.

LePage made the comment to a television reporter while explaining that he would not attend Martin Luther King Jr. Day events in Portland and Orono. Demeritt said he quickly got word to the media that LePage had attended the Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast in Waterville for years while he was mayor.

Demeritt said he found time in the governor’s schedule that allowed him to attend the breakfast. Newspapers ran photos of LePage dancing at the breakfast along with the Colby College African Drumming Ensemble.

“You get the full story out so people can make their judgment on everything,” Demeritt said.

He said he has had enough time in the limelight and wants to work behind the scenes.

Demeritt said he will focus on developing “campaign-style” initiatives at the grassroots level, and would like to help some Republican legislators win re-election.

He said he has one client, whom he would not name. He has not yet registered as a lobbyist.

Demeritt, 39, resigned after the Kennebec Journal reported that he faced foreclosure on five residential and commercial properties he owns in the Augusta area, and owed back taxes and had liens on some of the properties because of unpaid sewer bills.

Demeritt said he has put four of the buildings and a vacant lot in Randolph up for sale, and sold his pizza business, Pizza Connection, on Civic Center Drive in Augusta.

He said he has maintained good relationships with people in the governor’s office and leaders in the administration.

“And I hope that people appreciate that,” he said. “I hope that people understand that I worked very hard for the governor, for his campaign and the initial first months of his administration, and the circumstances in which I left office were tough, and I handled it professionally.”

Demeritt, a Colby College graduate, was political director for Susan Collins during her first U.S. Senate campaign, in 1996. He later worked as a legislative aide to Collins and as communications director for Republicans in the Maine House.

Demeritt’s career move is a common one for people who have done communications work for governors.

Dennis Bailey, who worked for Gov. Angus King, and David Farmer, Crystal Canney and Dan Cashman, who worked for Gov. John Baldacci, all opened their own public relations firms after leaving their government jobs.

Farmer, a Democrat, said the job gave him a chance to learn up close how the governor’s office and the legislative process work. That experience, plus the exposure, is a huge help for starting a public relations company.

“You get to know a lot of people and build a reputation,” Farmer said. “And people know who you are.”

MaineToday Media State House Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 699-6261 or at:

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