Politics as usual? Hardly.

The undisputed facts are that the governor of Maine has used the power of the state to stop a nonprofit board from hiring one of his political rivals. The question is not whether this is typical, but what the Maine Legislature is going to do about it.

So far, six members of the House of Representatives have offered a way forward. Led by Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos, an independent from Friendship, the group is pushing for the start of impeachment proceedings, which could result in the governor’s trial in the Senate and his potential removal from office. Even if the process is resolved short of that outcome, it is a political solution for a political problem, and it is the right way for the Legislature to respond.

The process would start with an investigation. Lawmakers from both parties should be anxious to get to the bottom of these allegations if they are interested in remaining part of a co-equal branch of government that can act as a check on executive power. If they don’t push back against Gov. LePage now, they will institutionalize government by intimidation and abuse.

Unfortunately, too few lawmakers have been willing to step forward and decry what the governor has done to House Speaker Mark Eves, a North Berwick Democrat. Senate President Michael Thibodeau, a Winterport Republican, issued a statement supportive of Eves and critical of the governor, as did Republican Sens. Roger Katz of Augusta and Tom Saviello of Wilton.

But prominent Democrats have been quiet, appearing reluctant to tangle with the Republican governor. That reluctance could be dangerous.


This case is important because the governor has the ability to pressure almost any lawmaker by threatening their employment. Maine relies on a citizen Legislature in which almost every member has an outside job. Enough of them would be vulnerable to this kind of attack for the governor to swing close votes his way any time he wanted.

The governor’s defenders make two points. The first is that Eves was a terrible choice to lead the Good Will-Hinckley organization and its charter school because he voted against charter school legislation in the past.

The second is that the money Gov. LePage threatened to hold back came from a discretionary account – meaning that the governor had the right to decide when it should be spent.

There are many people who have come forward to vouch for Eves as the right man for the job. And the way he moved a bipartisan budget through a divided government this spring speaks well of his management skills. But Eves’ qualifications are beside the point.

Good Will-Hinckley – not Gov. LePage – runs the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences. The board conducted a search, interviewed candidates and has to live with the result. It should be able to hire who it wants without government interference.

People should find the governor’s use of public funds to give himself control over a private agency far more troubling than the possibility that a board may have made a mistake and hired the wrong person.


And while it’s true that the money was in a discretionary account, that doesn’t mean LePage was free to use it for absolutely any reason he wants. If his intent was to help Good Will-Hinckley, he may be on solid ground. But if his intent was to hurt Eves, he crossed a line.

That could be abuse of authority, misuse of public assets and conduct unbecoming an elected official, all impeachable offenses.

We need a fact finder to review the record and determine what the governor was up to.

This is awkward because of the sharply divided political environment. The state constitution says that impeachment proceedings start in the House, but Speaker Eves has made it clear that he would play no role. Leadership will need to come from other sources.

Attorney General Janet Mills is also in an awkward position.

A Democrat, Mills has twice refused to represent the state in lawsuits backed by Gov. LePage, and he has proposed a constitutional amendment to make the attorney general a member of the governor’s Cabinet, appointed by the chief executive. Any findings she makes would be viewed as political.

Mills has the authority to hire a special prosecutor, and she should. The public needs to know if there were any criminal acts committed.

But even that wouldn’t let the Legislature off the hook. Something doesn’t have to be criminal for it to be impeachable, and the Legislature should not shirk its responsibility to investigate.

If someone of Eves’ stature could have a job snatched away for disagreeing with the governor, no legislator is safe. It would be a sad day if that kind of politics becomes politics as usual in Maine.

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