Phil: So, your mentee Mike “the unapologetic liberal Democratic blogger” Tipping just launched another attack on our governor.

Ethan: My mentee? I think Tipping is teaching all of us the power of new media. He has become the Matt Drudge of Maine politics: must read and provocative. (Tipping is also a freelance political columnist for the Portland Press Herald.)

Phil: Be that as it may, this time he may have overstepped the boundaries of the new medium by forgetting some of the standards of the old medium. Confirm. Confirm. And then confirm again. The minute his story was posted by the Bangor Daily News, only one of his “sources” reconfirmed his version of events to professional reporters.

Ethan: While only one of the people quoted is reconfirming, nobody is retracting. Tipping’s story simply repeated what they said.

Phil: For those who haven’t followed the story, Tipping claims that Gov. Paul LePage threatened to withdraw $500,000 in funding from the World Acadian Congress if it didn’t fire its director because, allegedly, the director presented Democratic congressman and potential 2014 opponent Mike Michaud with a license plate.

Ethan: Sounds remarkably similar to the $500,000 LePage threatened to withhold from Good Will-Hinckley in retaliation for hiring House Speaker Mark Eves.


Phil: It does, curiously so. Which is my second point. All governors use tax dollars as a negotiating tool and a leverage point. LePage has admitted as much, even in the Eves case you mention. But this sounds too identical to the Good Will-Hinckley case to be coincidental. Almost like someone cut and pasted someone else’s controversy to make it their own.

Ethan: That seems pretty far-fetched. But even if you are right that there is something fishy around the story, the governor has lost much of the benefit of the doubt. Time after time he has used taxpayer money to influence/intimidate whoever receives it. This easily fits that pattern and is why it seems quite plausible. Even likely.

Phil: But in the past he has been more than willing to admit it. This time he says he didn’t. Let’s be honest, this governor is not shy about saying he has done things people don’t like or that are controversial.

Ethan: True, but in this case he may well be denying it because he is already under investigation by the Legislature for an identical infraction. If you were the lawyer for someone under investigation, wouldn’t you tell your client to deny any involvement if you are accused of doing the same thing four years prior?

Phil: I certainly wouldn’t advise my client to lie. That’s why I suspect he is denying it. Because it isn’t true. The question I have is when will the press stop listening to ideological bloggers with a clear agenda? Either side of the aisle, but in particular this guy. Tipping makes no bones that he is trying to get rid of the governor. For heaven’s sake, he wrote a 122-page book dedicated to disparaging the man and trying to link him to “domestic terrorists” on the FBI’s watch list. Why does anyone take him seriously?

Ethan: He is certainly provocative, but he backs up much of what he writes. The link to extremists you mention was made because LePage attended multiple meetings with members of the Sovereign Citizens movement. It certainly would be far-fetched to claim that LePage is a member, which I don’t think Tipping did, but LePage did attend and correspond with these folks.


Phil: He has also met with and corresponded with you and me. Does that make him a progressive Democrat and a moderate Republican? I suppose Tipping’s style sells papers or delivers “clicks” on website columns. In the end, the heart of the matter is about to be decided where it counts. Between the legislative oversight committee and the Maine Supreme Court, I predict we’ll soon define where the power of the governor’s office begins and ends.

Ethan: I think those powers have been made pretty clear. What we are about to learn is that the governor went too far.

Phil: LePage is simply confronting the insider’s political patronage game in Augusta that has gone on for decades with a wink and a nod.

Ethan: Give me a break. The governor appoints based on political patronage just as much as anyone. Tons of Republicans who worked on his campaigns have received jobs. A number of others who are former legislators are now serving in the executive branch. I am not saying they aren’t qualified, but this is no different than an outside organization hiring someone with political experience. It is part of one’s resume and qualifications. For goodness sake, how do you think we got hired to write this column?

Phil: I thought it was our dashing good looks and wispy hair.

Ethan: Well, that too.


CORRECTION: This story was updated on Aug. 3, 2015, to reflect that blogger Mike Tipping had spoken to board members who alleged that Gov. LePage threatened to withhold funding for the World Acadian Congress and that board member Anne Roy had reconfirmed the allegations to other media outlets. It also adds that Tipping is a freelance political columnist for the Portland Press Herald.

Comments are no longer available on this story