We’re all quite aware that Maine Gov. Paul LePage is a loathsome, petty asshole who wants to punish the poor and get his own way on everything. But we didn’t quite realize the Nixonian levels of pure spite the man is capable of until we learned that LePage threatened funding for a school for at-risk kids unless it dropped its job offer to a political opponent, Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves. And thanks to that very personal blackmail attempt against kids who don’t know a House Speaker from a subwoofer, LePage now faces possible impeachment.
Here’s the nitty: there’s this pretty cool boarding school, the Good Will-Hinckley School, in Hinckley, Maine, what provides a home and education for kids who face “complex academic, social, behavioral and emotional challenges.” It’s a classic charity-type life-reforming place that gives dead-end kids a chance at something better. And Good Will-Hinckley, which became a state charter school in 2011, decided to hire as its new president Mark Eves, who also serves as the Speaker of Maine’s House of Representatives. This was apparently a problem for Gov. LePage, what with Eves being a Democrat who has not been cooperative at all with LePage’s Tea Party agenda. So LePage let the school’s board know that if it went through with hiring Eves, it could kiss goodbye over half a million dollars in state funding, which would trigger the loss of as much as an additional $2 million in private donations, essentially forcing the school to close.
Mind you, LePage insists there was nothing personal at all about his threat to the school: It’s all about quality education, you see. LePage sent a letter in early June explaining that it would be terrible if the school hired Eves, who has criticized charter schools, a pet project for LePage:
“It is unfortunate for both Maine taxpayers and Maine students that the education system has become a soft-landing place for unqualified former Democratic politicians who seek exorbitant salaries but bring no real skills or true leadership to the important public positions entrusted to them,” LePage wrote in early June. He went on to level personal criticisms at Eves, questioning his skills and saying he had not dealt honestly with LePage while working on the state budget.
“Although he is employed as a family therapist, I have seen firsthand that his skills in conflict resolution, leadership, negotiation and reconciliation are sadly deficient,” Lepage wrote.
Translation: Nice little school you got here. Be a real shame if its funding was to completely dry up, wouldn’t it?
Eves told the Portland Press Herald that while he does have doubts about whether charter schools are a great idea, “his commitment to aiding children with troubled backgrounds outweighed those concerns.”
The school, recognizing a threat when it saw one, withdrew the job offer to Eves Wednesday, just a week before he was to start the new position. Board chair Jack Moore issued a statement that very carefully attempted not to step on anyone’s toes, especially not those of a vengeful governor:
The basis for this decision is grounded in the institution’s desire not to be involved in political controversy that will divert attention away from our core mission of serving children and has the potential to jeopardize the future of our school … Good Will-Hinckley has a very dedicated staff. The Board’s first priority is to act in the best interest of students and educators alike and the Board’s actions reflect its unwavering commitment to them.
Yr Wonkette would like to congratulate Mr. Moore for resisting the urge to add, “Now, Governor, would you please put that gun down, pretty please?”
Eves, for his part, called LePage’s threat “an abuse of power that jeopardizes Maine children” and warned:
The Governor’s actions represent the worst kind of vendetta politics Maine has ever seen. If it goes unchecked, no legislator will feel safe in voting his conscience for fear that the Governor will go after the legislator’s family and livelihood.
David Webbert, Eves’s attorney, said that Eves is considering suing the governor. In a statement, he said:
Under the First Amendment, the governor is clearly prohibited from using the money of our state government to exact revenge on public officials because they do not vote the way the governor wants
And now several members of the Maine House are talking impeachment. State Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos, an independent, is leading the effort, and told the Bangor Daily News that LePage might have gone a tad too far this time:
I’m asking my fellow legislators to study abuse of authority, conduct unbecoming and possible misuse of public assets … I believe that Gov. LePage has violated his authority by intimidating a private entity with the end objective of violating speaker Eves’ civil rights, his ability to seek outside employment and provide for his family.
State Rep. Charlotte Warren, a Democrat, said that LePage’s shenanigans were simply too shenaniganny to ignore:
“When we take an oath of office, we set ourselves up to behave in a certain manner,” Warren said. “As a member of this legislative body and a member of the policy makers in this state, you need to stand up and call it out when you see it. To threaten to withhold public dollars to an institution because they are going to hire someone is unethical.”
Another Democrat, state Rep. Pinny Beebe-Center, humbly refused to comment on her name being among the awesomest in any state legislature, and instead kept the focus on how LePage was making Maine look bad. Like, even worse than a Stephen King novel:
“We’re the laughingstock of the country,” she said. “This is lower than low.”
Yr Wonkette would like to gently remind Rep. Beebe-Center that, awful as Paul LePage is, the country still includes Florida and Texas (at least for now), so her argument is invalid.
For his part, Speaker Eves says he’s going to stay away from any efforts to impeach the governor, because unlike some people (who might be governor of Maine), he knows better than to use his political office to pursue a personal vendetta:
“I, or this office, will not be working on any legislative fixes or initiatives,” said Eves. “If other legislators are doing that, that is certainly outside any knowledge or coordination from this office. We are keeping a bright line between what is political and what is personal. This is about my personal life.”
Yr Wonkette is willing to forgive Mr. Eves if, immediately after saying this, he may have also muttered under his breath, “but if my esteemed colleagues want to hang that fucker out to dry, I won’t complain.”