In 21 days, thousands of attendees will cram themselves into the Augusta Civic Center — after a rigorous security screening — to see Gov. Paul LePage inaugurated for his second term of office.
The ceremony begins at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 7. LePage will be sworn in by the newly minted Senate President, Mike Thibodeau of Winterport, before a special joint session of that Maine Legislature.
Several hours later, the Civic Center play host again for a night of drinking, dancing, schmoozing and celebrating. As he did four years ago, LePage has eschewed the typical black-tie gala that had been associated withe inaugural parties for years, opting instead for a an informal event more in keeping with his no-frills image.
LePage’s immediate predecessors, Democratic Gov. John Baldacci and independent Gov. Angus King, both held formal balls the day after inauguration ceremonies. LePage, for a second time, is opting to be sworn in and host his party on the same day.
Invitations to supporters and other dignitaries were sent out this week, said Brent Littlefield, a longtime political adviser and campaign strategist for LePage, who is helping organize the events. People without invitations can request tickets online at lepageinaugural2015.com.
“We’ll attempt to get as many people in as we possibly can,” Littlefield said.
As was the case in 2011, members of LePage’s inner circle established a nonprofit organization, LePage Inaugural 2015, to handle fundraising and organizing for the inauguration, transition and other associated events. All funds related to those enterprises are being raised privately, with LePage once again declining $5,000 in authorized state funds.
LePage Inaugural 2015’s website includes a link for contributing to the cause, and LePage will hold a fundraiser in Augusta the night before the inauguration. Admission to the VIP donor reception costs a whopping $3,000 per individual, according to an invitation publicized by the Sunlight Foundation.
Littlefield said LePage Inaugural 2015 intends to disclose its donors, as the transition team did did four years ago. Included among those were were LePage’s former employer, Marden’s discount stores, Iberdrola USA, several Maine banks and the insurance firm Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, according to published reports.
Naomi Schalit of the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting used the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine to dig up the full list of donors to LePage’s first transition and inauguration efforts. She also had this insight, which I thought was worth sharing:
Inauguration events are the perfect vehicle for those who want to influence state government, said Pete Quist, research director at the National Institute for Money In State Politics. Unlike giving to a candidate, “you know you’re dealing with a winner.” Added benefit to insiders: In Maine, there aren’t limits on contributions, as there are with political candidates and campaigns.
Littlefield said he was unsure exactly how many attendees would be present for the inauguration and the party, but the events drew crowds of roughly 5,000 and 4,000, respectively, last time around.
LePage Inaugural 2015’s website states that Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court, the governor’s cabinet, foreign dignitaries and members of the armed services will be invited to attend.
LePage will have at least one duty before the festivities begin — perhaps the last official act of his first term. Before the inauguration, lawmakers will convene the Legislature at the State House in Augusta. LePage will need to administer the oath of office to Sen.-elect Cathy Breen, D-Yarmouth.