Good morning from Augusta, where the latest developments in Gov. Paul LePage’s meddling in an employment contract formerly held by Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves are due to unfold.
The Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee is scheduled to meet this morning to, among other things, hear a report from the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability about an investigation that’s been underway since it was launched July 1 with a unanimous vote of the committee.
The purpose of the probe is to investigate whether LePage improperly threatened to withhold $530,000 in state funding from Good Will-Hinckley, an organization that among other things runs the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences in Fairfield, to force the firing of Eves. The threat and Eves’ firing were first reported by the Bangor Daily News.
Eves’ contract was rescinded by Good Will-Hinckley in June. LePage, who objected to Eves’ hiring because he said Eves was not qualified for the position, has publicly admitted that he threatened Good Will-Hinckley’s board of directors. Eves has filed a civil lawsuit against LePage in which he accuses to the governor of blackmail. That federal suit is pending.
The question is whether LePage improperly used the funds, though OPEGA is not tasked with answering that question. Its only role today is to present the results of a fact-finding mission about the funding, whether it was threatened by LePage and whether and steps were taken to pull it back.
“We are not going to be drawing any conclusions about whether the governor exercised his authority appropriately or not,” said OPEGA director Beth Ashcroft to the Government Oversight Committee in July. “That would be for others to decide.”
Among those watching from the wings is a group of lawmakers from the House of Representatives who have said they are considering launching impeachment proceedings against the governor for improperly leveraging taxpayer funding for political retribution.
Stay tuned to the Bangor Daily News today for all the latest developments. That will probably consume a lot of the attention in politics today, talhough Congress is reconvening today as well, with a long list of high-stakes fights on its docket. More on that later.
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Groundbreaking former Senate President Beverly Daggett dies
Beverly Daggett of Augusta, the first woman to serve as Maine’s Senate president, died Sunday at age 69.
Daggett served five terms in the House of Representatives before being elected to the Senate in 1996. She became Senate president in 2002. More recently, according to a news release, Daggett was a Kennebec County commissioner, a member of the Manchester Grange and an organist for the Green Street United Methodist Church. She leaves behind a husband, Tom, and three children.
State and local leaders reacted with dismay.
“Our hearts go out to Bev’s friends and family,” said Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond of Portland, in a written statement. “Bev broke through barriers when she was elected Senate president. She was a champion for working people and a strong voice for the residents of Augusta. She will be dearly missed and fondly remembered.”
U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree served with Daggett in the Legislature, including as Senate majority leader during Daggett’s first two terms in that chamber.
“She made Maine a better place and we will miss her,” said Pingree.
- 6 reasons presidential candidates are coming to Maine — Christopher Cousins, BDN
- Pope calls on European parishes to take in refugees — Anthony Faiola and Michael Bimbaum, The Washington Post
- Sanders pulls ahead of Clinton in New Hampshire poll — Reuters
- Independent Maine lawmaker joins Democrats — Christopher Cousins, BDN
- LePage signs regional pact to cut greenhouse gas emissions — Darren Fishell, BDN
- Key Democrat announces opposition to Iran nuclear deal — Patricia Zengerle, Reuters
- Biden mum on presidential ambitions — John Whitesides, Reuters
‘Least effective’ members of Congress
Can you guess who from Maine’s congressional delegation made Inside.gov’s list of least-effective members of Congress, according to the number of bills sponsored and passed through committee?
Click here and scroll through to number 16 to find out. It might not be who you think. — Christopher Cousins