LePage hints at ‘very large lawsuit’ over op-ed alleging substance abuse

Good morning from Augusta, where Gov. Paul LePage said Tuesday that he may take legal action in response to  an op-ed in the Portland Press Herald that alleged he had problems with substance abuse.

He said that on his weekly radio appearance on WVOM, in response to a Labor Day weekend op-ed published in the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram after LePage’s controversial remarks about black and Hispanic drug dealers and his profane voicemail to a Democratic lawmaker who criticized him.

The op-ed from substance abuse counselor Steve Bentley was published in print and posted online, but it was later taken down and replaced with an editor’s note saying it didn’t meet the newspaper’s standards. The publishing of the piece was heavily criticized, including here at the Daily Brief.

But on Tuesday, LePage told radio host Ric Tyler that he has been advised not to discuss it because “there might be a very large lawsuit about it” and that he is considering “options” in response to the op-ed.

Now, people hint at lawsuits all the time, so don’t take this too seriously until it’s in court. But if LePage is serious, this could be a libel case, which would be hard for a public figure such as LePage to win.

To do so, he’d have to prove “actual malice,” established by courts as meaning false information was published with the publisher either knowing it was false or acting with “reckless disregard” for a statement’s truth.

Also on Tuesday, LePage dismissed criticism of his administration’s decision to privatize administration of a work training program, which puts 51 state jobs on the chopping block.

He said displaced workers could apply for jobs with the new contractor, New York City-based Fedcap Rehabilitation Services, and he didn’t understand what all the “hoopla” was about. — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits

  • Utility regulators have a potentially controversial decision on solar policy on tap this morning. The Maine Public Utilities Commission is set to amend rules governing how small-scale solar generators get paid, called net metering. It was the subject of the longest-fought energy policy battle during the last legislative session. The PUC’s rule amendments could dramatically change net metering or — perhaps more likely — put off changes long enough to give the next Legislature another bite at the apple. The issue’s the last item on the agenda today for the PUC meeting that starts at 10 a.m. Keep an eye on bangordailynews.com for updates.
  • Democratic 2nd Congressional District candidate Emily Cain came out with her first TV ad of the 2016 race against Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin on Tuesday. It highlights her decade in the Maine Legislature, including a role in negotiating the 2011 budget that led to the largest income tax cut in Maine history. Cain pointed to it in her 2014 race against Poliquin, but Republicans have cried foul on this line because she later said her caucus “hates” these tax cuts, but that most Democrats voted for them because of other trade-offs.
  • Cain was in New York City for a fundraiser on Monday … and Poliquin will have one just over a mile away on Thursday. Both candidates are hitting Manhattan for donations in their high-dollar, nationally targeted race. Cain was boosted by former Maine Sen. George Mitchell on Monday at an event hosted by Patti Kenner, the president of a charter company who has long given to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and lives near Central Park. On Thursday, Poliquin will be in Midtown at the Women’s National Republican Club, with Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, the chairman of Poliquin’s House Financial Services Committee, as the special guest.
  • LePage gave $20,000 to jump-start a memorial to the victims of the 1912 state-forced resettlement of the residents of Malaga Island. The island off the coast of Phippsburg was settled by former slaves and became a mixed-race community at the turn of the 20th century. But in one of the more shameful episodes in Maine history, Gov. Frederick Plaisted evicted the residents, some of whom were institutionalized. The Legislature formally apologized in 2010 and LePage apologized in 2012. In June, he transferred $20,000 from his contingency account to descendants’ fundraising effort for a memorial. They’re now trying to raise another $3,000 through GoFundMe to complete the drive.
  • Actress Molly Ringwald will be in Maine all day on Tuesday campaigning for Clinton. The 1980s icon of “Brat Pack” fame will appear at a meet-and-greet at Arabica Coffee on Commercial Street from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., at the University of Southern Maine in Gorham to sign up voters from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., a Democratic phone bank in Portland at 3:30 p.m., then at a happy hour at Portland Hunt + Alpine Club at 5 p.m.
  • Former presidential candidate Herman Cain’s trip to Maine to campaign for Republican nominee Donald Trump has been canceled. He canceled due to a death in his family, according to Making Maine Great Again, the pro-Trump PAC that was putting on the Sept. 17 event in Portland. — Michael Shepherd and Darren Fishell

Reading list

Thanks, tweeters

A Quorum analysis of Twitter accounts most followed by Maine legislators made the Bangor Daily News look pretty good: Our flagship handle is the most followed with 25 lawmakers and our politics handle is second with 24.

Among politicians,  Emily Cain is most followed with 23. However, there seems to be a liberal bias here, with only one Republican politician — U.S. Sen. Susan Collins — in the top 25.

The most followed reporter is MPBN’s Steve Mistler with 21. The BDN’s Chris Cousins has 19 follows. Inexplicably, I’m not in the top 25, but you can follow me here, lawmakers. I’m not bitter. Here’s my soundtrack— Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.