Taxes and Plagiarism

Posted May 03, 2010, at 5:37 p.m.

It is discouraging that Les Otten, a Republican candidate for governor, passed off another man’s work as his own. Sadly, it is another example of his willingness to play loose with the facts.

On Monday, the Otten campaign fired a consultant it initially refused to name after it was revealed that the candidate’s written response to a question from the Augusta Insider website was nearly identical to testimony given by Stephen Bowen, of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, to the Legislature. The paragraphs in question were about Maine’s response to the federal Race to the Top program.

The campaign apologized for the apparent plagiarism, although Mr. Bowen was not satisfied. “The tone of their response is, I guess, what bugged me,” he told the Portland Press Herald. “It suggested it was inadvertent and accidental, and I don’t believe it was.”

Apparently, simply giving Mr. Bowen credit didn’t cross the minds of anyone in the Otten campaign.

Last year, the campaign was accused of copying Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign logo, an O with flaglike stripes across the bottom. The logo is no longer used on Mr. Otten’s campaign literature.

During a recent interview with the Bangor Daily News, Mr. Otten spent much of the time decrying the state’s high taxes, especially its capital gains and estate taxes. These high levies have driven many of the state’s most prominent residents away from Maine, he said, adding that “we all know who they are.” Pressed to identify those who have fled Maine because of its high tax rate, he listed George Mitchell, Bill Cohen, Stephen King and others.

George Mitchell, who maintains a home in Northeast Harbor, resides and works in New York. According to an analysis by Mr. Otten’s campaign, New York’s total tax burden is barely distinguishable from Maine’s. As a percentage of personal income, total tax collections in New York are higher than in Maine, according to the campaign’s so-called tax white paper.

So, if former Sen. Mitchell, who has worked all over the world at the behest of presidents and other leaders, truly chose New York to escape Maine’s tax burden, he didn’t make a very wise choice.

Likewise, Mr. Cohen stayed in the Washington, D.C., area after leaving the U.S. Senate because President Bill Clinton nominated him to serve as his secretary of defense. He has continued to work there presumably because the clients of his consulting group are primarily in Washington or need work done there.

Mr. King, contrary to Mr. Otten’s assertion, has not left Maine. His primary residence is here and he votes here, according to his office. Further, Mr. King and his wife, Tabitha, have donated millions of dollars to charities and projects throughout Maine, showing they care more about sharing their wealth than keeping it to themselves by paying lower taxes.

There is plenty to criticize about Maine’s tax system and burden without making things up.

Candidates — and even governors — sometimes get confused, but when they perpetuate falsehoods or pass off others’ ideas as their own, their integrity deserves close scrutiny.

http://bangordailynews.com/2010/05/03/opinion/taxes-and-plagiarism/ printed on July 24, 2014