Beyond the clean-sweep GOP victory in last month’s gubernatorial and legislative elections, the campaign may be remembered for the launch of new, slick versions of old-fashioned mud slinging. One example was the tsunami of out-of-state PAC money targeting Democratic legislators in glossy mailers. Another is the stealth website aimed at discrediting independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler.
Last week, the Maine Commission on Gubernatorial Ethics and Elections Practices ruled that the site’s creator, Dennis Bailey, violated election laws. The site, which included information about candidate Cutler ranging from the well-documented to the merely snide, purported to be the work of several anonymous people representing diverse party affiliations. Mr. Bailey admitted last week on his blog that he was the phantom poster. He must pay a $200 fine for failing to disclose his identity on the site.
Regrettably, Mr. Bailey will pay a bigger price in lost credibility.
In recent years, he was best known as the spokesman for the anti-casino advocacy group CasinosNo! Mr. Bailey owns and operates Savvy Inc., a consulting firm that provides media and communication representation, mostly for political candidates. Earlier in his career, he worked for Democratic Rep. Tom Andrews and independent Gov. Angus King. Before that, he was a journalist, writing for several Maine publications.
In the last campaign cycle, Mr. Bailey did some work for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rosa Scarcelli, and when she failed to win her party’s nomination, he was hired by independent candidate Shawn Moody. That switch in allegiances may have led to bad blood between Mr. Bailey and Mr. Cutler. An e-mail purported by Mr. Bailey to be from Mr. Cutler to Ms. Scarcelli denigrates Mr. Bailey as something close to a whore.
In coming clean about The Cutler Files, Mr. Bailey writes that the candidate was getting a free pass. “His statements were unchallenged, the tough questions were never asked and the blanks in his resume remained unfilled.” Yet one tough question asked of Mr. Bailey was answered with what can only be characterized as a lie. Months ago, reporters asked whether he was behind The Cutler Files, and he flatly denied it.
There are other disclosure concerns. Though Mr. Bailey is listed as executive director of CasinosNo!, it has never been clear whether he is a hired gun or a passionate believer that casino gambling threatens the quality of life in Maine, or both. Each position is ethically sound, but it would be nice for Mainers to know which describes his role.
Most who know Dennis Bailey, a native of Livermore Falls, would agree he is bright, insightful, articulate and eminently likable. If he were a political carpetbagger, or lock-step partisan, it would be easier to dismiss this lapse. Part of the currency in our shared public life in Maine is honesty. It’s often a blunt honesty, a Yankee directness that can rub outsiders the wrong way. But the terms by which we measure those who climb onto the public stage include meaning what you say, and saying what you mean. We trust this chapter in Mr. Bailey’s career ends up in the Regrets File.