Even if you’re not a fan of State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin, it’s easy to know where he stands on practically any hot-button issue.
One of the feisty Republican’s innovations has been a weekly blog in which he regularly supports Gov. Paul LePage and defends his own forays into Maine politics.
The blogs are often self-congratulatory, sometimes defensive and occasionally even illuminating.
They often concern the normal responsibilities of the treasurer, like the way bonding firms are selected or the size of the state’s bond rating.
But they just as often venture beyond the normal dollars-and-cents aspect of the treasurer’s job.
For instance, the headline on a recent blog announced that “87 percent of apartments for disadvantaged Mainers fail safety/health inspections.”
What, you might ask, is the Maine state treasurer doing monitoring the condition of housing for the poor?
Indeed, the treasurer would be quick to explain, and often does in his blogs, that he is on the board of the Maine State Housing Authority, where he addresses his responsibilities with particular energy. Just ask the agency’s former director, whom Poliquin helped oust.
But in his most recent blog, a paean to the virtues of charter schools, the treasurer goes even further afield to support one of the signature achievements of the LePage administration: charter schools.
“Maine state government is, finally, beginning to allow all kids to better pursue their dreams,” he wrote about the divisive issue.
There is, of course, no state law forbidding the state treasurer from commenting on any issue under the sun.
He is a member or ex-officio member of 14 boards, ranging from the Adaptive Equipment Loan Board to the Maine Vaccine Board, so practically any issue could conceivably fall under his purview.
Perhaps it’s just that Poliquin, who has run for both governor and the U.S. Senate during the past few years, is so much more outspoken and partisan than his successor, the comparatively demure David Lemoine.
A quick check of the Sun Journal electronic files shows we wrote about Lemoine about 70 times during his five years as treasurer, and a significant number of those stories were about a single issue, a state investment that had gone haywire.
The Sun Journal wrote about Poliquin in his capacity as treasurer 103 times in two years.
The Portland Press Herald seems to follow Poliquin even more closely. They have written about him as treasurer 275 times in two years, compared to 75 times about Lemoine during five years.
Maine political historian and Sun Journal columnist Paul Mills says there is certainly precedent for high-visibility treasurers.
“My favorite was Belmont Smith, the last state official put up for removal proceedings before the Maine Legislature,” Mills told the Sun Journal in a recent email.
“It was 1940 , and the Legislature actually voted to retain him in office and then early the next year re-elected him to boot.
“Smith was called into question because he signed a lot of checks that wound up finding their way into the state controller’s personal pocketbook. The controller was a thief, did resign and went to jail after an abortive suicide attempt, but the treasurer was exonerated.
“Smith’s defense: The limited nature of the duties of Maine state treasurer, which his attorney argued was quite simply: ‘to draw his breath and to draw his pay.’”
Clearly, Bruce Poliquin sees more to the job than that.
Sun Journal, Lewiston ( Oct. 11)