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Cutler accuses LePage of publishing campaign material on taxpayer dime

Posted Nov. 26, 2013, at 5:31 a.m.
Last modified Nov. 26, 2013, at 4:02 p.m.
Eliot Cutler
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AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage’s publication of a 26-page booklet listing his accomplishments has triggered accusations from independent Eliot Cutler’s campaign that taxpayers are supporting his re-election bid.

Peter Steele, LePage’s communications director, countered that the booklet, which he said was published last week to mark the governor’s first 1,000 days in office, does not ask for votes for LePage and is no different than newsletters legislators regularly send to constituents. Senators are given $2,000 annually for constituent services and House members receive $1,500.

The booklet, of which there were about 200 copies printed and which is posted in electronic form on the governor’s website, is titled “Moving Maine Forward.” It contains lists of LePage’s accomplishments in everything from job creation to paying old Medicaid debt to hospitals to various education initiatives and tax cuts.

It is illegal for taxpayer-supported staff or resources to be used in campaigns.

Ted O’Meara, who is Cutler’s campaign spokesman, said Monday afternoon that Maine taxpayers should not be paying for this kind of publication.

“The first thing that comes to mind is what is this doing on the state government’s website?” said O’Meara. “I don’t know who paid for having it done, but it’s clearly nothing more than a campaign publication. I think they should reimburse the taxpayers for the cost of it and host it on [LePage’s] campaign website. I’m kind of stunned when I see something like this.”

Cutler published and paid for his own book earlier this year. He posted it on his campaign website.

Steele said he produced the booklet between other tasks during normal work days over the course of about a month. He estimated that he spent less than 20 hours on it and said that the print version was produced by the Department of Transportation, which has printing equipment in-house. Steele said the expense of the printing will be billed to the “governor’s account,” but that the bill has not yet been received. Steele did not provide an estimate of the cost.

“The accomplishments booklet is similar to the booklet that was produced last year, which was widely reported on, and it is not campaign literature,” wrote Steele in response to questions from the Bangor Daily News. “The booklet lists the significant policy achievements of the LePage administration. Nowhere in the booklet does it ask readers to vote for or against any candidate or issue. Those who claim it is campaign literature are the same people who attack the governor whenever he does something positive for the people of Maine.”

O’Meara says the booklet does include some accomplishments for which LePage is due credit, but it leaves out his missteps.

“What’s missing from all of this is the damage that’s been done in the last four years to the state’s reputation and the morale of state workers,” he said. “[The LePage campaign] says actions speak louder than words, but in this case his words have drowned out everything else, even some of the positive things he’s tried to do.”

The phrase “Actions speak louder than words,” which has been a central theme for LePage’s campaign, is printed on the back cover of the booklet.

Lizzy Reinholt, spokeswoman for presumptive Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud, said Monday afternoon that the Michaud campaign is focused on its own plans for the future.

“Our plan is to be rolling out our policy initiatives, such as reducing the use of home heating oil by 50 percent by 2030 by investing in alternative energy sources,” said Reinholt. “At the end of the day, what we’re focused on is the campaign.”

This is not the first time the executive branch has been used to tout LePage’s accomplishments. In addition to the booklet published 500 days into LePage’s term, the DOT printed about 2,000 palm cards last month that list LePage’s accomplishments. They are being distributed by the governor and his staff during his travels. Steele said the printing bill for the palm cards hasn’t come in, either.

Jonathan Wayne, executive director of the Maine Ethics Commission, could not be reached for comment late Monday. He has told the Bangor Daily News in the past that publications that don’t explicitly ask for votes do not violate Maine’s campaign finance laws.

CORRECTION:

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud’s energy goals. He intends to reduce the use of home heating oil in Maine by 50 percent by 2030, not 20 percent.

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