How to Live with a Rogue Governor: V12

Governor LePage’s predilection to throw temper  tantrums, attempt to overawe people by beating on tables and yelling at them, and to say and do some remarkably stupid or offensive things are difficult for a significant majority of Maine people to live with.  Still, he did manage to get re-elected within spitting distance of a majority vote.

The question to be addressed now is how to separate the buffoonery, the childish rages and vindictive politics that generate public embarrassment and personal aggravation from substantive issues.   Is there some point at which we go beyond public policy differences (regardless of how crudely expressed) and personal distaste for public actions by the state’s Governor into a land where governing is disdained and democratic practice is not just scorned, but denied.

Some of Maine’s most iconic political figures were charged in their time with actions which were distasteful or worse.  The students at Bowdoin College rose up almost en mass when Joshua Chamberlain attempted to require them to march in military formation.  James Blaine may or may not have been the continental liar from the State of Maine, but the preponderance of evidence indicates that he did take what today would be described as bribes from the railroad companies. Reportedly, Ed Muskie had more than a bit of a temper. Each of these men were good, and many would argue, great Maine Governors.

So, where do we draw the line that says to a Governor you have a huge range in which you can speak and act, but if you cross “this line” it is time for you to go. That line is stated in Maine’s Constitution, Article V, Section 12: the Governor “shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” There are no qualifiers in this Constitutional language.  If the Legislature fails to appropriate the funds necessary to fund education at the 55% level of state funding then the Governor cannot faithfully execute the law.  He is restricted, not by his choice, but by an independent third party over which he has no ultimate control from seeing that the law is faithfully executed. When a Governor unfettered by some third party restriction refuses to faithfully execute the laws of the State, he has then crossed the line.

Things can get rather murky here, though.  For example, a clear majority of Maine people believe the Governor has acted wrongly in not allowing the issuance of general obligation bonds to fund the Land for Maine’s Future program. The Legislature passed the bill and put it out to referendum which passed by a substantial majority.  Unfortunately, under a rather obscure provision of Maine law, a bond issue may not be sold, even if passed in referendum, if the Governor does not append his signature to a particular document associated with all GO bond sales.  Historically, this signing by the Governor has been a ministerial “sign another document” action.  Regardless, if Governor LePage does not want to sign the bond sale documents to sell bonds for the Land for Maine’s Future program, it is clearly within the scope of his powers under Maine law not to sign, and thus, prevent the bond sale.

Yet another aspect of this issue is the Governor’s refusing to do something which the law says he should do. If no third party, or other provision of Maine law, prevents him from carrying out his duty to see that a law is faithfully executed, or any other provision of Maine law gives him the explicit power not to act or stop an action, what does that mean?  If a Governor simply stomps his feet and holds his breath and says “no, I won’t”, “no, I won’t”, how does this mesh with seeing that laws are faithfully executed?

Failure to faithfully execute the laws is to “give the bird” to democracy.  Failure to faithfully execute the law is to assert that one person has the right to substitute his or her singular position for the judgement of the democratic process of public discussion and Legislative action combined with Executive administration of adopted laws.

The litany of offensive, distasteful, embarrassing and bullying actions by Governor LePage has been well documented and moaned and groaned over for the last five years.  The list of actions which constitute a failure to see that the laws be faithfully executed, is much shorter, if it exists at all.  If you believe you can define and document an action that violates Article V, Section 12 then you should tell your Legislator that it is now time to impeach Paul LePage.

I  believe he should be impeached and convicted of willfully failing to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed” when without cause and seemingly almost on a whim he says he will not implement numerous statutes and provisions of Maine law that direct the Governor to appoint members to the Boards and Commissions.

The inability of these Boards and Commissions to carry out their statutory duties if they do not have a quorum of their membership as required by law and then a Governor’s failure to appoint new members strikes at the heart of our Maine democracy and the ability of state government to carry out its responsibilities. This puts us into a land where governing is scorned and democracy denied. The refusal of Governor LePage to carry out his duty to appoint members to Boards and Commissions is cause for the House of Representatives to vote a bill of impeachment and for the Senate to convict him of failure to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”.

After this short ramble, I feel obliged to disclose that I was ousted from my position of as Executive Director of four of Maine’s independent bond issuing authorities by the directed actions of Governor LePage and then State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin. While I would argue that this almost three year old event has little impact on what I have written, a reader might disagree.

Robert Lenna

About Robert Lenna

My professional career has been involved in bringing to Maine the financial capital to build our infrastructure of housing, schools, roads, hospitals, colleges, water and sewer districts. As Executive Director of four independent state authorities charged with putting together public financing for hundreds of infrastructure projects I was responsible for bringing billions of dollar into the Maine economy.