Friday, June 21, 2013

Maddow on my DEP series; LePage hints at stepping down

It has been one crazy week in Maine politics.

As regular readers know, my seven-month, five-part, three-day investigation of the state Department of Environmental Protection began running Sunday. On Tuesday, Gov. Paul LePage reacted by announcing a statewide ban against any official -- including his own spokespeople -- from speaking to my newspaper, the Portland Press Herald, or its sister papers in the state capital and his most recent hometown, Waterville. His justification: an unspecific charge of bias, with my series on the DEP and George Polk Award-winning investigation of the education department as examples.

Needless to say, this gave the story a national profile. First there were pieces from the Poynter Institute, CJR and Politico. Then the Associated Press. And last night, liberal anchor Rachel Maddow devoted a full 20 minutes over two segments to my DEP investigation, the governor's gag order, an interview with my editor, Cliff Schechtman, and LePage's instantly infamous remarks earlier in the day regarding state senator Troy Jackson and Vaseline. Here in Maine, environmental groups have called for an investigation of DEP Commissioner Pattie Aho or her resignation.

A few minutes ago came the wildest turn yet: news that the governor is considering running for Congress in 2014 instead of the Blaine House, taking advantage of the fact that incumbent Rep. Mike Michaud will be stepping down to run against him!

Nobody knows how serious the governor really is, but just having aired such a plan indicates misgivings about his future at the Blaine House and will likely sow doubt among would be donors, including perhaps former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is hosting a fundraiser for him here in Maine next month, and Olympia Snowe and Sen. Susan Collins, who are reportedly attending.

[Update, 6/26/13: Later that day, WGBH's "Beat the Press" did a panel discussion related to our series and the governor's reaction to it. This week, after having his budget veto overridden, the governor held a press conference in which he said he wouldn't run for Congress and was consulting with his family about whether to run for reelection as governor.]

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