Saturday, September 8, 2012

Gov. LePage attacks Telegram investigation in radio address

Gov. Paul LePage is apparently not concerned about the troubling findings of my investigation in last week's Maine Sunday Telegram, which showed how private online learning companies with dubious track records were shaping his administration's digital learning policies.

The governor instead used his weekly radio address to lash out at the article, claiming at one point that it had "lied saying that my campaign was paid by an out of state company to push virtual learning."

"This is a bold faced lie," the governor added, apparently referring to the article rather than the statement he had just made.

Of course, the article made no such claim, as anyone who reads it can see for themselves.

What it did say was that the nation's largest digital learning company, K12 Inc. of Herndon, Va., spent $19,000 to help get LePage elected in 2010, via the Republican Governors Association Maine PAC.

But let's recap this issue for the governor, since he seems to have been poorly briefed. The RGA Maine PAC was created to get the Republican nominee -- LePage --elected, and it would spend over a million dollars to do so in 2010.

On October 11, 2010, K12 Inc. kicked in two donations totaling $19,000, which you can see on page 3 of their disclosure for that period at the Maine ethics commission (or the image here:)

Over the next 48 hours, the PAC made ad buys totaling over $360,000, about half spent in support of LePage and the rest on negative ads targeting LePage's opponents, Libby Mitchell and Eliot Culter. You can find all of this on page 5 of the same document, or in this image:

So it's the governor who is the one who is being boldfaced here. I suggest his office should issue a correction, as we did in regards to the typographical error in our piece.

On that: last week Brent Littlefield, LePage's chief political adviser, did his best to make hay over the fact that in one of the references to this $19,000 contribution in my article, the wording made it sound like the RGA Maine PAC had given the $19,000 to LePage's campaign organization to spend, rather than spending it themselves in support of LePage. (This would of course impossible, since direct donations to campaign organizations are capped at $750.) We corrected that online and in print last week, and I responded to Littlefield's effort to spin this on WGAN Friday morning.

"[O]ur education policy was taken to task because of a perception that what we are doing somehow hurts school boards, superintendents or taxpayers," the governor also proclaimed in the radio address. "And yet nobody was talking about our core goal: what is best for the students."

Of course, the effect on students was precisely what the article said was at stake, though the set of policies LePage has directed the education department to move forward on -- the Digital Learning Now! standards -- have plenty to interest the taxpayer as well, including directives to have the state pay for the online classes of private school students.

But, then, anyone who has actually read the articles already knows this, and has been able to avail themselves of the source documents that back it up. If you're one of those who haven't read it, you might want to do so, even if you're the governor of Maine.


  1. I know this is way off topic but have you ever talked to Howe author of Generations? You and Howe have an interesting take on what transpires in American everything!

  2. Colin- I have been thinking about your story since reading it 2 weeks ago. I am so pleased with MaineToday for getting back into the credible investigative journalism field. For too long the paper ignored - didn't have the capacity to pursue-important stories that take time to research.
    Second, I am appalled that no one seems to mind the shocking level of intimacy between K12 and other private digital learning companies and Maine policy makers. Comissioner Bowen's Op-ed this week did nothing to address the main point of the story - that private companies are building direct bridges to public school funds -- aided directly by Maine public servants and a Governor who bullies those who are appointed to make sound decisions for the future of education - and ways to pay for it. It is one thing to look for outside help in drafting legislative language; it is quite another to accept money and form recmmendations that lead directly to profit for these companies. And who the hell wants their kids sitting in front of a screen any more than they already do?

    Keep up the great work! We need it.