Upset over tracker hired to film him in public, LePage calls off budget meeting with Dems

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage, upset that the Maine Democratic Party has dispatched a tracker to film him in public, has canceled his Tuesday meeting with the incoming Legislature’s Democratic leaders that had been scheduled to discuss the state’s budget situation.

Gov. Paul LePage

In a statement released by his office, LePage said a tracker from the Democratic Party filmed him at a Veteran’s Day event last month and attended a Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce event in Rockport Tuesday morning where LePage spoke about his policy priorities. At the Veteran’s Day event, LePage said, the tracker filmed him as he spoke with an elderly veteran with deteriorating health.

“There was no need to have filmed this private discussion for political purposes,” LePage said in his statement. “The people of Maine are not props, and I will not allow these special interest groups to use them to score political points.”

The tracker paid to attend Tuesday’s Chamber event but did not film it, said Staci Coomer, the Chamber’s executive director. In consultation with LePage’s office, Coomer said, “we did not allow the recording of the event.”

Later Tuesday morning, LePage challenged the incoming Democratic legislative leaders to call on their party to stop tracking him and said he wouldn’t meet with them until they do. LePage was set to meet with Sen. Justin Alfond of Portland, the presumptive Senate president, and Rep. Mark Eves of North Berwick, the presumptive House speaker.

“If Democrats want to work together, they will publicly call for an end to this distasteful practice,” LePage said. “Actions speak louder than words.”

Lizzy Reinholt, a Democratic Party spokeswoman, said the party’s tracker obtains permission from event organizers to attend and film LePage.

“He’s just there to be a bystander and take video and that’s it,” Reinholt said. “He’s not supposed to cause ruckus, ask any questions, just to get tape and leave.

“The Democratic leaders in Augusta at the State House are working hard to put their best foot forward and work with the governor,” Reinholt said. “Instead, the governor is looking for excuses and delivering ultimatums for why he doesn’t want to meet with him. This is a perfect example of that.”

In a joint statement, Alfond and Eves said they were disappointed LePage canceled their meeting.

“We have very serious fiscal challenges before us and we were looking forward to meeting with the governor to get to work,” Eves said. “The problems we face are too big for one party to solve alone.”

“We continue to stand ready to work with the governor,” Alfond said. “We have to put party politics aside if we are going to get to work on strengthening our economy and rebuilding our middle class. The task is too great to be squandered by fighting before we even get started.”

“Tracking” has become a common tactic in the political world, in which political campaigns and organizations dispatch an operative with a handheld camera to film political opponents in public. During the campaign for Maine’s open U.S. Senate seat this fall, Sen.-elect Angus King often made references to a Republican tracker filming him at public events.

Alfond and Eves had been attempting to schedule a meeting with LePage since shortly after last month’s elections, when Democrats captured majorities in the House and Senate. They were scheduled to sit down with the Republican governor for 15 minutes Tuesday between mandatory legislative training sessions.

The three were planning to discuss the state’s budget situation after the state’s Revenue Forecasting Committee last week revised its projections for tax collections downward for the current budget year, estimating that revenue collections would come up $35.5 million short for the fiscal year that ends June 30, 2013, due to the depressed revenue picture. On Monday, LePage’s finance commissioner, Sawin Millett, recommended that LePage order an immediate curtailment in state spending to keep the budget in balance.

Also last week, LePage’s health and human services commissioner, Mary Mayhew, told lawmakers that state Medicaid spending is has gone $100 million over budget for the current fiscal year.

The revenue shortfalls and the Medicaid budget gap are among the issues awaiting the new Legislature, which takes the oath of office Wednesday.

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Comments

Track him right out of office ....

It seems like the more this Governor speaks out in public, the more he sounds like a blatting baby who has dropped his binky.

This is great entertainment, at least.

Please, please. Democrats. Keep tracking and making daily, public event by event updates for us.

Remember the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution?

Lepage obviously doesn't.

Hey...Governor ...psst ...it's the free press that protects the public from re-electing incompetents like you.

Please ...don't meet with the democrats ...they don't need you anyway.

It seems that you know that anyway.

Better yet, why not move to New Hampshire or Quebecois?

If Lepage does happen to show up at the budget discussions, however, let him know about increasing estate and corporate taxes for the 1 and 2 percenters, to begin with.

And, increasing minimum wage to $10 per hour to stimulate the economy for starters.

Further, if he doesn't show up, vote to eliminate the Governor's salary for cause.

Lepage calls off meeting with Legislative leaders

Another brilliant move by our governor;,if he doesn't like being filmed, he should't have run! What a buffoon he is!

Larry Mann's picture

Tracking ???!!!???

This man is a public official. Not only is it important that what Paul LePage does and say be recorded and publicized, it is a 1st Amendment right to those recording this elected official. Being in the public, means that, the public, and these events are public events, even though a private audience. The Governor speaks at these events, and those things he speaks of, affects all Maine citizens, not just those at the event.
It is outrageous to think he deserves some sort of privacy when speaking to anyone as Governor of the State of Maine. These are not private family matters, there is no right to privacy here.
And in my opinion, if there is an individual in this state who should be tracked, it is Paul Lepage!!!

JOHN PAINTER's picture

I agree completely that what

I agree completely that what public officials do/ say needs to be in the public eye, we should care what politicians say and dont say, do and dont do, that's why we have freedom of the press to help root that stuff out. The press also, in my opinion injects an air of civility into their digging that trackers don't. Tracking is a political tactic to try and get a "gotcha" moment sound bite of the other side. Do I think the President really thinks there are 57 states? No that was a tracker trying to get a gotcha, there was no legitimate journalistic activity any more than this episode with the Governor.

Again, I think the Governor missed another opportunity to take the high road displaying some leadership and ask both Parties to not use trackers, then get on with the business of the state versus creating an impasse.

JOHN PAINTER's picture

The use of trackers by both

The use of trackers by both parties damages their credibility in my mind, however until leadership on both sides agree to stop the practice and let the Press do its job in Maine, it will continue. The GOP used Ryan Terrill, the Republican Governors Association's tracker during our last Gubernatorial election to try and catch Mitchel and Cutler, the Democrats went after Sen. Collins back in '07 with a vengeance.

The Governor lost more credibility with me by not taking a higher ground, condemning the practice and taking a 'Norquistian' oath to never use trackers and ask Democratic leadership to do the same and then moving on with the critical meetings to help move our state forward in this very serious fiscal situation we have. Otherwise it comes across as putting politics before people.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

If the republicans had hired

If the republicans had hired a tracker to film John Baldacci in public, it would have been stalking. Why isn't this?

Zack Lenhert's picture

...and you would have been

...and you would have been claiming it was perfectly acceptable to record public appearances.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Probably.

Probably.

Boo Hoo

The more and more Paul whines and complains the more and more I think he is unfit to lead the State. If he reacts in a way such as this how does he feel about the information between his ties of private prisons and insurance companies which he accepted donations from? Imagine how surprised he would feel attending the dinner for biggest contributors and it were taped by a moderate like myself?

DONALD FERLAND's picture

Well Mr. Governor, when you

Well Mr. Governor, when you are a public figure you should expect to be filmed at public events. Get over it and learn now that bullying and threatening are a thing of the past...it won't work anymore. Seems to me the governor is throwing a hissy fit that would be expected from a 2 year old and not a political figure.

protecting our citizens is bullying?

This is not bullying at all. As you saw in the article, Govenor LePage gave a perfect example of a private discussion with a citizen concerning some very sensitive and private information. To not allow filming was a great example of our Governor with protecting a citizen from becoming a focus that is unwanted by the citizen. People have a right to not be filmed. Governor LePage was not speaking for himself but for those in the camera's eye who should not be expected to be filmed at public events.

Diana Currier's picture

i

i will BELIEVE that conversation when the second Tuesday of next week hits!! I don't believe it, because the whineCRIES all the time. GO TRACKER!!

Diana Currier's picture

sorry

HE whines and cries all the time !! Next he will say WE have to keep quiet too !!!

Let the citizen speak for themself...

If a citizen in that situation said, "Hey. Get that camera out of here. I want to speak privately with the Gov". Then, I'll bet, the tracker would have done just that, he would have turned it off in deference to the person's request.

But, Paul Lepage can expect no such accommodation given his penchant for entertaining flubs and guffaws.

You just gotta track this baffoon.

Please ...don't stop....this guy is a riot. LOL

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