Lepage's tea party adviser labeled 'extremist'

AUGUSTA — Gov.-elect Paul LePage announced Tuesday the addition of 35 advisers representing what he described as a wide cross-section of political and business interests to help review applications for administration positions and department heads.

LePage transition seeks donations

Gov.-elect Paul LePage is seeking private donations to pay for the staff and expenses generated by his transition to power.

LePage's team announced that it's starting a nonprofit organization to collect the non-tax-deductible donations.

Dan Demeritt, LePage's press secretary, said the transition team will cap the individual donations at $9,500 and will publicly disclose them on the governor-elect's transition website, lepagetransition.com.

Demeritt said the first disclosure and contributions should appear in early December.

He added that the donations were sought to fund 11 current staff positions on the transition team. Although the state gives about $5,000 to fund the transition, Demeritt said it wasn't enough to pay for LePage's transition, which he likened to a "small business."

Demeritt said the transition hoped to raise about $250,000 and to hopefully return the state-subsidized portion. 

The fund will be set up as a nonprofit with a 501(c)(4) tax status. Demeritt said it won't accept donations from political action committees.

Govs. Angus King and John Baldacci set up similar corporations to fund their transition expenses.

In 2007, Baldacci raised more than $300,000 from about 50 donors to pay for an inauguration ceremony. 

— Steve Mistler

But within hours of the announcement at the State House Hall of Flags, one team member, Pete Harring, leader of the tea party group Maine Refounders, drew criticism from an organization that called Harring an "extremist" for comments he posted on his website.

The team also includes additional links between LePage's transition team and individuals with connections to the Maine Heritage Policy Center, the Portland-based conservative think tank with ties to a national network of free-market, nonprofits reportedly funded by large corporate donors working to fight climate science and loosen business regulations.

On Tuesday, Harring's comments against liberal Democrats and U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, generated the most controversy.

In September, Harring, who goes by the name "Pete the Carpenter" on his website, responded to a Roll Call story in which Snowe urged for an inclusive Republican party amid the tea party's sacking of moderates during this year's GOP primaries. 

Harring dismissed Snowe's call for a so-called "big tent" GOP, calling the senator "clueless."  

Wrote Harring, "(Snowe) obviously lives in some fantasy world and has no grasp of reality or she is under some drug-induced coma and is suffering from severe hallucinations."

Harring also compared liberal Democrats to Slinkys, children's toys that Harring called "good for nothing."

"But they still bring a smile to your face when you push them down a flight of stairs," he added.   

Mike Tipping, of the Maine People's Alliance, urged LePage to immediately dismiss Harring. Tipping said it was indefensible to "put this kind of extremist into a position of power."

"LePage won the election, he's allowed to pick people that agree with him to run his administration," Tipping said in a written statement, "but to pick someone who's only qualification is his anger and his tea party connections is just unacceptable."

The biography provided by LePage's camp describes Harring as a carpenter and founder of a website "dedicated to getting people involved in the political process."

In a statement provided by LePage's camp, Harring wrote, "People are angry and frustrated. I am a carpenter working hard to get people involved. My blog posts and speeches come from my heart and are not meant to offend anyone. If they make people think, I am doing my job."

Dan Demeritt, LePage's press secretary, added, "(Harring) is on the Transition Advisory Team because thousands of Mainers share his frustrations with the direction we have been heading. Gov.-elect LePage does not always agree with everything Pete has to say, but he believes Pete has a viewpoint that should be heard."

Other members of LePage's advisory committee include Richard Bennett, a former six-term legislator of Oxford and currently Maine's committeeman for the Republican National Committee; Jinger Duryea, the president of C.N. Brown Co., a local oil company; and Peter Geiger, editor of the Farmer's Almanac and the vice president of Lewiston-based Geiger, a marketing company.

"While no sampling will fully represent the whole, the team joining me today is a very good representation of Maine and its people," LePage said. "Maine is carpenters, doctors, lawyers, public servants, educators, foresters ... And so is my team."

According to campaign finance reports, 16 of the 35 people added to LePage's team gave the governor-elect campaign money prior to the election. 

MHPC connections

The team also includes individuals — including Bennett and Duryea — with connections to the Maine Heritage Policy Center.

Duryea, who was once the chairwoman for the Maine Oil Dealers Association, is listed as a member of MHPC's board of directors.

Although Bennett isn't listed on the center's website, his Maine Republican Party biography states he serves as a board director for MHPC. He also has ties to Tarren Bragdon, the CEO of the policy center and co-chairman of LePage's primary transition team.

Between 2001 and 2002, Bragdon served as Bennett's special assistant when Bennett was president of the state Senate.

Mary Adams, another LePage team member, was one of three plaintiffs in the policy center's lawsuit this year against the Maine Municipal Association, in which it alleged that the MMA used taxpayer money to influence elections.

According to several published reports, Adams was also the lead petition gatherer during the 2006 Taxpayer Bill of Rights referendum, an initiative supported by the policy center.

Another team member, Dawn Stiles, is the president of Spurwink Services in Scarborough, a social services provider.

Stiles worked with Bragdon between 2009-10 when the policy center's CEO served on Spurwink's board of directors. Stiles also served as a deputy director for the Bureau of Child and Family Services at the state Department of Health and Human Services.

LePage's team also includes Alan Caron, founder of the nonprofit think tank Envision Maine and former president of GrowSmart Maine, as well as doctors, lawyers and businesspeople.   

LePage said Tuesday that his expanded transition team will advise him on policy and administration selections, such as commissioners to various state government departments and staff positions.

LePage said he hoped to finalize a list of selections by the end of the year. He hinted that some of the members of his transition team could be among the finalists. He said he'd already interviewed and settled on two candidates for two positions, the commissioners of the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Conservation.

He declined to name the candidates, or to provide updates on potential department consolidation or elimination.

LePage said his team has received more than 1,000 resumes for about 150 government positions.

smistler@sunjournal.com

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Comments

RONALD RIML's picture

You elect a Nut-Case

And you get Nuts by the Case Load.......

Who'de a Thunk It? Ya...Right......

Tony Morin's picture

Wheeeee

"Let's see. Nutting? Nut job. He's perfect! OK. Harring? Total nut job. Great! Sign him up. Who's next?" Gonna be a short lived experiment people.

Carrie LaRoche's picture

Try running a business in this country before you talk

Yea... sure does SUCK that someone is working to bring JOBS to Maine.
There are so few JOBS in our country these days because small businesses are red-taped and taxed to the point it's impossible to make a dollar anymore.
Big business has outsourced the work to China and India because it's cheaper and easier. Do you think China and India are concerned about the climate and/or worker conditions?
We will always have better work conditions in this country as long as we continue to be a free market society. Those that are running the show now would have the government running every aspect of our lives - (you know... for the "better good" of the world and those "less fortunate" )
Those looking for JOBS would have an easier time finding them if we had manufacturing jobs -
Don't hate the small business owners - try being one and then give your opinion.....
As far as the questionable Harring..... look at our own president's associations and get back to me on "anger". This guy runs a web site - he has yet to blow anything up

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