Nuggets from the notebook while vetting a mural conspiracy theory ...
The mural furor has leaned heavily toward critics of Gov. Paul LePage’s decision to remove the 36-foot piece from the Department of Labor. Even traditional allies have avoided supporting the governor.
The president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce has suggested a compromise might have been a more appropriate move, while Charlie Webster, the chairman of the Maine Republican Party, said the controversy is a "distraction we don't need."
But last week some of the governor's more ardent defenders were advancing a more sinister theory behind the mural's creation. They suggested that former labor chief Laura Fortman requested that she be included in the mural.
Fortman was responsible for applying for the $60,000 federal grant that made the piece possible. She appears in the same panel as Frances Perkins, the former federal labor chief under FDR. Mural artist Judy Taylor's parents are also in the panel.
Only Perkins is identified in the panel.
Nonetheless, some of the governor's defenders argue that the mural pays tribute to Fortman. The theory was promoted on the conservative forum As Maine Goes and it's been repeated, anonymously, by others elsewhere.
Taylor dismissed the accusation. She told the Sun Journal that all artistic decisions were hers.
"The speculations are meaningless to the content of the mural and its purpose, as I used so many models and composites of hundreds of individuals who walked into my studio," Taylor said. "Nobody, and in particular Laura Fortman, asked me to put them in the mural."
It's worth noting that the Fortman theory was raised in the infamous anonymous letter that the LePage administration said factored in the governor's decision to remove the mural.
Makes one wonder if the author of that letter is the same person who was spreading the Fortman accusation among some influential Maine Republicans.
Political blogs and the #mepolitics thread on Twitter was abuzz last week following Cape Elizabeth Democrat Rep. Cynthia Dill's introduction of a joint order that would create a recall provision for the governor.
Dill said she'd been contacted by hundreds of constituents who were disappointed to learn that the Maine Constitution doesn't have a recall process for the governor.
The idea of recalling LePage pops up frequently in reader comments and letters to the editor. On Saturday, just two days after introducing the measure from the House floor, Dill claimed on Twitter that more than 7,000 people had signed a petition showing support for the measure.
Dill is running for the recently-vacated seat in Senate District 7. The online petition can be signed by anyone, even non-Maine residents.
Interestingly, the debate over whether or not to try to recall the governor was fiercest among Democrats. The reason could be that while Democrats may despise LePage, some operatives in the party feel that their best chance to retake the Legislature in 2012 will be linking Republican lawmakers to the governor.
If Democrats are successful, it won't matter if LePage is still in office.
Republicans are well aware of this strategy, which could be why GOP lawmakers are becoming increasing outspoken in their criticism of the governor.
Monday the Bangor Daily News will run an op-ed signed by eight Republican senators who are calling on LePage to stop "government by disrespect."
April Fools' from the left
The governor's decision to take a mid-session break and head to Jamaica gave the folks at the Maine People's Alliance an opportunity to rib LePage for his penchant for controversy.
The progressive activist organization last week sent a release saying it had sent LePage some "light vacation reading."
Among the titles:
* "A Promise to All Generations: Stories and Essays about Social Security and Frances Perkins" with essays by Nancy Altman, Barack Obama, James Roosevelt, Jr. and others
* "The 5 Essential People Skills: How to Assert Yourself, Listen to Others and Resolve Conflicts" by Dale Carnegie Training
* "The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire: Its Legacy of Labor Rights," by Katie Marsico
* "The Little Giant Encyclopedia of Leadership Gaffes" by David Macfarlane
* "Living with Art" by Mark Getlein
"We hope that he (LePage) takes the opportunity to engage in some self-reflection, learn a little more about the world and come back to Maine more ready to work with others," the MPA's Mike Tipping said.
April Fools' from the right
The national Libertarian Party had one of the better press releases on April Fools' Day.
The party praised Congress for "serious cuts" in federal spending.
(Pausing here for laughter).
Here's the party's list of kudos:
* "Eliminating Department of Education programs, saving taxpayers more than $40 billion each year."
* "Getting rid of farm subsidies, saving over $20 billion each year."
* "Ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as many other overseas deployments, saving over $100 billion annually."
* "Eliminating programs and subsidies in the Department of Transportation, saving about $80 billion annually."
* "Terminating federal housing subsidies, saving about $45 billion each year."
* "Giving overpaid federal employees a 10 percent cut in compensation, saving $30 billion annually."
* "Throwing out federal energy subsidies, saving $20 billion annually."
* "Ending the federal War on Drugs, saving $15 billion annually."
As Libertarian Party Executive Director Wes Benedict pointed out, "Congress hasn't done any of those things."
(This story was updated to add information about Dill's online petition)