AUGUSTA — Shortly after his resignation as a senior policy adviser to Gov. Paul LePage last month, Aaron Chadbourne took an unusual step: He reimbursed the state for the $925.16 it cost to put him up for two nights at Trump International Hotel in Washington last spring.

Chadbourne, who served as the governor’s legislative liaison for several years, stayed in a room at the hotel paid for by taxpayers during an official visit by LePage to the nation’s capital.

A copy of the invoice Chadbourne submitted to the state treasurer April 28 indicates he stayed at the hotel for two nights starting on May 1, 2017. He said the governor and security staff also stayed there, marking at least the second occasion that taxpayers covered the tab for the governor’s lodging at the five-star hotel.

An earlier stay by LePage in 2017 has been cited in a federal lawsuit against the president by the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia as an example of what they claim is an unconstitutional mixing of President Donald Trump’s business interests and official work.

The Portland Press Herald reported last summer on visits by LePage to the hotel in the first few months of the Trump administration. 

Chadbourne said his decision to repay the cost of his nights at the hotel shouldn’t be taken as a comment “on the appropriateness of the state funding such hotels” since he believes it is appropriate.

But, he said in a letter to State Treasurer Terry Hayes, “I am just doing my part to reduce another needless distraction and remove myself from the pettiness that now envelops our politics.”

Chadbourne said Wednesday the hotel in downtown Washington is “really awesome” and has a top-notch staff.

“They really get the customer service thing and the business traveler thing,” he said.

Chadbourne said in his letter to Hayes that he accompanied LePage to Washington last May in order to connect him with “scholars at a free market think tank, the American Enterprise Institute” and to meet with U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, one of Chadbourne’s mentors. That meeting, however, was canceled at the last minute.

Also during the trip, he said, he “attended several meetings between Gov. LePage and members of the Trump administration as well as” LePage’s appearance before a U.S. House subcommittee talking about the Katahdin Woods and Waters monument.

In addition, Chadbourne said, LePage “met with several congressmen to discuss health reform” and appeared on Fox News, “which I had the privilege to attend and to document.”

The stays at the Trump hotel have been what people are most interested in, however, because some allege the president is violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution by benefiting personally from business connected to his position as president. Trump has handed over financial control of his companies to his sons, but has not severed his ownership of the businesses.

Chadbourne said that “given the way that our political discourse in this country has devolved recently, national Democrats and members of the Resist movement have used Gov. LePage’s stays at Trump International to attack President Trump.”

“There are many that don’t respect the outcome of elections if they disagree with that outcome and try to use the courts or legislative gimmicks to nullify the will of the voter,” Chadbourne said, as they cite LePage’s lodging choice in “politically motivated lawsuits” against the president.

Chadbourne told Hayes that his recollection was that “the staff in the governor’s office booked the governor’s stay at Trump International Hotel at the last minute, and it was the best rate of a hotel in D.C. that could accommodate the governor’s security needs.”

“My reservation got added late because I was a late addition to the trip,” he said.

“This governor’s staff work hard to save taxpayer money and also protect the interests of the governor and the people he serves,” Chadbourne said. “It is a shame to see that hard work slandered in the press and in court filings for political gain.”

“Regardless, the state of Maine paid for my hotel room at Trump International, and now that I no longer work for the state and my decisions only reflect on myself (and not Gov. LePage), I believe it is appropriate for me to reimburse the state for the amount paid to Trump International,” Chadbourne said.

“To my knowledge, it’s a unique transaction,” Hayes said Wednesday.

It took a little figuring, she said, to get the money credited back to the right account.
“We hadn’t had to do that before,” Hayes said.

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A room at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. (Courtesy photo)

Copy of the bill from Trump International Hotel that Aaron Chadbourne submitted along with his repayment to the state of Maine for the cost of the room last May.

Aaron Chadbourne (Portland Press Herald)

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