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Corporate America Steps Up for Maine’s Right-Wing Gov. Paul LePage

LePage will get another four years to terrorize the people of Maine and provide material for some of the United States’ best-known comics.

2013: Gov. Paul R. LePage and Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen announced that 81 percent of elementary schools and 69 percent of high schools earned an A, B or C through the school grading system. (Photo: Maine Department of Education)

Although Maine’s governor, Paul LePage, has been referred to as “America’s Craziest Governor,” he won his re-election last week – with plenty of corporate and national GOP cash.

Although Maine’s governor, Paul LePage, was considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the country this year, the ultra-conservative LePage was elected to a second term on Election Day 2014 with 48 percent of the vote in a three-way race.

Over the past four years LePage has been referred to as “America’s Craziest Governor” by Politico, while The Daily Beast has called him the “Madman Governor.” He earned those disparaging labels thanks to a series of stunning examples, many of which made the national news.

  • After taking office in 2010, LePage refused to attend Maine’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day breakfast. When the Maine NAACP complained, he told them, on camera, to “kiss my butt.”
  • During his first term, LePage vetoed legislation raising Maine’s minimum wage to $9 per hour and pronounced that he wanted to lower the legal working age from 16 to 12.
  • LePage also vetoed a bill that would have expanded access to health care for the people of Maine and another that would have expanded Medicaid coverage to 70,000 of the state’s low-income residents.
  • As an outspoken supporter of the corporate education reform industry and the expansion of privately managed, but publicly funded charter schools, LePage told Maine students, “If you want a good education, go to private schools. If you can’t afford it, tough luck. You can go to the public school.”
  • LePage publicly opined that President Obama “hates white people.”
  • And LePage compared the Internal Revenue Service to the Nazi Gestapo. When one of the state’s reporters asked the governor to clarify his remarks, the following exchange took place:

Reporter: “Do you have a sense of what the Gestapo did during World War II?”
LePage: “Yeah, they killed a lot of people.”
Reporter: “And the IRS is headed in that direction?”
LePage: “Yeah.”
Reporter: “They’re headed in the direction of killing a lot of people?”
LePage: “Yeah.”
Reporter: “Are you serious?”
LePage: “I’m very serious.”

Despite LePage’s record of failure and bizarre comments, a significant number of the nation’s leading corporations sent checks directly to LePage’s re-election campaign and augmented their donations by funneling even more money to support LePage through a Maine political action committee called Restore Maine PAC.

According to campaign finance reports filed with Maine’s Commission on Government, Ethics and Election Practices, some of the major national companies donating directly to LePage’s campaign this year included:

Walmart $3,000
Time Warner $3,000
Express Scripts $3,000
Rite-Aid $3,000
Daiego North America Inc. (leading premium drinks company) $2,000
Microsoft $1,500
Comcast $1,500
Johnson & Johnson $1,500
Aetna $1,500
Anthem Blue Cross $1,500
K12 Management Inc. $1,500
General Motors $1,250
Bank of America $1,000
Anheuser-Busch $1,500
Walgreens $750
T-Mobile $750
Verizon $500

One of the more memorable policy proposals put forward by LePage was his failed effort to rollback environmental and health safeguards, including the ban on BPA in baby bottles. At the time LePage noted, “Quite frankly, the science that I’m looking at says there is no [problem].” He added, “There hasn’t been any science that identifies that there is a problem.”

In defense of his legislative initiative, LePage went on to comment about BPA saying, “The only thing that I’ve heard is if you take a plastic bottle and put it in the microwave and you heat it up, it gives off a chemical similar to estrogen.”

LePage then famously concluded, “So the worst case is some women may have little beards.”

LePage’s effort was intended to repeal the Kid-Safe Products Act, legislation that phased out toxic chemicals in toys, car seats, baby clothes and other children’s products. The legislation had been passed and signed into law by his predecessor in 2008, over the objections and lobbying efforts of groups like PhRMA, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

Now, facing an uphill battle to win re-election, LePage not only turned to corporate America, but specifically some of the very organizations and companies that were so “interested” in his effort to repeal the BPA ban and other health and safety measures. PhRMA ($1,500), the American Chemistry Council ($2,500), AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, ($1,000), Merck & Co. and Eli Lily ($500) all stepped up with donations to LePage.

Restore Maine PAC, the political action committee supporting LePage, also received significant campaign donations from some of the same chemical and pharmaceutical interests, including PhRMA ($1,500), the American Chemistry Council ($1,250) and Eli Lily and Company ($200), as well as from AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, ($3,625), Pfizer Inc. ($3,000), Monsanto ($1,000) and Johnson & Johnson ($1,000).

Other major US companies that funneled campaign donations through the Restore Maine PAC to help LePage included: AT&T, Aetna Inc., American Bankers Insurance Company of Florida, American Express, Anheuser-Busch, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Caremark RX, Diageo North America, Express Scripts Inc., General Motors Company, International Franchise Association, K12 Management Inc., Marriott International, Molina Healthcare, Inc, Rite Aid, Service Corporation International, Time Warner Cable, Verizon, Visa USA Inc., Walgreens and Waste Management.

In addition to the help from corporate America, LePage also got more than $4.5 million from the Republican Governor’s Association thanks to its chairman, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, as well as an endorsement from George and Barbara Bush, and a $600 donation from Jeb Bush and Associates.

As the 2014 campaign cycle fades into history, it is an interesting commentary that many of the nation’s largest corporations determined that it was valuable to invest in the re-election of a man known as “America’s Craziest Governor.” Moreover, LePage will get another four years to terrorize the people of Maine and provide material for some of the United States’ best-known comics.

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