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Maine Governor Paul LePage is no stranger to controversy: just a quick look at this Maine Public Broadcasting Network news page gives a quick overview of his priorities which include moving public money to private schools, the intimidation of state labor officials which has resulted in a Federal investigation, and a host of other things. LePage, who gained national notoriety early in his administration for removing a labor mural from a state office, physically threatening a radio reporter, and telling the NAACP to "kiss my butt", is at it again: he has refused to use money in his 250K discretionary fund to help the more than 200 victims of a series of fires in his hometown of Lewiston, Maine which destroyed over 70 apartments leaving the residents homeless.

According to the Portland Press Herald, Gov. LePage visited Lewiston yesterday to see the damage. When asked if he would use some of the money in his discretionary fund to help the victims, he at first pretended not to know there was such a fund but when further pressed said it should be the legislature's job:

LePage suggested that instead of asking him about discretionary funds, the Legislature should provide money on its own to help. He noted that the Legislature's account for its own operations usually runs a surplus, often because of staff turnover.

Sometimes that money is poured back into the state's General Fund at the end of the fiscal year, or it's used for legislative projects, such as new copper for the State House dome and upgraded phones for the House and Senate, said David Boulter, executive director of the Legislative Council.

Boulter said about $1.2 million of this year's carryover balance, expected to be about $4 million, will be used to pay for the copper dome. He said the council, made up of legislative leadership, can decide on its own how to spend the money and doesn't need the governor's signature.

Now, LePage does have a point: the Democratically-controlled legislature does have plenty of money, apparently, that it could spend, but playing politics with his hometown tragedy shows a kind of moral bankruptcy which tells a sad tale about the Governor and his own hatred and fear of people who find themselves in the same situation he found himself in in his youth: homeless and broke on the streets of Lewiston, Maine. The fact that today it has been revealed that LePage has been shamed into matching a 30K disbursement from the legislature to help the victims does not detract from the shocking response of the Governor to this senseless arson tragedy.

Here's what Wikipedia says about LePage's childhood in Lewiston:

LePage was born in Lewiston, Maine, the eldest son of eighteen children of Theresa B. (née Gagnon) and Gerard A. LePage, both of French-Canadian descent.[3] He grew up speaking French in an impoverished home with an abusive father who was a mill worker.[4] His father drank heavily and terrorized the children; and his mother was too intimidated to stop him.[5] At age eleven, after his father beat him and broke his nose, he ran away from home and lived on the streets of Lewiston, seeking shelter wherever he could find it, including in horse stables and at a "strip joint".[4][6] After spending roughly two years homeless, he began to earn a living shining shoes, washing dishes at a café and hauling boxes for a truck driver. He later worked at a rubber company, a meat-packing plant, and was a short order cook, and bartender.[7]

LePage applied to Husson College in Bangor, but was initially rejected due to a poor verbal score on the SAT, a result of English being his second language. He has said that Peter Snowe – the first husband of former U.S. Senator from Maine Olympia Snowe – persuaded Husson to give LePage a written exam in French, which allowed LePage to show his comprehension and be admitted.[7][8] At Husson, LePage improved his English skills and became editor of the college newspaper.[7] He graduated with a B.S. in Business Administration in Finance and Accounting, and later earned an MBA from the University of Maine.[7]

Pay close attention to the last paragraph: it explains a lot about the hypocrisy of "up by your bootstraps" Tea Party rhetoric and it also tells us why a poor, Franco-American street urchin from Lewiston owes his allegiance to the GOP and its local power brokers. It also shows you that Paul LePage is personally committed to making sure that anyone else who wants what he has is going to have to work doubly hard for it if they want to succeed in Maine.

Let's see what he had to say about his hometown to the Press Herald:

An indication of why the governor might have left his hometown relatively quickly came when he was asked if he was happy to be back in Lewiston. When he was 11, he ran away from an abusive father there and was homeless in the city for two years.

"It brings back a lot of bad memories," he said.

When asked about his brother – who is believed to have lived with his wife in one of the buildings heavily damaged in the April 29 fire, according to a Sun Journal story Saturday -- LePage said only that it was a private family matter and he would not comment further. Bennett also declined to comment.

She said that on his way out of town, LePage's spirits were lifted by a stop at a favorite bakery. (Emphasis mine.)

Here is a man who will not even comment on the safety of his own family, let alone what he's doing to help them. Family values? Certainly not my family's. But he had no compunction about stopping for a tasty treat while high-tailing it out of town. Completely morally bankrupt behavior. The entire episode leaves you wondering if he's trying to punish the entire community of Lewiston for his horrible childhood. It's the kind of thing, we Mainers have learned, that Paul LePage just tends to do.

To be fair to the Governor, it's clear he has some serious issues surrounding his past. Serious personal issues. Issues which are properly worked out with a therapist, not in the political and disaster relief arena. The state of Maine does not need a strictly authoritarian, tough-love, borderline-abusive pater familias to govern by "teaching us a lesson". Frankly, half the time I hear him speak he sounds like what he'd really rather be doing is beating our bare behinds with an automobile antenna. That, it seems, is what he thinks Maine needs.

At the end of the day, his shameful performance in Lewiston demonstrates that the Governor is completely and utterly devoid of compassion and incapable of the normal and reasonable response to what amounts to a disaster. He may not care too much for those homeless residents but he is very concerned that the 12 year old boys under questioning for the arson have the book thrown at them as adults.

LePage's case is a sad one and simply another illustration of the moral bankruptcy of the GOP, made all the more pathetic by his traumatic background. It is self-loathing playing out on the political stage and in my opinion it's scandalous. Even sadder, there is a possibility that LePage could be re-elected next Fall given some of the peculiarities of Maine election politics which are beyond the scope of this diary.

This is the face of the Tea Party, ladies and gentlemen. Governors who respond to 200 people burned out of their dwellings by telling them "I never liked you anyway".

"I never liked you anyway". No shit, Sherlock.

Originally posted to commonmass on Fri May 10, 2013 at 05:56 AM PDT.

Also republished by Your Government at Work.

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