Maine: Former Governor LePage says he wasn’t aware of high rate paid on Trump hotel

After a newspaper article reveals former Republican Maine Governor Paul LePage exceeded expense limits on taxpayer-funded trips to Washington, LePage is firing back.

On Monday morning the state’s former chief executive discussed the Maine Sunday Telegram story that showed the governor spent $170,000 on travel outside Maine during the final few years of his time in office.

$22,000 of that state taxpayer money was spent at a Washington, D.C. hotel owned by the family of President Donald Trump.

But in a Monday radio interview on WGAN, the ex-governor brought the newspaper article up blasting the Press Herald/Sunday Telegram saying it’s biased, left-leaning and calling its coverage of him “disgusting.”

“The newspapers are in the back pocket of the left,” he said. “It is just disgusting how biased they are. ”

However,  LePage admitted many of the rooms booked for trips to Washington were reserved by his staff and it is entirely possible they spent more than he realized like spending $1,100 a night during a June 2017 stay, as the newspaper reported.

“If we paid $1,100 for a hotel room for one night, shame on me,” he said.  “I wasn’t aware of it and shame on me because I should’ve been on top of it.”

Republican political analyst, Phil Harriman, says LePage does have to answer for his spending but if he does, then the high costs are a non-issue.

“Did he spend the taxpayer’s money wisely? Did he travel for legitimate government business? If the answer is yes, then I don’t think there’s much to talk about,” said Harriman.

Harriman also thinks that if the former governor will maintain a level of trust with his supporters and Maine republicans if he shows there is evidence he needed to exceed limits on travel spending in order to further the state’s interest in Washington.

Even though LePage encouraged frugality, Harriman says there is a necessary “dichotomy” for all government officials who must do business in costly Washington, D.C.

That said, Harriman says taxpayers deserve to know if “the facts are there to back up his comments.”

As for LePage’s criticism of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram’s reporting as unfair, Kevin Miller, one of the journalists who put the article about LePage’s expense together tweeted Monday that, “if Democratic @GovJanetMills ever spends $1,100/night at President Trump’s DC hotel (or even $362/night) while meeting with the president or his Cabinet, that’s certainly news. And we will report it.”

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Maine Gov. Janet Mills signs executive order to expand Medicaid!

On her first day in office, Governor Janet Mills signed an executive order calling for the Department of Health and Human Services to begin implementing the expansion of Medicaid that Maine voters passed more than a year ago.

Mills took little time to bask in her historic win as Maine’s first female governor back in November before declaring she would implement the expansion that voters had passed last November.

The expansion will make Medicaid available to roughly 70,000 more Mainers.

Mills predecessor, Gov. Paul LePage had vehemently opposed the expansion and refused to implement it even after Maine voters passed it.

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RELATED: Read or watch Gov. Janet Mills’ full inaugural address

Mills had vowed to sign the expansion on her first day and that is exactly what she did Jan. 3.

Mills had said she would take immediate action to expand treatment and prevention for the opioid drug epidemic. She says Medicaid expansion will also help get more people into drug treatment.

LePage said 7,600 Mainers fought for the Confederacy. It was maybe 30.

This recruiting sign, which came from a Kennebunk recruiting office for a Civil War regiment formed in 1864, was on display at the Maine State Museum in 2014. (BDN file photo)

Calling himself “a history buff,” Gov. Paul LePage revised Civil War history as we know it on Tuesday saying “7,600 Mainers fought for the Confederacy.”

Approximately 30 people are confirmed to have gone from Maine to the Confederacy, including students who left Bowdoin College in Brunswick and what is now Colby College in Waterville to fight, but they could have been from other parts of the country.

Maine’s history as one of the proudest Union states is well-documented. It sent about 73,000 people to war — a higher proportion than any other state — and more than 9,000 died, though there were some pockets of Southern sympathizers.

A few men with Maine ties became Confederate generals, including the Leeds-born Danville Leadbetter, the Avon-born Zebulon York and Josiah Gorgas, who controlled the Kennebec Arsenal in Augusta from 1856 to 1858.

But those three hardly qualified as Mainers at the time they joined the rebels. Leadbetter went to the South originally as a U.S. Army officer. York joined as a Louisiana plantation owner. Gorgas was moved from Maine to other assignments before quitting the Army and going to Alabama to fight the Union.

LePage also said on WVOM the war was “a property rights issue” when it began, saying Lincoln made it about slavery “to a great degree,” but Elizabeth Leonard, a Colby College history professor, said the governor “is wrong there, too.”

Slaves were property then and Southern states’ right to slavery was a major issue of the 1860 election, which was narrowly won by Lincoln in a crowded field. More than 62 percent of Mainers voted for him, a percentage topped by only three other states. Mainer Hannibal Hamlin was Lincoln’s first vice president.

POLL QUESTION

LePage echoes Trump in blaming ‘both sides’ for Virginia violence

Do you agree with LePage that both the white supremacists and counter-protesters are responsible for last weekend’s violence in Charlottesville?

After remaining largely silent on the past weekend’s violence in Virginia, Gov. Paul LePage erupted Thursday on the radio, echoing President Donald Trump’s reaction to the Charlottesville conflict, assigning equal blame to white supremacists and counter-protesters who showed up to oppose a rally against removing a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

LePage said he “condemns both sides” of the uprising, adding they are “disgusting” and that “there’s no place for either of those groups in this country.”

 

On Wednesday, in the wake of Ku Klux Klan fliers reportedly being found in Boothbay Harbor, Bartlett said in a written statement that “actions like these are the direct result of leaders like Donald Trump, Paul LePage and Mary Mayhew who only embolden white supremacists by refusing to stand up and condemn their hateful actions and rhetoric.

“I would tell you right away how I would react,” LePage said. “All guns ahead, boys. Take them out … my first advice to the Maine people is don’t gather in these large crowds. It’s not safe…  If you choose to go in and battle, I will not be timid.”

LePage has faced criticism for what some have called racially charged comments at several times during his tenure. In January 2016, he unleashed a firestorm when he used racial terms to describe Maine’s drug problem, saying that drug traffickers from Connecticut and New York come to Maine and impregnate girls who are “young” and “white” before leaving the state. In August 2016, he used similar framing when he made comments about black and Hispanic people coming to Maine to sell drugs.

LePage’s take on opposition to removing Confederate statues also mirrored Trump, who made a “slippery slope” argument that removing statues of Confederate leaders like Lee would result in a call for the removal of monuments to Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, because they owned slaves.

Let’s take down the statues of Washington (slave owner, war profiteer, horrid general) and Jefferson (slave owner, slave raper, war profiteer.)

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Vetoes, bonds and late LePage surprises

The Legislature is back in Augusta on Wednesday for what’s set to be the last official day of the 2017 session.

They’re mostly back to vote on overriding 27 vetoes from Gov. Paul LePage, including bills that would set long-term solar policy, increase Maine’s tobacco-buying age to 21 and prohibit handheld cellphone use while driving.

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