Latest charges could dry up crucial funding for LePage

Mike Tipping, a liberal blogger and activist, debuted an excerpt of his forthcoming book that claims Maine Gov. Paul LePage met with known “domestic terrorists” eight times during the course of eight months in 2013.

The charges are backed with documents provided through Freedom of Access requests and interviews, and appear to be rooted in reality – and in fact the governor confirmed he met with the group, though denied they talked “executing” anyone.

Tipping alleges among other things, the visits resulted in someone in the governor’s office requesting their in-house legal counsel to draft a memo explaining how the Democratic legislative leaders couldn’t be arrested for supposedly violating the Maine and/or U.S. Constitutions.

“It seems that Mr. Merletti may believe that the office of the governor has the power to strike down laws that Mr. Merletti deems to be unconstitutional,” wrote Carlisle McLean and Hank Fenton, to the governor, per a copy of the memo posted by Tipping. “As we all know, such is not the case. Neither does the power of the executive extend to providing a mechanism for private citizens to declare laws to be unconstitutional.”

The political question now is, how will the claims affect the gubernatorial race?

The most recent polls have shown Democratic candidate Mike Michaud and LePage virtually tied in the mid-30s, with independent candidate Eliot Cutler trailing behind, in the teens. Strategists on both sides of the aisle say the most meaningful result of the claims could be a drying up of outside funds funneled into the state to support LePage.

“You’re going to take this seriously enough that you’re going to have your official staff and state resources trying to figure out the legality of what these guys are saying? That’s ridiculous,” said one top Democratic strategist not working in the gubernatorial race. “His base is so solid it’s not going anywhere, but maybe he see’s a blip in fundraising, I don’t know.”

But a Republican strategist, also not active in the gubernatorial race, said the revelations are both demoralizing for the governor’s staffers and could genuinely harm fundraising.

“It’s demoralizing and stressful for their inner circle to fight battles like this because they all know it’s true. So what they are going to be doing is fighting this while they should be putting a field operation together,” he said. “Crazy [stuff] like this is going to take a precarious slush fund and drain it.”

National groups like the Republican Governors Association are constantly evaluating where they can have the most bang for their buck and best chance to make a difference. With Republicans defending several state houses in blue or purple states, such as Pennsylvania and Florida, LePage might become too hot to invest in. Not to mention the fact that Democratic groups will be eager to paint LePage’s questionable decision-making with the broader Republican brand. It’s likely the story will pop nationally, particularly on the likes of MSNBC, but the Democrats will do everything they can to keep the story alive. How effective they are could determine how much national cash comes LePage’s way.

And in a race likely to be decided by a couple of points, that could make all the difference.

Rebekah Metzler

About Rebekah Metzler

Rebekah Metzler is a political writer with U.S. News and World Report, who hails from the state of Maine where she covered state politics for the Lewiston Sun Journal and MaineToday Media. She spent much of 2012 covering the presidential campaign and particularly enjoyed her time on the road in states like Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Ohio and Ohio. Metzler earned her master’s degree in journalism from Boston University and is a Bowdoin College grad.