GETTING THE GOP NOD Candidate Paul LePage celebrates winning the Republican primary in June 2010 in this photo from his official Facebook page.
Only after his upset victory did the big outside PAC money start pouring in, with the corporate donors to the RGA Maine PAC alone spending more in support of LePage and against his opponents than LePage's own campaign did. (See "LePage's Secret Bankers," by Colin Woodard, January 21, 2011.) Curiously, Senator Snowe and her husband, John McKernan, also waited until after the primary to donate. Sources say Ann Robinson, the Preti Flaherty lobbyist LePage allowed to ghostwrite his regulatory reform agenda on behalf of her clients, met LePage for the first time a few weeks before the general election. (See "The LePage Files," by Colin Woodard, July 22, 2011.) Robinson grew up in Lewiston, the daughter of local Greek-American politico Maria Doukas Robinson, a close friend of Snowe's aunt and foster mother, but Snowe's office says the senator played no role in brokering their professional relationship.
Dodge, the former Tea Party activist, thinks Maine's GOP establishment saw a chance to use LePage to consolidate power. "They took the House, Senate, and governorship. [Senate President] Kevin Raye is positioned for his congressional race, and they've destroyed the Tea Party movement that was a threat to Snowe," he says. "He's basically delivered everything they need."
The day after LePage's narrow election victory, Bragdon received an invitation to serve as co-chair of the governor-elect's transition team. "It was a tremendous opportunity — both personally and professionally — to go from providing analysis to actually making recommendations on implementation," he recalls, adding that he served as co-chair of the body that put together the governor's first two-year budget. Bragdon also admitted to having been a longtime member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) — a Koch Brothers-funded group that ghostwrites bills for state legislators — first as a legislator in the late 1990s, and again as a corporate representative in the early 2000s. Robinson, LePage's other transition co-chair, is currently ALEC's corporate chair for Maine.
Alan Caron, one of two Democrats on the 35-person transition team, says the Tea Party members exercised such an outsized influence on hiring decisions that "good people didn't apply and those that did were rejected." But he felt the defining moment for the transition came at a November 23, 2010, press conference, when LePage was asked what qualities he was looking for in his cabinet personnel and stressed loyalty. "Anyone who wants loyalty above all else is not secure enough or confident enough to build a strong team of good leaders," Caron said.
LePage was sworn into the highest office of his native state on January 5, 2011. He has since said that no one should ever forget where they came from. "Your roots are always there and you can't escape them," he told a Portland audience last summer. "All too often people break out and make it and forget where they come from. But . . . the hardworking people of the state of Maine . . . people who struggle every single day to make a living . . . the elderly in this state who have to make severe choices between paying for food, fuel or medicine . . . those are the people I'm working for."