Citizens' Initiative

LePage: Union lobbyist Ryan Tipping should resign his House seat

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Union lobbyist Ryan Tipping should resign his House seat. Legislators who line their own pockets rather than represent their constituents do not belong in the State House.

Representative Ryan Tipping of Orono accepted $9,000 from state and national teachers’ unions to line his own pockets, go around the legislature and work to pass a citizens’ referendum that raises taxes. These pay-to-play payments nearly doubled his salary as a legislator.

Tipping’s boss was the lobbyist for the teachers’ union, but he took this money while he was on the legislature’s Education Committee. He then ran for reelection as a so-called “clean election” candidate, which means he took taxpayers’ money to pay for his campaign.

After the election, Speaker of the House Sarah Gideon made Tipping the chair of the state’s Taxation Committee. This committee is supposed to implement or modify the tax hike that Tipping was paid to support.

Tipping is also the brother of Mike Tipping of the Maine Peoples’ Alliance, another a major supporter of the tax hike.

Representative Tipping claims he has no conflict of interest. I ask the Maine people a simple question: Who do you think he answers to? It’s probably not his constituents back home who cannot afford lobbyists. It appears he is a puppet for the union bosses who signed his paychecks of $1,500 a month.

People in Tipping’s district, including elderly Mainers on fixed incomes and job creators looking to reinvest in their family-owned business, deserve a representative who is responsive to them—not a hired gun representing special interests in Augusta.

When the lobbyist for the teachers’ union was asked if they paid any member of the Taxation Committee to advance the tax hike, he responded that “of course they did.” Sadly, this is business as usual in Augusta. It’s the kind of corruption I have been talking about for six years. Tipping is a Democrat, but this would be wrong if any legislator did the same thing.

He got taxpayer funding for his campaign, then took at least $9,000 for himself. If unions donated this money directly to his campaign, it would have been illegal. But Tipping and the media believe that putting it in his own pocket is acceptable.

The Portland Press Herald knew about this story, but sat on it. They only covered it once I announced it on a radio show. Had this been a Republican legislator, it would have been front-page news.

The Legislature’s ethics officer claims Tipping’s actions were not prohibited. No law requires him to resign or recuse himself despite this glaring conflict of interest. The Maine people know better. Wrong is wrong, even if legislators refuse to hold themselves to basic standards of decency.

As your Governor, I will call out corruption when I see it. Tipping’s actions proclaim that his vote is for sale. He should be ashamed of himself. He owes it to the people of his district to resign his seat.

If legislative leaders will not hold their own members accountable, then they are demonstrating yet again why the Legislature is becoming irrelevant.

About Paul LePage

Governor Paul LePage (R) has served as the 74th Governor of Maine since 2011. Prior to his time as governor, LePage served as the general manager of Marden's and as the mayor of Waterville.

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