Op-Ed: Maine’s wealthy elite profit from political connections

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Pictured at right with President Obama is Bobby Monks, minority owner of Maine Today Media and a "bundler" for the President

But hey, what are friends for?

By J Dwight

Distrust of—and anger toward—the politically connected elite is one of the primary drivers of electoral politics in the last two election cycles. In fact, it is nothing new. Throughout American history, these revolts happen periodically.

That distrust proved to be warranted with the recession in 2008-09. It helped elect Paul LePage and a Republican Legislature in 2010, and it is one of the important motivations in 2012.

The revolt led to an historic upset in Maine with conservatives being elected in numbers that changed the State House in dramatic ways. The Tea Party movement exemplifies the revolt that has evolved into a movement that strongly continues.

The politically connected in business, media and government colluded to enrich themselves in ways that infuriated voters and taxpayers. In Maine a small number of powerful and rich people who can be named are at the center of this.

Exposure of gift cards scandals, lavish junkets and sweat-heart grants and finance deals have only confirmed that distrust and emboldened reformers.

This work has been difficult and at times marked by vituperative attacks from both sides. The work of cleaning up Maine’s house has just started. The elites are fighting back.

Four politically connected groups had control and got the “spoils” in Maine: the environmental elite; the mainstream media; the politicians; and the politically connected wealthy elite. All four have profited handsomely from their political influence.

Just consider in Maine how several prominent politically connected individuals got wealthy—or wealthier—at the voters and taxpayers expense.

Let’s start with two recent egregious examples that lead to more “hidden” ones.

By now everyone knows that Dale McCormick (former director of the Maine State Housing Authority) and Paul Violette (former director of the Maine Turnpike Authority) used their positions to dispense favors and money at the expense of the taxpayer. But few know how other political insiders have personally profited.

Remember that Dale McCormick was treasurer of the State of Maine while Angus King and John Baldacci were governor. One has to wonder what kind of deals were made during that time?

By now everyone knows that former governor Angus King and his business partner Robert Gardiner used their political connections and friends (Congresswoman Chellie Pingree) to help get an unnecessary Federal Loan Guarantee for the Record Hill Wind Power Project, as reported by The Maine Wire.

That loan guarantee immediately added some $4 million to $5 million to the bottom line for King and Gardiner by enabling them to sell the debt at below-market interest rates. This kind of advantage comes at the expense of the ratepayer and taxpayer. The means by which that federal loan guarantee was obtained is now under investigation by the Committee for Oversight and Government Reform, as also reported by The Maine Wire.

One could argue that Angus King took the recent step to distance himself from his project as a civic duty and that he “is smart, not clairvoyant,” as his handler said. But that argument is weak in the light of the letter effectively subpoenaing all communications sent before King announced his “divestiture,” which was dated before his announcement.

This isn’t the first time Robert Gardiner and Angus King used the taxpayer and voter gullibility to their advantage. The Maine taxpayer is still paying principal and interest (some $700,000 annually) on the bonds issued to pay for Maine Public Broadcasting Network’s upgrade. The bonds were issued under King’s signature. Gardiner is the former president of MPBN.

Not to forget that MPBN still receives an annual subsidy of almost $2 million. How that became part of the General Fund budget is being looked into. One could say that it was a debt of friendship for 20 years of working at MPBN hosting “Maine Watch” or just payback for helping Angus get elected. Hey, what are friends for?

One of King’s first jobs in Maine was lobbying for the Natural Resources Council of Maine at the State House. He later made millions by taking advantage of laws he lobbied at the State House for while employed by NRCM.

After being governor, he returned to the NRCM as a board member, along with other highly prominent political figures, such as Obama Bundler Robert “Bobby” Monks and long-time friend and political ally Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (who is still an advisory board member).

Though Chellie Pingree likes to take credit for shepherding through the Legislature “Maine’s largest land-bill initiative, Land for Maine’s Future”, Angus King signed the $50 million bond. It also saddled Maine citizens with heavy bond payments. Dale McCormick was state treasurer then.

Let’s get to the “or wealthier” part of this narrative

Robert Monks, Jr., one of the wealthiest individuals in Maine, is also owner (10%) and director of Maine Today Media, along with Chellie Pingree and her husband Donald Sussman (75%) and the Guild Union (15%).

Bobby Monks is known to own or have owned close to a billion dollars of real estate. He was campaign manager and chief money-man for Obama Maine 2008. His wife is Obama’s money-bundler for 2012.

He also owns some of the most prominent properties in Portland: One City Center (new home for Maine Today Media’s staff) and One Portland Square (Maine Headquarters for TD Banknorth). He also rents luxury apartments in Portland for $950 to $1,400 per month at three locations in Portland. Amazingly, he received low- or no-interest loans and no principal payment for 30 years from Maine State Housing Authority. Guess who was state treasurer and later executive director at Maine State Housing? Dale McCormick.

The sweetheart-financed Monk’s properties, 53 Danforth Street, Casco Terrace and Walker Terrace, are renting out as luxury apartments. Ostensibly these properties are “subsidized housing for low-income people”, but we, the taxpayers and citizens, are the ones paying one of the richest men in Maine the subsidies. He is pocketing the profit.

When the Democrats say, “The Maine State Housing Authority is an economic engine for the State of Maine,” they were being truthful—to a point. It was an engine of profit for one of the richest men in the state.

What is ironic and infuriating is that all of these rich, powerful, politically connected elite know that virtually none of this is illegal. Well, except for the gift card thing. And doubly ironic in that as it is not corruption, and that they do all of this “in the name of the people”.

Well, we the citizens and voters of Maine have the last say about that. We can elect reformers to continue to clean up Maine. Or we can let this group continue to profit at our expense.

J Dwight is founder and President of Dwight Investment Counsel and is on the Board of Advisors at the Maine Heritage Policy Center

1 COMMENT

  1. It’s time for every Mainer to do his or her part to dismantle this cabal. There have been several fronts we have been successful on in this battle. I am proud of doing my small part sponsoring, working and following through with LD 1538 the… Turnpike Reform Bill and organizing the House members letter to the Attorney General requesting his review of MSHA. 2 pieces in a much bigger puzzle. If Mainers want to continue the reform they have to send the right people back to Augusta. What have you done and what are you doing?

  2. This is certainly creepy!  I notice that Mr. Dwight lists the NRCM as one outfit that has profited from these deals, but he doesn’t say how.  He certainly makes the case that King has profited FROM his association with them, and corruption flows both ways.  It would be helpful to get more information on this.  I’ve been trying for some time now to understand what’s going on there, especially in light of the recent discovery that the Sierra Club was profiting from the appalling  environmental destruction associated with fracking.  Why hasn’t the NRCM been fighting the destruction of Maine’s mountains from Angus King’s industrial windpower?  In fact they even have plenty of money to go out to the little towns and try to persuade them to accept it.

  3. what about political connections involving the leasing of privately owned buildings to State Agencies? Especially in the Augusta/Hallowell area.

  4. Why do the people of Maine put up with all this political and big business corruption?

    Maine used to be known as an honorable state which kicked out scumbags and corrupt politicians.

    Now its known as a hotbed of political corruption whose politicians pass laws that provide them with lucrative jobs once they leave office. That is as corrupt as it gets.

    The perfect example is the Wind Industry. Former Governor Angus King went to great efforts to pass an expedited wind law allowing massive wind farms throughout the State of Maine and then after he left office he, his chief of staff – Kurt Adamas and his son – Angus King King Jr. all went to work for First Wind making millions of dollars in salaries and stock options!

    Such flagrant political corruption should not be tolerated by any decent Mainer.  Maine is too good for such underhanded, greedy scoundrels.

    Wake up Mainers!

    Pass laws that prevent such political corruption.

    Maine is not a backward state with backward people.

    Stand up and be heard.

    Tell your political representatives that you’re tired of all the political corruption.  Please – do it Now!

  5. Is the author here the same subject??

    http://bangordailynews.com/2011/07/19/politics/lepage-adviser-charged-with-domestic-violence/ “WILTON, Maine — Lawrence E. Dwight Jr., who serves on the state’s Consensus Economic Forecasting Commission , is resigning his post after his arrest Saturday on a charge of domestic assault.
    Dwight, 54, better known as J Dwight, a political activist and investment adviser, was arrested at his Wilton home after an incident involving his wife.
    Wilton police Sgt. Richard Billian said police were called to Dwight’s residence on Orchard Drive after receiving complaints from neighbors of fighting and arguing.
    According to Billian, responding officers said Dwight was intoxicated, and they arrested him on a charge of domestic assault. Billian said there were no physical marks on Dwight’s wife, but that officers determined there was probable cause for the arrest.
    Dwight was taken to Franklin County Jail and was released Sunday on $250 bail.
    Dwight said Tuesday that the incident was a “complete mistake” and that he expected to be “completely exonerated.”
    “As far as I know this will all be resolved and things will be worked out,” he said.
    Nonetheless, Gov. Paul LePage moved quickly to call for Dwight’s resignation.
    “I expect Mr. Dwight will voluntarily step down from his position while the legal issues regarding his recent arrest are pending,” LePage wrote in a statement. “Domestic violence is a serious crime with far reaching consequences. I don’t want these allegations to interfere in any way with the important work of the Consensus Economic Forecasting Committee.”
    Reached Tuesday afternoon, Dwight said he planned to honor the governor’s request.
    According to Billian, Wilton officers responded to a similar complaint at the Dwight residence in 2010. However, officers determined there wasn’t enough probable cause to warrant an arrest at that time, Billian said.
    Dwight said he didn’t recall the 2010 incident. He described Saturday’s altercation as a “family argument” and indicated that police overreacted.
    Dwight declined to elaborate before speaking to an attorney.
    Kevin Joyce, Dwight’s attorney, said that police arrived “hours after the argument” and that he was confident that his client would avoid a conviction.
    A records check showed that Dwight has no criminal history in Maine.
    Dwight serves on the Consensus Economic Forecasting Commission, which analyzes economic trends and prepares economic forecasts for the governor, the Revenue Forecasting Committee, Legislative Council, and the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee.
    Dwight was selected to serve on the commission in May. According to news reports he was selected by its four other members, two of which are appointed by the governor . The other two are appointed by the speaker of the House of Representatives and the Senate president.
    The commission recently underwent a significant overhaul and includes the chief economist from the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a conservative advocacy group.
    Dwight serves on MHPC’s board of advisers and his family has been a consistent contributor to the Maine Republican Party.
    Dwight has contributed $1,200 to the Maine GOP this year. He is also president of the firmDwight Investment Counseling , which gave $2,600 to LePage during his 2010 campaign.
    Dwight has been a monthly columnist for the Sun Journal since 2008.
    During his July 9 weekly radio address, LePage vowed to take on domestic violence during his term .
    “Domestic violence is a problem in our state and it’s this type of abuse that is ripping apart families, friends and entire communities,” he said. “We can no longer stay silent. We must speak out, and as governor I pledge to do just that.”

    –  It appears charges were dropped.  Hmmmm   Do you think he
    “profit(ed) from political connections?”
     

  6. You “conveniently” forgot to post the rest of the story. How predictable.  Dwight was cleared of all charges.

    So glad you’re no longer roaming our roads wearing a badge.

    ******************

    August 19, 2011

    Assault charge against GOP activist dropped

    By DOUG HARLOW Morning Sentinel

    FARMINGTON – The Franklin County district attorney will not
    pursue criminal charges against a Republican Party activist and
    conservative columnist from Wilton who was arrested in July on a charge
    of domestic assault.

    Lawrence E. Dwight Jr., 53, known locally as “J” Dwight, was
    arrested at his home on July 16 after an incident allegedly involving
    his wife, according to published reports.

    Citing insufficient evidence, Assistant District Attorney James
    Andrews, who was handling the case, said Thursday that charges will not
    be brought.

    http://www.pressherald.com/news/assault-charge-against-gop-activist-dropped-_2011-08-19.html

    *****************

    His wife says the incident did not happen as the police originally thought.

    http://www.asmainegoes.com/content/political-advisor-j-dwight-charged-domestic-abuse?page=4

    ***********

    I’m beginning to think you’re the former police chief from Kport — the one who resigned in disgrace last year, after being accused of OUI, and then a cover-up of the offenses.

  7. Speaking of the politically-connected profiting from their public service — how much did Sen. Joe Brannigan make as the Executive Director of Shalom House, all those years he also served as Chair of the State Appropriations Committee?

    Inquiring minds still wish to know. Fortunately,  we now have a new law that would have required full disclosure, back when Brannigan was on the Appropriations Committee.

  8. Didn’t NRCM receive $500,000 from TransCanada’s Kibby wind project, or am I mistaken? Is the Green Housekeeping Seal of Approval for sale?

  9. Notice the similarities between little Angus’s wind power and subsidized housing stints. They both work off taxpayer funds, they both make people like Wishcamper filthy rich, neither live up to promises, both are very inefficient use of resources and both get away with murder due to the supposed high moral ground they hold.

    Fortunately Wishcamper lose his UMS trustee seat next month. Ah, education. Yet another area that needs sunlight.

    See:
    http://www.maine.edu/board/board_membership.php

  10. Their specialty is the cowardly “drive-by”. How many times have you noticed that when their arguments are totally extinguished they simply slither off and disappear with no further response, until their next drive-by on a different topic?

  11. More eye-opening facts that will be missed by the so-called 99% who are mesmerized by their benefactors whom they refuse to call 1%ers!  Yet, these dumbed-downers follow like sheep to the slaughter, because they are being paid to do so, but might realize one day that the wolves have them in their jaws and the blood money will no longer be coming in.
    Governor LePage has his hands full with trying to get rid of corruptive practices that preceded him, and it is a sad fact that too many RINO’s in his own party are showing they are more interested in re-election than in standing up for what is right for the people of Maine.
    Rep. Philip Curtis stated the facts, but will he be supported by members of his own party? 

  12. Great letter, Jay.  We need more people like you to
    mend fences and fuse  the Republican Party in total
    unity!  Keep up the good work……

  13. …And these are the same clowns who argue for Higher Taxes on the RICH!!!!

    Welcome to “The Twilight Zone”

  14. Chellie sure seems to have a lot of connections to the “Rich and Powerful” and uber one-percenters for someone who used to pass herself off as a champion for us great unwashed.

  15. I remember when Chellie used to rail against the “fat Cats”…. until she hooked up with one and realized being a Fat Kitten” isn’t so bad

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