Maine’s colorful political chameleons: Angus King and Alan Caron

A colorful chameleon with Alan Caron
A colorful chameleon with Alan Caron

By Pem Schaeffer

Maine Wire columnist

A few weeks back, I wrote on the subject of partisanship here on The Maine Wire. In so many words, I suggested that Angus King is a skillful political opportunist wearing an “independent” overcoat because it offers the best chance to fulfill his personal ambitions—much the same as embracing wind power offered the best chances for milking the government subsidy cash cow. I stand by that view. (You can read King’s manifesto here.)

Directly related to this discussion, Alan Caron, a journeyman on the stage of Maine non-profit politics for many a year, recently landed a regular commentary slot in the Sussman-Pingree media empire. You can find his first offering here.

One would think that in today’s super-heated political arena, use of a term like “black and white politics” would be enough to send him to racial re-education camp, but calling yourself an independent apparently results in a free pass. Or perhaps it’s his progressive DNA that caused the Sussman-Pingree editors to turn their other cheek.

Caron’s subsequent column in the Sussman-Pingree press  showed signs of very lax editing (why?), and an anything but “non-partisan” Caron, as he works hard to label Charlie Summers an extremist (“a far right voice”), peddling fear and negativity with the best of them in ardent support of King.

If you’re a strident anti-Republican (against even a moderate like Summers!) who also praises the leftist Cynthia Dill, your claim to be a “non-partisan” isn’t worth spit.

Now comes Caron’s latest which he drops any pretense of being a detached, objective, “above the fray” sage observer of the passing political parade. How quickly the real Alan has exposed himself: a shameless shill and hatchet man for Angus King. Could this be a sign that King really is in trouble? Only The Shadow knows.

And why is it that Caron, in a matter of just weeks, is suddenly returning to his Democrat party roots, with whom he was “disgruntled” in his first column? We suspect outside advice from Sussman-Pingree and King to lend greater weight to his slavish praise of Angus, but The Shadow will have to confirm that as well.

Caron is a celebrated actor (at least in his own mind) in Maine’s political theater, and he is nothing if not a master at changing costumes to match the atmospherics of the moment. He is his own agent, producer, director, publicist and make-up artist.

In his first column, Caron appeared in the magic Technicolor Dreamcoat of “independence,” which positions him fluidly on the spectrum of political life styles: liberal, GOP, bi-political and trans-political (LGBT). He hams it up in his role, embracing Angus King’s senate candidacy, because of his legendary stature on the imaginary independent axis.

From all appearances, Caron’s column gig is a barefaced and transparent gift to King from his good friends Sussman and Pingree. We wonder, though, whether Caron aspires to the blatant extremism of Bill Nemitz, Sussman’s always reliable hit man.

King won two terms as Maine’s governor as an independent. While notable, this is not comparable to a U.S. Senate quest. A governor is his own branch of state government and does not “caucus” with any party in the legislature (unless he is a shameless deceiver). Stature in the committee system, which is the key to legislative power, is not a factor.

King’s quest for a senate seat is decidedly opposite. While being one of 100 in the senate undeniably anoints one with considerable clout in and of itself, there is no question that committee appointments and rank are the ne plus ultra of political power. A senator optimizes this power and privilege by caucusing with an established party.

Which clearly calls into question the conceit of going to Washington as an independent. Some have written that Angus would choose who he caucuses with on an issue-by-issue basis. They suggest, for example, that on Wednesday, if the issue was budget discipline, he might caucus with the Republicans, while on Thursday, if the issue was health care, he might caucus with the Democrats.

This view is so bizarre and improbable as to render the one who said it naïve and ripe for swallowing political bait hook, line and sinker. Not to mention that no one doubts Angus’s heart and soul (the political components thereof, at least) are anything but progressive to the core. To emphasize this, witness the wet-kiss of a column planted on King by Eddie Beem, Maine’s self-admitted collectivist, left wing extremist opinion writer.

At the heart of this discussion is whether independents have flexible principles. Does anyone think that if elected, Angus King would decide to caucus with Republicans if Democrats retain control of the senate? Or with Republicans if Republicans take control instead? Au contraire on that last one; I would expect King to enroll in the Democrat Party so he could seek a leadership position and try to emulate the rise of George Mitchell.

Let’s face it, if Angus can’t overcome Harry Reid in any leadership battle, he has no future in Washington.

Independents especially, and often others calling themselves non- or bi-partisan, love to talk about seeking common ground in pursuit of the common good. These concepts are as tainted by sanctimonious overuse as the badly abused label “public servant.”

The only real “common good” is liberty with unobtrusive government. Every other fashionable interpretation is collectivist redistributionism, which is good for the recipients and bad for the donors. The notion that the common good is best served by individuals prospering in their pursuit of happiness is now seen as selfish and somehow anti-American.

“Common good” has become, sadly, nothing more than a political bludgeon for bashing free enterprise and self-determination, while ignoring Americans’ instinctive generosity towards others.

As I reflect further on the current fascination with independents, the chameleons I had as “pets” in my childhood come to mind. I remember my parents buying them for me at the circus—how fitting. Independents evoke those “distinctive and highly specialized lizards,” who take on the color scheme of their surroundings in order to protect themselves and prosper.

The thing about chameleons, though, is that they don’t change on the inside; they simply change their outer appearance to optimize their circumstances of the moment. Wikipedia defines them in part this way:

They are distinguished by their zygodactylous feet, their separately mobile and stereoscopic eyes, their very long, highly modified, and rapidly extrudable tongues, their swaying gait, the possession by many of a prehensile tail, crests or horns on their distinctively shaped heads, and the ability of some to change color. Colors include pink, blue, red, orange, green, black, brown, light blue, yellow, turquoise and purple. Uniquely adapted for climbing and visual hunting…

Color change in chameleons has functions in social signaling and in reactions to temperature and other conditions as well as camouflage. Chameleons tend to show darker colors when angered, or attempting to scare or intimidate others, and males show lighter, multi-colored patterns when courting females.

The desert dwelling Namaqua Chameleon also uses color change as an aid to thermoregulation, becoming black in the cooler morning to absorb heat more efficiently, then a lighter grey color to reflect light during the heat of the day. It may show both colors at the same time, neatly separated left from right by the spine.

This latter species, it seems, is an energy systems expert, focusing on environmental specifics.  These descriptions are poetic, if not prophetic, for the discussion at hand.

As any student of Maine politics knows well, this state is a natural habitat where political chameleons have thrived in the past, and continue to thrive. We read that the aforementioned Alan Caron played in a rock band. By chance, we came across this rock video, and we can’t help but wonder if it was recorded by him as an inspiration to King on how to use “color variation” for adapting to changing environments.

Caron’s celebrity (in politics, if not rock) has invited academic study. Recent work by a graduate student at UMass Amherst takes a lengthy look at his political evolution, and that of several others, starting with his prison days. As you’ll see in the thesis, Caron was a community organizer long before others popularized the concept. Some of his “associates” went well beyond “organizing” in their “activism.” Think Bill Ayers.

You can find the thesis here.

Regardless of what he calls himself now, there is no question that Caron evolved his political thinking in a radical, Marxist revolutionary melting pot. He is, at his core, a central planning aficionado; a statist, no matter what mask he wears in his latest productions.

His formative days go back to the early 1970s in Portland, with links to Pine Tree Legal Assistance, the organization where a young attorney named Angus King found employment in the same years when he arrived in Maine. The thesis contains this passage:

On November 18, (ed: 1971) attorneys affiliated with the Maine Civil Liberties Union (MCLU), Pine Tree Legal Assistance (PTLA—a federally-funded, non-profit firm catering to low-income Mainers), and the University of Maine Law School announced a class action suit against MSP (ed: Maine State Prison), charging prison staff with ―cruel and excessive punishment‖ in their handling of prisoners segregated in response to the October 12 kitchen strike.

While we find no evidence that Angus King was directly involved in this action, it does suggest the likelihood that Caron and King became acquainted a very long time ago. (King’s bio shows he was with PTLA from 1969-1972.)

Scanning the master’s thesis is sure to give you a new, and perhaps chilling perspective on the roots of Maine’s far left political wing. There are plenty of unanswered questions about Caron, not least how he got admitted to Harvard’s Graduate School of Government without a high school diploma or college degree. How he was appointed to the LePage Transition Advisory Team is still a mystery.

For now, we’ll leave those questions for other interested students to research. Today, we find Angus King prominent on Caron’s Envision Maine Advisory Council—and King’s son as well, a vice president at First Wind. (

King and Caron have travelled in the same statist circles for years. “Smart Growth,” one of Caron’s signature initiatives, is an area where King’s name pops up frequently in web searches (see end notes). It doesn’t take much to see they are kindred spirits in a progressive, centrally planned vision, even if they try to hide it by calling themselves independents. I might as well call myself hirsute to distract you from my baldness.

Caron’s gig with the Sussman-Pingree Press, as we suggested earlier, is nothing more than a regular “sell Angus” column, masked in the noble sounding but all too obvious sham of political independence. You can take that anyway you want, but given their crossing paths in Maine’s political history, I’d suggest you worry about a chameleon infestation.

And remember these indentifying traits: extrudable tongues, swaying gaits, prehensile tails, crests or horns on their distinctively shaped heads, and the ability to change color. Among their other attractive and hypnotic features.

The foregoing is another possible chapter in a possible field guide for surviving threats from a progressive, centrally planned world view.  It may or may not eventually be published by Pem Schaeffer, a retired systems engineer and business development leader.  He blogs at  and can be contacted at

End notes:  sources for further study:…32394.38373.0.39487.…1c.1.yy3sVk8kHmY



  1. Alan Caron headed GrowSmart Maine in 2006 and as a typical Progressive had to tell Mainers how they should live. To my mind he was promoting a “theme park Maine”(tongue-in-cheek in The Coastal Journal 2006),but I realize now he was pushing the UN’s Agenda 21!
    I don’t trust him one iota! And I don’t trust Angus–lie down with dogs, get up with fleas.

  2. I worry about the mental health of this writer. How in anyone’s world can so much conspiracy abound without a few breakers going? Read Reinventing Maine Government, which I co-authored in 2010, and then talk to me about who is a ‘statist’. I didn’t see that mentioned in this ‘article’. Why would that be?

  3. I worry about someone who makes a living writing $1 million reports (if this was the Brookings Report you’re referring to) that prove to be a total waste of time and money. So much for serving Mainers.

  4. If it wasn’t your money, why do you care? If a business or a non-profit spends their own money to promote people working together for a stronger economy, is that now a bad thing or something that you should control?

  5. Cambrai, FYI. The report on Reinventing Maine Government is not the Brookings Report. That report was done Commissioned by GrowSmart Maine in 2006 and written by the Brookings Institution in Washington. The 2010 report that I co-authored was a much smaller labor of love that took a year to write. Most of that time, for me, was as a volunteer writer. It compared Maine spending to other rural states and the nation and showed that in many areas we spend far more than we can afford. It was widely studied by the LePage administration and they have made many attempts to implement elements of it. It was because of that report that I was invited to participate in the LePage transition team and to chair the long-term budget planning group.

  6. Brookings is the best of the liberal Think Tanks. Although it naturally favors government solutions to every problem, it does take a serious interest in improving the way it operates—-as opposed to the prevailing liberal tenet: “government is a good thing and we need more of it.” It never bought into the 1980s fantasies about imitating Japanese Industrial Policy and its idea for reducing Maine’s income tax burden features a government efficiency commission—as opposed to merely expanding the sales tax.

  7. We’re a gaggle of volunteers and opening a new scheme in our community. Your web site offered us with valuable information to work on. You have performed a formidable activity and our whole neighborhood will probably be grateful to you.


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