Commentary

Mills’ abuse of power as governor predictable after conduct as attorney general

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Janet Mills is notorious for her abuses of power and seeming disregard for the best interests of Mainers in favor of what her subjective opinion dictates or agenda requires. When given authority, either as attorney general or now as governor, she pushes the limit of just how much she can use that power. Frequently, she goes beyond what is appropriate.

As attorney general, Mills would consistently impede the efforts of former Governor Paul LePage to exercise his executive duties, including her refusal to undertake necessary actions for the enforcement of laws with which she disagreed.

She could only do this without being fired because Maine is the only state in the nation that has the Legislature elect an attorney general, as most states have the sense to allow the executive branch (or the electorate) to choose who their chief law enforcement officer will be.

Mills is one of only a small handful of attorneys general ever to refuse to fulfill her obligations of representing the state in pursuing legal interests, and the first in Maine. It’s only happened in isolated cases in other states across the country. It’s exceedingly rare for an attorney general to go against their own executive branch even once, and Mills did it more than once under Governor LePage.

A notable example includes when Governor LePage challenged the Affordable Care Act provision prohibiting Medicaid eligibility cuts to young, able-bodied adults without dependents. Mills refused to provide representation for the state on this lawsuit, which was literally her job to do. Furthermore, she not only publicly endorsed the opposition, but had the audacity to still claim authority to oversee the litigation and its budget, and who the state could hire as an attorney. 

She did so by trying to cap the budget for the state litigation at a level vastly insufficient for pursuing such a case in a federal court, declaring the state could have only $500,000 for litigation. Her attempts were only put to rest when the Maine Supreme Court had to step in and force her to stop meddling with the litigation strategies of the state in the Affordable Care Act case.

Thus, Mills was caught red-handed conducting herself improperly as attorney general and attempting to exploit her authority and power in order to achieve an ideological victory. Such attempts to undermine a state one serves as attorney general by refusing to litigate, as her job required, and actively attempting to thwart the litigative efforts of the state, show again how Mills puts her own interests and ideology above her duty to the people of Maine. 

Fast forward to today, where present are the themes of abusing power and self-interested, subjective decision making, we arrive at Mills in the coronavirus pandemic era. Governor Mills from the start has hurt Maine people and businesses and subjected state residents to completely unscientific protocols of an absurdly restrictive nature for such a sparsely-populated state, and she hasn’t let up. 

She seemingly became obsessed with dictatorial power when receiving emergency power to handle the state’s response to the virus. The entire 2020 tourist season was stifled and restaurants and other tourism-related businesses statewide were put in dire straits due to California-style paranoid COVID-19 protocols, with little to no science or sense behind them. The emergency powers she received in March 2020 have yet to be relinquished.

Weeks prior to this writing, a bipartisan group in the legislature unsuccessfully tried to cancel her continuing emergency powers by ending the state of civil emergency. These emergency powers and the state of civil emergency have been renewed 14 times now, and appears to be a permanent fixture for Mills as long as the coronavirus exists. 

The takeaway from this is her continuing power grab and refusal to follow suit with most other New England governors. Her slow re-opening falls behind those of our regional counterparts who’ve announced reopening schedules to date.

The fact that she still holds emergency powers when vaccines are widely available exemplifies that Mills’ priorities are not as they should be. She would rather hold on to her power than do what is best for the state’s residents and businesses.

Mills mandated masks in open places where no science nor reason backed such notions. She decided which businesses were “essential” and which were not, essentially picking winners and losers and subjecting the losers to outrageously arduous protocols for permission to open, if at all.

Even more ludicrous was the anonymous phone hotline for reporting rule violators during the pandemic, as it turned people against their neighbors and led to individuals falsely calling in violations in order to execute grudges against people or businesses. I spoke recently with one pizza shop owner in Kennebunk who claims he was almost shut down because a competing business owner made false allegations via the governor’s snitch line.

Unfortunately, Maine’s people and economy will continue to suffer as long as Mills retains the power to issue decrees, with little evidentiary proof of their necessity, in the name of protecting against COVID-19.

About Michael Martin

Michael Martin is a former policy intern for the Maine Policy Institute. He holds a bachelors degree in political science from Northeastern University and a law degree from Quinnipiac University, and is from Kennebunkport, Maine.

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