Former Gov. Paul LePage and State Sen. Trey Stewart (R-Aroostook) are calling for an investigation into whether a phone call from former State Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook) played a role in potato mogul Sue McCrum’s decision to drop out of a State Senate race in March 2020.
McCrum, whose husband Jay is the owner of Penobscot McCrum, a major potato processor in Aroostook County, has never publicly said why she left that race on March 6, 2020 less than 24 hours after filing to run. But the move has kindled rumor, speculation, and whispered conversations from The County to Augusta for more than two years.
Sources in Aroostook have told The Maine Wire it was a phone call from Jackson to Sue’s husband Jay McCrum that led Sue to abort her promising political plans prematurely.
“I do believe it should be investigated,” LePage said. “It is very strange how quickly she got out of the race.”
“Sad, they are good people,” he said.
In a phone interview, Stewart said he wants Jackson to produce phone records that would show whether he placed a phone call to the McCrums on or about March 6, the day Sue dropped out of the race.
“Troy ought to provide the phone call records that back him up rather than the redacted records he gave to the Bangor Daily News,” Stewart said.
The records Stewart wants to make public were originally provided to the Bangor Daily News in 2020 in response to a Freedom of Access Act request filed by reporter Michael Shepherd, Stewart said; however, the records the BDN obtained were heavily redacted. It’s unclear whether Jackson, or another party, performed the redactions.
Shepherd did not respond to inquiries about the nature of the records Jackson turned over. The Maine Wire has filed a Freedom of Access Act request to obtain Jackon’s phone records as well as his correspondence with the BDN.
Stewart is specifically asking for Jackson to release unexpurgated phone records from March 5, 2020 and March 6, 2020. The redacted records provided to BDN showed only one phone call in that period. That call was made to State Sen. Michael Carpenter (D-Aroostook).
Jackson initially responded to a request for comment, but he stopped responding to text messages when asked if he knew why McCrum dropped out of the race. He has not responded to any questions since. Text message read receipts indicate he is aware of these questions and the request for a phone interview.
In the alleged phone call to the McCrums, Jackson is said to have threatened to interfere with an eight-figure tax credit deal the Senate President helped secure for Penobscot McCrum in 2019 unless Sue backed out of the race, paving the path for one of Jackson’s Democratic allies to win the seat.
That plan backfired when Stewart, who was encouraged by Sue McCrum to run for the seat she pulled out of, won his race. He’s currently running for re-election.
Stewart said the Secretary of State and the Maine law enforcement agency with jurisdiction should conduct an investigation to find out whether Jackson used the power of his office to influence McCrum’s decision to drop out of the State Senate race.
Aroostook District Attorney Todd Collins said it would be up to the Attorney General’s office to determine which agency has jurisdiction to conduct such an investigation.
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In a phone interview, Collins said his office had not received a complaint regarding Jackson.
He said the Aroostook DA’s office does not take action based on stories in the media unless there is a complaint filed with a law enforcement agency, typically from a witness or the victim of a crime.
In those instances, he said his office’s first step following a receipt of a complaint would be to consult with the Maine Attorney General’s Office to determine whether an investigation was merited and which law enforcement agency had jurisdiction.
“We don’t do investigations ourselves,” said Collins.
“We often times will consult with the Attorney General’s office to do the evaluation,” he said.
Collins said the consultation with the AG’s office would be especially important if a complaint involved complicated or obscure crimes – like official oppression – or political actors, especially close to an upcoming election.
According to the Maine Criminal Code, the crime of “Official oppression” occurs when a public servant, acting with the intention to benefit himself or another or to harm another, knowingly commits an unauthorized act which purports to be an act of his office, or knowingly refrains from performing a duty imposed on him by law or clearly inherent in the nature of his office.
Official oppression is a Class E crime, a misdemeanor.
Maybe I’m a little simplistic in my view, but I would think threatening to take away or otherwise deprive someone of a large amount of money unless they performed some act would constitute old-fashioned extortion.