Maine: Come for the lobster. Stay for the corruption.

Here‘s how the loophole works (kudos to the normally catatonic Bangor Daily News):

If [fictional] legislator Mary Smith is an accountant and performs accounting services for the state for which she is paid more than $1,000, she would have to disclose this under the requirement. But if she were the president of Accounting Associates, Inc. and performed the same work, she would not be required to disclose.

And here’s how my state’s politicians have gratefully been using said loophole, lining their own pockets and those of their spouses to the tune of almost 235 million dollars:

Sen. Joseph Brannigan, D-Portland, was chairman of the Appropriations and Health and Human Services committees when Shalom House received $98 million from the state. Brannigan was executive director of Shalom House. He is still in the Legislature but has not been a member of those committees since 2011.

Former Rep. Joseph Bruno, R-Raymond, was House minority leader when $35.6 million went to Goold Health Systems, where he was CEO and president, and $49 million to Community Pharmacies, where he was a board member of the controlling group. Bruno’s legislative service ended in 2004.

Former Rep. Arthur Lerman, D-Augusta, was a member of the Appropriations Committee and executive director of Support Solution when it received $14 million from the state. Lerman’s legislative service ended in 2006.

And so on.

They insist they did nothing wrong. And if you use the dimmest and most rigid interpretation of the rules, they may well be correct. To them, the loophole is simply there to be exploited. Not taking the bounty unwittingly offered by the people? That’s crazy talk. So they just dive right into that barrel of juicy, glistening pork. It only requires extending their arms and gathering up what they can, clutching the lucre to their excitedly thumping chests. No ingenuity is required, and no talent other than being able to shut off one’s conscience. Easy.

Oh sure, the whole thing is actually an indefensible form of highway robbery if measured by any honest, ethical yardstick, but when has that ever stopped the average government sociopath?

Cronyism can and does reach Chicagoan proportions in Maine sometimes, even among politicians who talk a good game about transparency, accountability, and government belt-tightening. F’rinstance: A year ago, then-newly-elected Tea Party governor Paul LePage gave his inexperienced and underqualified daughter, Lauren, a government job, and awarded her a way-above-average salary plus a really swanky place to live, all at taxpayers’ expense. Nice work if you can get it.

About Rogier:
Rogier is a Dutch-born, New-England-dwelling multi-media maven (OK, a writer and photographer) whose dead-tree publishing credits include the New York Times, Wired, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Reason.
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