Misunderstanding or not, Dems violated public’s trust voting sans GOP

State Sen. Dawn Hill, D-York, Senate chairwoman of the Legislature's Appropriations Committee.

State Sen. Dawn Hill, D-York, Senate chairwoman of the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee. BDN photo by Troy Bennett.

You’ve been robbed.

According to the FBI, the chances of actually catching a thief in the act are slim to none. In this case, however, the thieves have been caught red-handed.

In 2012, new Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland, and House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, vowed to work with their Republican colleagues, who had lost legislative majorities in that November’s elections.

On Monday night, however, that fib was exposed again. Maine Democrats on the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, doubtless on orders from leaders Alfond and Eves, voted without a single Republican colleague in the room to raid the state’s already depleted Rainy Day Fund to restore $40 million in state revenue sharing to Maine municipalities.

Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, House chairwoman of the committee tried to excuse this underhanded action, telling the BDN it was necessary to restore the funding in time for towns and cities to prepare their annual budgets.

Sen. Dawn Hill, D-Cape Neddick, Senate chairwoman of the committee, had the gall to express disappointment with the Republicans on the committee, claiming they chose not to take part in Monday’s vote. Republicans on the committee were led to believe that the vote would take place Tuesday. Senator Pat Flood, R-Winthrop, claimed a “misunderstanding,” but Hill stands firm. Did she really think the public (including her own constituents) so stupid to believe that not a single Republican would show up for such an important vote? If there was some sort of miscommunication, couldn’t they have waited one more day to take a vote? Watch out if this woman tries to sell you a bridge.

Did we mention that Sen. Emily Cain, D-Orono, the likely Democratic nominee for Congress in the 2nd Congressional District, is a Democratic member of this committee? Yikes, apparently she’s already taking pages from the D.C. playbook for Maine.

The news here isn’t that the Democrats decided to play election year politics by handing a political kickback to municipalities rather than address the spending problem causing the current budget shortfall faced by the state.

No, Hill, Rotundo, Cain and their Democrat buddy members of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee have done something much more reprehensible, committing gross misfeasance. They’ve stolen the public trust, they’ve stolen democracy and they’ve stolen the right of duly elected officials in an opposing party to fully participate in the legislative process. (Republican members later officially registered their opposition to the bill when the committee reconvened Tuesday.)

In other words, by moving ahead on a key vote without a single member of the opposing party in the room, they have negated and invalidated your right to vote and be represented.

The violation of the public trust constitutes a significant breach of responsibility. Public officials must hold themselves to the highest standards of ethics and integrity. Apparently, these are sorely lacking as Maine’s Democrats play fast and loose with the democratic process.

Principled (or to the more cynical, disgusted) voters are being driven away from the political process. Angry, frustrated and disenfranchised by violation of the public trust, we see people checking out of politics, becoming unengaged as they witness politicians abusing power and playing damaging games. They are sick and tired of politics as usual, have given up and thrown in the political towel, feeling their vote doesn’t count or matter – which these Democrats are demonstrating by negating and invalidating the impact of duly elected Republicans.

The vast majority of men and women go into politics for the right reasons, and they have a genuine heart for and commitment to public service. But if opinion polls are to be believed, politicians barely rate above car salesmen for their honesty and integrity. (Yes, even lawyers fare higher.) While a healthy dose of skepticism is perfectly natural, we should be absolutely appalled by this lack of public confidence in our elected officials.

There is no such thing as a victimless crime. When I hear what Rotundo, Hill and Cain are up to, I feel the same thing crime victims do, especially when there is a violation of trust: anger, anxiety, vulnerability, disappointment, and frustration for trusting the exploiter of that trust.

The FTC advises on ways to stop a scam. Number one on their list: Know who you’re dealing with. We may not be able to call the police on this theft, but come November, voters will have a chance to make sure there aren’t any repeat offenders.

Susan Dench

About Susan Dench

Susan Dench is the founder and president of the fast-growing non-profit, non-partisan Informed Women's Network. Recognizing that many women are tired of "politics as usual," Susan decided to take action and develop strategies that are innovating the way women and politics intersect, nurturing and encouraging women in fun, energetic gatherings where views can be expressed in a supportive environment and then translated into practical solutions that produce results.