The ongoing saga of internal corruption within the Maine Republican Party continues. Maine Republican Party Chairman Rich Cebra’s lack of leadership has not gone away as we draw closer to a critical election cycle. As detailed in a letter below obtained by Undercover Porcupine, the State Chairman sent County Chairs on a political suicide mission and abandoned them when the heat turned up. It has also been posted on the website “Corrupt Maine GOP.”
The letter, which was sent in reply to another Republican and sent to an unknown number of Republicans, is from Washington County Chairman Tony Bennett:
Thanks for taking the time to email me. Things are pretty busy on the farm over the course of a weekend; emails are not typically my first priority. I am not really concerned with the speed at which my email reached you, had I thought you were interested in what I had to say I would have copied you on it. I have no expectation of anonymity or confidentiality, after all transparency is key in any Democratic Republic. In the name of that transparency, I have copied this reply to every Republican that I have emailed anything to or received anything from in the past week. I have also taken the liberty of copying my county committee list. This way there will be no hearsay about what I have said.
First let me start with some very easy information to digest. I have been a supporter of Chairman Cebra’s since he was elected. I invited him to speak here in Washington County as a guest of the committee at my very first meeting as Chairman in January. He was well received. I held him on a pedestal and touted him as the last best hope for the Maine Republican party. I honestly believed that he was going to unify the party and undo all of the effects of 2012. Anyone who spoke to me early on can vouch for that.
Even when working outside of our bylaws through the Penobscot election challenge, I was certain that the Chairman had a plan and this was somehow going to be remedied expeditiously. A 5 person panel to investigate, as called out in the bylaws, was not convened and instead legal counsel was sought and the challenge squashed.
My views of Chairman Cebra and his leadership didn’t start to wane until much later than you have portrayed in your email. I started to become truly concerned when talks of the budget began and along with the budget came salaries, past and present bills, FEC compliance, and expenditures that far exceed our fiscal capabilities. Again the bylaws state that we are to have a budget by the end of March. Now April, May, and part of June has passed and we still have no budget. When asked over the course of the past few months about where the budget is, State Committee members are repeatedly told that we are using last year’s budget. When asked where that budget can be located we were met with silence or being ruled out of order. This raises the question about the effectiveness of leadership for me.
Another red flag for me was the RNC proxy issue. I don’t have any right to tell the Chairman who to choose as a proxy to the RNC meetings but I think it is ok for myself and Republicans everywhere to be concerned about the proxy voting against the will of the majority of the committee. The proxy did just that. I also think that we as a body should be concerned when the proxy choice was censured by the state committee less than a year ago.
Washington County Committee was particularly concerned with the Chairman’s choice of proxy and how that proxy had voted. It was decided that the State Committeeman and/or myself would seek the answers from Chairman Cebra. We both sought answers and were met with silence. The question again was raised at the May State Committee meeting where it was met with “I am not talking about that” and the proxy had “voted her opinion”. I took that answer back to the county and took the heat for that proxy choice as some sort of unassigned surrogate. The level of disappointment was astounding. Many members stated “he needs to resign or be removed”. By this time I have to agree with my county, something has to change.
Now cue the conference call and tax increase list. The conference call was poorly attended, 6 county chairs and the Chairman himself based on those who reported their presence. 4 out of those 6 county chairs shared the tax increase list in similar fashion based on their understanding of the instructions. We then discovered that it shouldn’t have been handled that way. I call that poorly communicated instructions. And let’s talk about the list itself, where was it generated from? Wouldn’t a more effective use of resources be to give us the name and number of all Republican legislators so we could call and encourage them all to do the right thing and not vote for increases? How about a question or 2 about why the County Chairs who shared the list were not backed up by the Chairman? When my answer to the question of where the list came from was “State Party Headquarters”, legislators went looking for answers. The answer from the Chairman was that he had held a conference call but a list wasn’t discussed during the call. Those Legislators then came back to me wanting answers as to why I had lied. That was pretty much the icing on the cake for me.
I am a Republican County Chairman NOT a patsy for the Chairman of the Maine Republican Party. I am not alone in this endeavor.
I had wanted to spare anyone any further details about the goings on of the State Committee and in that effort to not raise more questions I did indeed ask Legislators from my county to blindly trust me one time and sign the letter calling for the Chairman’s resignation. But now, since that was not a satisfactory email, to someone, here it is.
But let me speak to some of the other things you mentioned.
I am against raising taxes period. Trying to say otherwise is ridiculous.
I don’t disagree that if you are concerned with anything that is coming up for vote you should call your legislators.
Oh and to touch on the last thing stuck in my craw, Saying that this is following predictable lines and claiming that this somehow has something to do with the convention and that I am somehow against the Chairman because I supported Ron Paul is the equivalent of a Democrat calling me a racist because I don’t support the president. Remember that when you start throwing that around.
County Chairman Bennett has been criticized for standing his ground after being abandoned by State Chairman Cebra when the mission became a problem. What kind of leadership is this?
Maine Republicans have to begin questioning the lack of leadership being shown at the top. If the State Chairman is willing to abandon his fellow leaders on controversial pushes, who is to say he won’t abandon other Republicans when things get rough? It’s unfortunate this question needs to be asked, but it’s one that now needs to be considered by all who are registered Republican in this state and are serious about winning next year.
2014 is right around the corner. Washington County Chairman Tony Bennett and others need to be apart of a solid structure within the party, starting with unwavering leadership at the top, in order for Governor Paul LePage to be re-elected and the Republicans reacquire the legislative majority. If those at the top are unreliable and are so easy to run and hide, they cannot be trusted with leading an election push.
Fortunately, with leaders like County Chairman Bennett, all is not lost in the Maine Republican Party. But that is just one county with driven and proven leadership, something that is lacking at the top.