May 22, 2011

OUR OPINION: Snowe foe using tactics Maine voters don't like

Morning Sentinel Staff

In February, U.S. Senate candidate Scott D'Amboise told MaineToday's Washington bureau chief that his Republican primary campaign against incumbent Sen. Olympia Snowe would be based on a platform of values, morals and fiscal conservatism.

We've yet to learn much about his fiscal philosophy, except that he's a fan of the tea-party movement. But his definition of values and morals evidently allows him to pursue public office by smearing his opponent with innuendo, cheap-shot generalizations, misrepresentations and flat-out lies.

Quite a moral code D'Amboise has there. Quite a system of values he expects to propel him to the U.S. Capitol and the floor of the world's greatest deliberative body.

D'Amboise revealed his true colors on May 10, when he issued a news release demanding that Snowe resign her Senate seat and accusing her husband, former Gov. John McKernan, of financial wrongdoing without a shred of evidence and without coming within a country mile of anything resembling a fact.

The release followed an announcement by the federal government that it would intervene in a civil lawsuit against Education Management Corp., a Pennsylvania-based company of which McKernan is chairman of the board.

Here is a sampling of the D'Amboise release in which he recklessly and falsely says of McKernan: "A federal investigation revealed that he had been defrauding the government of taxpayer funded financial aid through his company Education Management Corporation (EDMC)."

This happens to be a flat-out lie with absolutely no substantiation.

The lawsuit claims that the company, which operates for-profit educational institutions, improperly compensated its recruiters. The company insists that the allegations are untrue and that it obtained outside legal opinions that its policies were legal.

You don't need a law degree to know that plaintiffs in a lawsuit can make any claims they want to, true or not, and that the government's intervention doesn't mean a thing at this stage of the game except that the Justice Department has an interest in the outcome.

Importantly, the government has said only it will intervene at a later date. Its reason for intervening, the government said, will not be announced until mid-summer.

It's entirely possible that the government's interest is as much political as legal; the Obama administration is known to have no use for profit-making education companies such as Education Management.

In any case, this is a civil lawsuit against the company, not against McKernan. The truth is, McKernan wasn't even chairman of the company's board when the plan in question was adopted.

D'Amboise's statements are beyond reckless. They are baldfaced lies.

Is this how leaders of the tea-party movement advise their candidates for high office to conduct their campaigns? Let's hope not, or the tea-party revolution that seemed to raise so much hope for citizen involvement in our political system could turn out to be a national disgrace.

If D'Amboise or any other candidate wants to challenge Snowe on her record as a senator, wants to raise questions about her votes on critical issues, wants to contest her credentials to represent Maine Republicans as their senatorial nominee in the 2012 election, so be it.

Snowe is a tough, experienced campaigner who can give as good as she gets in the combative arena of electoral politics. We welcome, and we expect the senator would welcome, a vigorous debate about issues and policy.

But if D'Amboise's strategy for defeating Snowe is to make a name for himself by launching personal attacks that have no basis in fact and nothing to do with the urgent issues facing our state and country, then he's in for a rude awakening.

Maine voters don't like such tactics and wouldn't be inclined to tolerate them from a candidate with established qualifications, much less from a resume-challenged cheap-shot artist hoping to ride a wave of tea bags and lies to political notoriety.

If that's his plan, in fact, we urge D'Amboise to take the advice he gave Snowe. Resign. Quit. Get out of the race. He's insulting the voters and wasting their time.

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