PORTLAND, Maine — Former Republican Maine Gov. Paul LePage is firing back after a newspaper article revealed his administration exceeded expense limits on taxpayer-funded trips to Washington.
On Monday morning, the state's former chief executive discussed the Maine Sunday Telegram story that showed the governor spent $170,000 on travel outside of Maine during the final few years of his time in office.
$22,000 of that state taxpayer money was spent at a Washington, D.C. hotel, owned by the family of President Donald Trump.
But in a Monday radio interview on WGAN, the ex-governor brought the newspaper article up, blasting the Press Herald/Sunday Telegram, saying it's biased, left-leaning and calling its coverage of him "disgusting."
"The newspapers are in the back pocket of the left," he said. "It is just disgusting how biased they are. "
However, LePage admitted many of the rooms booked for trips to Washington were reserved by his staff and said it is entirely possible they spent more than he realized -- like a June 2017 stay that cost $1,100 a night, as the newspaper reported.
"If we paid $1,100 for a hotel room for one night, shame on me," he said. "I wasn't aware of it, and shame on me because I should've been on top of it."
NEWS CENTER Maine Republican political analyst, Phil Harriman, says LePage does have to answer for his spending, but if he does, then the high costs are a non-issue.
"Did he spend the taxpayer's money wisely? Did he travel for legitimate government business? If the answer is yes, then I don't think there's much to talk about," said Harriman.
Harriman also thinks the former governor will maintain a level of trust with his supporters and Maine republicans if he shows there is evidence he needed to exceed limits on travel spending in order to further the state's interest in Washington.
Even though LePage encouraged frugality, Harriman says there is a necessary "dichotomy" for all government officials who must do business in costly Washington, D.C.
That said, Harriman says taxpayers deserve to know if "the facts are there to back up his comments."
As for LePage's criticism of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram's reporting as unfair -- Kevin Miller, one of the journalists who put the article about LePage's expense together, tweeted Monday that, "if Democratic @GovJanetMills ever spends $1,100/night at President Trump's DC hotel (or even $362/night) while meeting with the president or his Cabinet, that's certainly news. And we will report it."