I typically enjoy Edgar Allen Beem’s cranky columns, but disagree with his recent piece dismissing the relevance of the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting. In my view, the center’s work since its inception commendably satisfies its objective of “helping fully inform Maine’s citizens regarding the actions of its government and public servants.”
To the extent one subscribes, as I do, to the view that power corrupts, it is not surprising that the uncomfortable spotlight of the center’s investigative scrutiny has generally been more embarrassing to Democrats, as for two decades before the Republican sweep in 2010, the Democratic Party was the dominant power in state politics and the scope of its patronage machine impressive (Paul Violette was but one of many Democratic Party leaders rolled into highly compensated public sector jobs).
In describing the center as a “conservative lapdog,” Beem, a vocal opponent of the LePage administration and its supporters, evidences his apparent view that it is preferable to suppress information embarrassing to one’s political allies than to expose bad practices and conduct likely to score points for political opponents. I believe Beem is misguided in this respect insofar as the cynicism that selectively excuses corrupt and corrupting government practices engaged in by “our side” fails to recognize the destructive anti-government backlash created by exercises of government power favoring some at the expense of others for reasons of political expediency rather than sound public policy. In effect, Beem’s indifference to government accountability serves the interests of those he most despises.
Alice E. Knapp