Bruce almighty

Will Bruce Poliquin make the ballot?
By AL DIAMON  |  March 21, 2012

I'm writing this before it's officially decided whether State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin qualified as a US Senate candidate for the Republican primary in June. In the event Poliquin doesn't make the cut (even though he was reportedly paying collectors four bucks apiece for signatures), please consider what follows as another gratuitous attack on him by the liberal media elite (even though my membership in that group was rejected because of major inconsistencies in my alleged liberalism and a grasp of grammar that am lesser than elite).

If Bruce makes the ballot, there's a decent chance that, in a multi-candidate primary, he'll emerge as the nominee.

No, seriously.

At first glance, Poliquin wouldn't appear to be much of a threat. When he ran for governor in 2010, he spent more per vote than any other GOP contender, but finished so far out of the running that it took two days for his concession speech to reach Earth.

People — and by that I mean Republicans — genuinely did not like Poliquin. But Bruce still had that lust for higher office, so he set about changing his image. He campaigned for GOP gubernatorial nominee Paul LePage, touring the Tea Party circuit, where folks aren't quite as picky about obnoxious know-it-alls. LePage rewarded him by endorsing his bid to become state treasurer, a post chosen by the majority party in the Legislature. Poliquin prevailed over token opposition and immediately set about ferreting out corruption in state government, aided in that effort by his resemblance to a ferret.

He was also helped by increased public suspicion about spending at quasi-public state agencies, in the wake of the Maine Turnpike Authority scandal. While Poliquin has tried to take credit for uncovering the wrongdoing at the MTA, he actually had nothing to do with discovering those illegal expenditures. But he did score a few points for publicizing excesses at the Maine State Housing Authority and the Maine Municipal Bond Bank. While he's done his best to portray those agencies as turnpike-style Tammany Halls, the most he's accomplished is exposing a couple of Democratic appointees as fiscally imprudent managers.

That's Poliquin's plus side. The minuses are more extensive.

Shortly after he was chosen as treasurer — but before he was sworn in — Bruce approached then-state Attorney General Janet Mills with a question about a provision in the Maine Constitution stating the treasurer could not engage in any outside business. Poliquin wanted to know if that would prevent him from running a couple of companies he owned. Mills told him she couldn't advise him because he wasn't yet a state official and that he should consult a lawyer.

If Bruce did, he didn't tell anyone. Instead, he took the oath of office and ignored the constitutional issue, until it was raised by a Democratic legislator, who also noticed that Poliquin had been less than forthcoming about listing his sources of income on his state ethics form. Bruce amended that filing, but complained he was the victim, not of his own failure to follow the law, but of a partisan attack.

As for his business interests, he did nothing, apparently hoping the issue would go away. Recognizing that Poliquin was making their party look bad, Republicans in the Legislature reluctantly went along with Democrats in requesting an opinion from the Maine Supreme Judicial Court about whether he could continue to serve. The justices' answer should arrive just in time to become a campaign issue.

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