Most politicians do sleazy things. The stupid ones get caught. Lucas St. Clair seems to be a stupid one.
St. Clair is one of three Democrats running for Congress in Maine’s 2nd District. Until recently, he’d come across as reasonably intelligent. Depending, of course, on how you define “reasonably.”
St. Clair didn’t think it was necessary to actually live in the district until after he’d announced his candidacy (shades of Bruce “hey, I visited the place once or twice” Poliquin). He hasn’t proposed a single original – or even interesting – idea for improving the economy, providing affordable health care, ending U.S. military ventures abroad or getting rid of Nancy Pelosi. And he did the worst possible job concealing his connections to a dark-money scheme to promote his run for office.
That last one is where he really comes off as stupid.
Let’s suppose that St. Clair’s mother, Burt’s Bees founder Roxanne Quimby, wanted to use some of her considerable fortune to help out her son in his bid for Congress. If Quimby did that – and in no way am I saying she did – she’d probably enlist the aid of one of St. Clair’s close friends, say the best man at his wedding or somebody like that.
She’d need such a front person, because Quimby herself is political poison in much of the 2nd District, thanks to her tone-deaf campaign to buy up over 87,000 acres of land next to Baxter State Park and turn it into a national park. Throughout her acquisition spree, she talked about banning hunting, fishing, snowmobiling and R. Kelly music on her property, thereby alienating most of the locals.
St. Clair salvaged that operation for his mother, leading to the creation of the Katahdin Woods and Water National Monument, so it’s understandable she might be grateful and want to assist him with his political fling. Understandable, but not sensible. Better to have a political action committee headed by R. Kelly than one associated with Roxanne Quimby.
But what if, rather than form a PAC, Quimby (or someone else with a personal interest in this race and a ton of money to spend) decided to create a “social welfare organization?” That kind of nonprofit doesn’t have to disclose its donors and can spend unlimited amounts, so long as it doesn’t advocate for a candidate.
The recently formed Maine Outdoor Alliance is just such a group. We don’t know where its money comes from (wink, wink), but we do know, thanks to good reporting by the Bangor Daily News, that it was incorporated by Nathan Deyesso, a Portland artisan who also happens to have been the best man at St. Clair’s wedding. We also know that the alliance bought nearly $150,000 worth of TV spots, ostensibly to warn the public of threats to the Katahdin monument (there don’t appear to be any), but just incidentally to promote St. Clair’s role in creating it. The ad buy was linked to political operative Barrett Kaiser, who had previously done work for – sound the coincidence alarm! – Roxanne Quimby.
A smart politician – one who had previously condemned the use of dark money in campaigns, as St. Clair has – would have admitted the obvious connection, while stressing he had nothing to do with Mom’s efforts to help out, because any coordination between the campaign and the alliance would be illegal.
A stupid politician would do what St. Clair did. He had his spokesman, David Farmer, tell the Bangor paper the campaign “wouldn’t be involved in any outside spending of this nature.” Then, St. Clair himself told the Portland Press Herald, “It’s hard for me to imagine who’s done this and why.”
I dunno, for some reason, it sorta feels like those guys aren’t being entirely forthcoming. Or maybe they’re just really stupid.
Let me be clear. If somebody’s mother wants to help out her kid’s campaign for Congress, I think that’s reasonable and even commendable. Moms should be able to spend as much as they like promoting their children’s ambitions, no matter how unrealistic. Where things go sideways is when both parent and child refuse to admit that’s what’s going on. That leaves voters to speculate about who’s really operating behind the scenes. Russians? R. Kelly? Nancy Pelosi?
St. Clair should have dealt with this in a straightforward fashion. He didn’t. At best, that indicates he’s sleazy.
At worst, it means he should say hello to Waterville Mayor Nick Isgro next time they’re both attending a meeting of the Stupid Politicians Club.
Smart comments can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.