Governor Paul LePage doesn't much like the Maine Public Broadcasting Network. On the campaign trail, he told MPBN's Jennifer Rooks that he was "about ready to punch Ajay Higgins," the network's State House correspondent, who had tenaciously pursued questions about LePage's wife having simultaneously claiming homestead exemptions in Maine and Florida. In May the gov took a swing, with a surprise proposal to eliminate all state funding for the network, a move parried by legislators.
Later this month the governor has his first opportunity to nominate a new member to MPBN's 21-member board of trustees, which oversees the organization. His first choice: Ann Robinson, the Preti Flaherty lobbyist who literally wrote much of the governor's regulatory reform agenda.
On June 29, LePage met with Robinson to discuss "her appointment to the MPBN board," according to scheduling documents released in response to a public records request. The meeting, which was held in the governor's office, was convened at her request. No other candidates met the governor through July 2, the last day for which we have records.
LePage's press secretary, Adrienne Bennett, declined to comment on the potential nomination, which is subject to legislative confirmation. "The Office of the Governor does not offer media names of potential candidates until the nomination is decided by the Governor," she said, adding that when the nomination is officially announced between August 30 and September 12, she would be happy to let us know.
Robinson, chair of Preti's government service group, appears to command an uncanny level of trust from the governor, who appointed her as co-chair of his transition team and continues to retain her as an advisor. As we've previously reported, LePage allowed Robinson to compile his now-infamous "Phase I" environmental reform agenda while she remained the registered lobbyist of many companies and industry associations that stood to gain from the changes (see "LePage's Secret Puppeteers," February 11, and "The LePage Files," July 22, both by Colin Woodard). She continues to meet with the governor on legislation affecting her clients and was recently appointed to the governor's Judicial Selection Committee, which advises on judicial nominations. Like LePage, she is a native of Lewiston.
If appointed, she would likely have only limited influence over the board's decisions, but could serve as the governor's eyes and ears within the broadcaster.
Neither Robinson nor MPBN board chair Craig Denekas responded to our interview requests.