Politics & Other Mistakes: What you don’t know

6 mins read
Al Diamon
Al Diamon

Let’s discuss Ethan Strimling’s sex life.

But before we do, allow me to explain. Because this column is supposed to be a serious journalistic enterprise, I’m obligated to place the mayor of Portland’s amorous activities in some sort of context, thereby making it appear I’m engaged in the analysis of something more significant than sleazy gossip.

Oddly enough, I am.

To prove this essay is about a matter more consequential than Strimling’s trysting, allow me to introduce the subject of Gov. Paul LePage. Which is pretty much the political equivalent of a cold shower.

Now that our prurient interests have been dampened, please recall the January town hall meeting in Bridgton when LePage made his infamous, racially charged remarks about drug dealers named “D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty – these type of guys – they come from Connecticut and New York. … They sell their heroin. … Incidentally, half the time, they impregnate a young white girl before they leave [and] then we have another issue we have to deal with down the road.”

The only reason we know about LePage’s rant is because the local public-access television station broadcast the meeting. There were TV reporters present, but none of them made note of these comments in their stories, mostly because the staffers on the evening beat out in the boonies are newbies or clunkheads who wouldn’t know real news if it slapped them upside their carefully coifed and heavily made up heads.

As for the state’s daily newspapers, they couldn’t be bothered sending anybody with a hint of journalistic experience all the way to Bridgton, even though LePage’s public appearances are usually rife with outrageous comments. They only discovered the story once links to the video showed up on various websites and became a national issue.

In other words, Maine’s media were scooped in their own backyard by the likes of the Huffington Post, because they either lacked the smarts to recognize the comment’s significance or lacked the initiative to cover the governor properly. While national news outlets were proclaiming LePage the “Most Racist Governor In America,” the local bumpkins were scrambling to catch up with what everyone else was already talking about.

Which raises this disturbing question: When public-access cable isn’t around to bail them out, what else of importance are these boobs missing?

The answer is Mayor Strimling’s sex life.

You’d be within your rights demanding to know why such a personal matter should be an appropriate topic for news outlets that already have more than they can manage covering people who are properly covered. The explanation is that Strimling, who won his post in November’s election, has left his wife and taken up with his former campaign manager, Stephanie Clifford, who also happens to be a big-time lobbyist.

According to a story posted on the website of The Bollard magazine (where I was once a freelance media critic), “Clifford is a partner and president of Baldacci Communications, a public relations and lobbying firm. One of her two co-partners is Bob Baldacci, the former governor’s brother and a real estate developer who previously led a high-profile effort to redevelop the publicly owned Maine State Pier. The firm’s lengthy client list includes Cate Street Capital, Central Maine Power, the National Resources Council of Maine, and numerous political figures of the past and present. Baldacci Communications continues to do work for Strimling, but the mayor said their role is now limited to filing campaign finance reports.”

The Bollard also noted that Strimling, without disclosing his romantic link to Clifford, has recently raised the issue of again seeking a developer for the State Pier. Do you suppose his paramour’s business partner would have any interest in such a proposal?

That’s a sexy question – if you prefer your sex accompanied by twisted ethical dilemmas. But it also seems sort of newsworthy – to everyone except Maine newspapers and TV stations. While bloggers and the rumor mill have been making much of Strimling’s conflict of interest, the Portland Press Herald has ignored the issue, and the Bangor Daily News refused to publish a column by Bollard editor Chris Busby on the mayor’s dalliance with Clifford.

Maybe they’re waiting for public access TV to pick up on the story.

Have a strictly platonic affair with me by mailing aldiamon@herniahill.net.

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