We’re hearing all the paeans to Olympia Snowe today, that brave bipartisan moderate who was shamefully thrust out of Congress by extremists. The fact that Snowe had no credible challenger with two weeks before the deadline for filing doesn’t play into this, nor does the fact that she didn’t actually show the courage claimed in the article, at least not for the last couple years. Snowe intoned heavily about the dysfunctional Senate – she voted to keep the filibuster process, one of the main if not the main sources of that dysfunction, at the beginning of last year – and the inability for the parties to work together to solve the nation’s problems. It’s all so sad. All those brave bipartisan dealmakers are gone. She’s such a martyr.
Nationally, most of the coverage of Snowe’s decision to drop her reelection bid has focused on the centrist Republican’s frustration with the polarized politics on Capitol Hill. But in Maine, a few newspapers have speculated that her husband’s legal entanglements had a role in Snowe’s sudden and surprising decision, which left her with more than $3 million in her campaign coffers and her party without a Senate candidate less than three weeks before the filing deadline for Maine’s June 12 primary.
According to the senator’s most recent financial disclosure form, she and her husband, former Maine Gov. John McKernan Jr., have investments worth between $2 million and $10 million in Education Management Corp., a Pittsburgh-based company that operates for-profit higher education institutions. McKernan is chairman of the board of directors of the company, now embroiled in a lawsuit in which the federal goverment, 11 states and the District of Columbia are seeking to recover a portion of the $11 billion in federal student aid that the education firm has received since July 2003.
Originally filed in April 2007 by a pair of whistleblowers, the lawsuit alleges that the company violated a federal law that prohibits schools from paying admissions officers based on the number of students they recruit and enroll. Those numbers can affect a school’s revenues because more students mean a school is potentially eligible for more federal aid dollars. The whistleblowers alleged, and provided documents indicating, that they were paid bounties for the number of students they enrolled.
The Justice Department complaint has been public since last August, and Snowe has been dinged for it locally in Maine. The fact that Snowe and her husband may have personally benefited from the ripoff of low-income college students hasn’t really entered the conversation. But often the cover story isn’t the real story. Maybe this is one of those times.
Meanwhile, as to Snowe’s replacement, it looks like every major Democrat in the state is gearing up for a shot at the seat. That includes the former Governor, John Baldacci, and both members of Congress, Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree, who confirmed her interest to the Huffington Post.