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In the movie Hellboy, the Nazis, faced with defeat by the Allies in the waning days of World War II, plot to unleash the ancient gods of chaos, thereby bringing about the Apocalypse. As a military strategy, that ranks right up there with invading Russia (and Iraq) in the unforeseen negative consequences department. For instance, according to the movie, the ancient godsí idea of nice weather is filling the skies with wriggling masses of giant calamari tentacles.
Whoíd want to vacation in a place like that? Not even Nazis.
I bring this up not because Iím trying to write off the cost of two tickets to Hellboy as a research expense on my income tax, but because Iíve caught hints of a similar scheme here in Maine. Somebody ó letís call him Heckboy ó seems to be plotting to release the ancient gods of fiscal chaos in hopes of bringing about the Last Days of the administration of Democratic Governor John Baldacci. But Heckboy and his friends arenít trying to bring on Armageddon by employing black arts. Theyíre relying on red ink.
While no one will confirm Heckboyís existence, evidence continues to mount that he inhabits that shadowy realm where those out of power dwell, namely the dreaded Private Sector. There he awaits his chance to break through into the realm of the politically powerful and exact terrible vengeance on those responsible for his exile.
Consider these clues. A mystical group called Tax Cap Yes! has been organized by cabalists Phil Harriman and Eric Cianchette. Harriman was the chairman of Republican Peter Cianchetteís 2002 gubernatorial campaign, a campaign that came closer than anyone expected to defeating Baldacci. Eric Cianchette is Peterís cousin and a frequent contributor to conservative causes. Another supporter of Tax Cap Yes! is Judy Foss, former state representative and ex-volunteer with the Cianchette campaign. Then thereís Jen Webber, Cianchetteís former campaign press secretary, whoís now handling media for TCY!
Shades of the sorceress Hillary Clinton. It sounds like a Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. I wonder if you can get a side order of calamari with that.
TCY! is actually a political action committee formed to promote a referendum on the June ballot that would limit property taxes to one percent of a houseís assessed value. If the measure is approved by voters, it will reduce municipal revenues dramatically, thereby forcing the state to come up with a lot of money ó perhaps as much as $700 million a year ó to keep schools open, cops on the beat, fire engines at the ready, and Regional Waste Systemsí trash incinerator burning cash.
If Baldacci is forced to solve that problem by increasing taxes, heíll be breaking a campaign promise and handing the GOP a major issue for the 2006 gubernatorial election. If Baldacci decides not to hike the sales or income tax, heíll have to slash government services, thereby angering his liberal base of support. Either way, heíll suffer significant political damage.
Which clears the way for Heckboyís return.
Iím not insinuating that Peter Cianchette is Heckboy. Although, come to think of it, the two of them have never been seen together. But it is odd that his supporters have suddenly latched on to the tax cap issue, even though none of them had ever gone on record supporting such an initiative before. Asked about that, Eric Cianchette dismissed any connection between TCY! and his cousinís political future, although his reason for supporting the cap had distinctly demonic overtones. "Things have gone to hell in Augusta," he said.
Harriman employed similarly heated rhetoric in criticizing Baldacciís budgetary policies. "Heís recreated the economic forest fire that finally got put out in the sixth year of [former Governor Angus] Kingís administration," he said. "Heís lighting matches and throwing them in the woods."
Asked about his position on the tax cap, Peter Cianchette was vaguer than voodoo. "Iím going to listen to the debate," he said. "I havenít taken a position on it."
Smart move, Heckbo ó er, Peter. By not openly supporting the tax cap, you avoid the possibility youíll be blamed for the chaos that could ensue after it passes. Then, youíll be free to offer your own plan to pick up the pieces. (Calamari, anyone?)
In the meantime, Peter Cianchette is keeping busy writing op-ed pieces extolling the virtues of a constitutional amendment to cap state spending, while chairing President Bushís re-election campaign in Maine. As for running for governor again in 2006, he claims his crystal ball is cloudy. "Iím far from making any decision," he said. "Iím going to give it a serious look, but that doesnít mean Iím going to do it."
Translation from the Heckish: If Baldacci is in serious fiscal trouble a year from now, Iím tossing a tentacle in the ring. But if my disciplesí incantation fails, Iím going to pretend I was never interested in the first place.
Thatís a heck of a way to make a decision.
Give me the devil by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Politics and Other Mistakes archive.
Issue Date: April 23 - 29, 2004
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