I don’t like Linda Bean.
It’s not about politics. My negative attitude has nothing to do with Bean being fined for excessive donations to a political action committee she set up to support Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy. Compared to her previous sins, that’s nothing.
Nevertheless, there have been calls by liberal activists to boycott L.L. Bean, the Freeport retailer, because Bean is a part-owner and a member of its board. If I accepted the idea that backing Trump was sufficient grounds for public shunning, I’d have to stop doing business with my firewood supplier, who had signs for the Republican candidate prominently displayed in his front yard. I don’t want to inquire too closely about who my friends and neighbors supported, because a majority of voters in my rural corner of western Maine backed Trump in the November election. I might discover the guy who plows my driveway, the UPS driver or my favorite bartender cast ballots for The Donald. Boycotting them would render me snowbound, unable to receive packages and sober.
But since I was already hating on Linda Bean long before this most recent controversy, I don’t feel at all hypocritical about continuing to do so.
Bean has been slithering around the state’s political scene for decades under various names, such as Linda Clark (first husband), Linda Bean-Jones (second husband), Linda Bean Folkers (third husband) and, in recent years, back to her birth name. She’s twice run unsuccessfully for Congress, failed miserably as a recruiter for GOP legislative candidates, and contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to conservative causes. She’s also started successful lobster wholesale and retail businesses.
Bean rarely agrees to interviews (she made an exception for Fox News during the Trump donation flap), because she has a tendency to say things she later regrets, often due to their not being true. In the current dimensional warp of “alternative facts,” that’s no longer considered a character flaw, but I’m old fashioned. I still get testy when political figures lie to me.
In 1986, the Christian Civic League of Maine got a referendum on the ballot to ban obscene materials, which the league defined as anything other than the Bible and the weather forecast. The campaign was underwritten by an anonymous donor, who many reporters suspected was Bean. So, I asked her. “No,” she said, “that wasn’t me.”
Except, as documents eventually showed, it was. She’d denied it because the referendum lost badly, and she didn’t want it dragging down her congressional ambitions.
During her 1992 bid for the 1st District seat, Bean told reporters she favored abolishing the minimum wage. When she got major backlash, she claimed she’d misunderstood the question and actually favored … uh … something, but she stopped giving interviews before she could be asked what. She bailed out of a scheduled live radio interview with me because she said I had hit one of her primary opponents with “biased questions.” When I asked her spokesman for an example, he told me she objected to being asked, “Do you think President Bush is doing a good job spurring the economy and creating jobs?”
When I published a column making fun of her evasions and misstatements, she wrote a letter to my editor calling me “an extremely troubled person in child mode.”
As usual, she was only half right.
It wasn’t as if Bean singled me out for criticism. After she lost the election, she said Ted O’Meara, then chairman of the GOP state committee, was “totally out of touch with reality.” She referred to another Republican official as “the unwitting salami in a right-wing political sandwich.” (I have no idea what that means, but I like it.) In 2012, she sent a letter to libertarian-leaning Republicans calling President Obama “HITLERIAN” and claiming “he is closing in VERY FAST to eliminate totally our liberty rights and heritage.”
In 1992, some left-wingers called for a boycott of L.L. Bean because of Linda’s opposition to abortion and gay rights. That move seemed wrong-headed then, and its current revival appears likewise. The correct approach is to treat Bean like any other obnoxious fringe-dweller:
Except she’s way too tempting a target for me to follow my own advice.