The Portland Phoenix

Politics & Other Mistakes: An offer you can’t refuse

Want to fix the evil entity known as Central Maine Power Co.?

Unfortunately, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court has made sure that can’t be done by referendum. Gov. Janet Mills still seems to be sucking up to the state’s largest electric utility. The Legislature lacks the votes to pass a law replacing CMP with a public power authority. And we probably don’t have the up-front cash needed to accomplish that, anyway.

But there’s another approach that’s guaranteed to improve the way that company does business.

Let the mob take it over.

Before you reject that idea as the fevered delusion of a COVID-19-infected brain, consider these advantages of inviting organized crime to run the utility that keeps the lights on at your house (sometimes).

First, notice the word “organized.” The syndicate is nothing if not efficient. No one has ever said that about CMP.

Second, mobsters are effective. Unlike CMP, they don’t forget to send out bills for months on end. When made guys are owed money, they collect. Or else.

Third, letting actual criminals do stuff like send illegal disconnect notices to customers in the middle of winter won’t be any different from the current system. It’ll just be more in character.

Fourth, we won’t have to endure the utility’s constant attempts to deflect criticism for inaccurate bills and spotty service by posting wimpy stuff on the company website like, “Everything we do is centered around serving our customers. We continue to take concrete steps to deliver outstanding, safe and reliable service throughout Maine, every day.”

The new boss of bosses will convey a message that’s not only more honest but also far more compelling.

“You wanna play rough?” Tony Montana of “Scarface” fame will explain to dissatisfied consumers. “OK. Say hello to my little friend.”

CMP customers who have long opposed having so-called smart meters installed in their homes will find gangsters surprisingly amenable to their concerns. They won’t have to submit to having artificial intelligence monitoring their electrical usage. Instead, a couple of knuckle draggers with suspicious bulges under their coats will show up at their houses each month and politely tell them how much they owe.

Because, as Al Capone put it in “The Untouchables,” “You can get much further with a kind word and a gun than you can with just a kind word.”

As for the plan to ruin the western Maine wilderness by running a transmission line through it to supply Canadian hydropower to Massachusetts, it would be unlikely to proceed. Representatives of Hydro Quebec, CMP’s partner in that venture, would run screaming across the border once they met the new capo in charge of international relations. In his opening line in the renegotiations, Mr. Blonde from “Reservoir Dogs” would ask them, “Are you gonna bark all day, little doggy, or are you gonna bite?”

Another advantage of turning the utility over to crime lords: local ownership. CMP is a subsidiary of Avangrid (which would be a good name for a bad deodorant), an entity that in turn is controlled by a Spanish company called Iberdrola (a name that’s in contention for the next pandemic). The racket boys have no such foreign influence. They’re strictly American with strictly American principles, such as this one from Dr. Melfi of “The Sopranos”:

“Sometimes, it’s important to give people the illusion of being in control.”

Of course, there’ll always be moralists bemoaning granting concessions to underworld types, claiming that turning a blind eye to mob misdeeds in return for more reliable power is ethically insupportable. Sorta like the NCAA. Or the postmaster general. Or Congress. None of which produce anything as useful as electricity.

As a result of its necessary nature, the newly reconstituted CMP would be well positioned to survive all attempts to interfere with its essential function of making as much money as possible.

As Lefty put it in “Donnie Brasco,” “A wise guy’s always right. Even when he’s wrong, he’s right.”

In “Snatch,” Bullet Tooth Tony says, “You should never underestimate the predictability of stupidity.” Nevertheless, you can email me at

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