Politics & Other Mistakes: No others need apply

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Now that the election is over, and Democrats are firmly in control of everything in Augusta, they can get back to doing what they do best:

Giving jobs to political hacks.

Al DiamonOn Nov. 14, Democratic state Senate President Troy Jackson announced that he was nominating Matthew Dunlap to become the state auditor. If that name seems familiar, it might be because Dunlap used to be not only an unqualified state auditor, but also a marginal secretary of state, a short-term executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and an undistinguished legislator. In other words, the consummate insider.

Dunlap got the auditor’s job in 2020 on the strength of his credentials as a loyal Democrat and not much else.

The post, which is supposed to go to somebody with actual auditing experience, gets filled every four years by the majority party in the Legislature. Dunlap admitted he was “utterly unqualified,” but he was term-limited out of his cushy job as secretary of state and needed a gig. So, the Dems appointed him in spite of his shortcomings, exercising a loophole in the law that allows new auditors up to nine months to get licensed.

Nine months later, Dunlap still wasn’t certified, having failed part of the test, so he was forced to resign. He grumbled that he should have been given more time. He sulked about a Bangor Daily News editorial saying he should never have gotten the job in the first place. But high-grade grumbling and sulking don’t make up for low-grade auditing. Dunlap was replaced by Jacob Norton, a career auditor in the department with minimal political chops.

That should have been the humiliating end of Dunlap’s long run of political hackery. But he resurfaced earlier this year, announcing in an op-ed that he’d finally passed the auditor’s test and telling the Maine Wire, a conservative website, he’d be a candidate to reclaim his old post in 2024.

“The upshot of it is, it’s been an incredible journey,” Dunlap said. “It’s been painful at times, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world because I’ve actually learned a lot about the trade. I’ve learned a lot about myself and I’ve learned a lot about the people around me and it’s all been very valuable.”

So valuable, in fact, that Dunlap didn’t have to wait until the job came open in 2024. Earlier this month, the auditor who replaced Dunlap suddenly vanished like a Kremlin insider who crossed Vladimir Putin. Jackson, the Senate president, tried to put a less brutal spin on the abrupt exit.

“Though I was disappointed to learn that Jacob Norton had chosen to step back from this position,” Jackson said in a statement, “I am incredibly grateful to his service and am sympathetic to concerns over the volatile nature of any elected or appointed position.”

Translation: Sorry we had to push you out to make room for the hack.

Apparently, this nasty transition had been in the works for a while. Dunlap, after his ignominious ouster, was having a hard time finding a job, because inexperienced auditors aren’t in high demand anywhere outside of state government. But pulling off this kind of unconventional job switch just before an election would have made everyone involved appear to be a Democratic Party stooge – which is more or less true.

But once voters restored the Dems to power, there was nothing to stand in the way of Dunlap’s triumphant return to sucking off the public teat at a rate of a bit more than $100,000 per year. Not bad for a guy whose experience reconciling balances is thinner than Elon Musk’s management skills.

“I’ve given this appointment a lot of thought,” Jackson told the Portland Press Herald, which reads better than admitting this was a plot that’s been months in the making.

This incident should serve as a warning that positions such as the auditor ought to be removed from the political process and filled only by qualified candidates. There are plenty of other jobs for the likes of Matthew Dunlap, such as clearing tables and washing dishes.

If you want a cushy state job, you’d best stay away from anybody whose email is [email protected].



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