Justin Alfond and the hypocrisy of wealth


Maine Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland. (BDN photo by Troy R. Bennett)

The wealth of out-of-touch moneybags Mitt Romney was a major theme in 2012 for Democrats everywhere.

Contrasted with Barack Obama, who grew up in supposed (but not really) poverty and a broken home, the message was clear. Having money, particularly if you were born in wealth, means you have no compassion for or ability to relate to poverty.

Only those who have truly lived the life of a poor person are qualified, or even allowed, to speak about the poor. All others are cold, heartless, greedy sub-humans who can’t even conceptualize the issues that are important.

Unless you’re a Democrat, of course.

The Alfond family is about as close to royalty as Maine gets. Having attended the University of Maine, I could be occasionally excused for thinking that I was actually attending the University of Alfond, what with the name adorned on so much real estate on the campus. The Harold Alfond Foundation, Alfond Arena, and the Harold Alfond Sports Stadium are all things with which anyone in the vicinity of Orono is familiar.

All are named for Harold Alfond, the founder of Dexter Shoe Company. Alfond was a titan of Maine business, and he created one of the most iconic Maine businesses, which helped amass a huge fortune.

As most of us know, Harold’s grandson happens to be Justin Alfond, the president of the Maine Senate. As a scion of the Alfond family, Alfond grew up in wealth and has never been wanting for anything.

Which is what makes his recent shenanigans, and the hypocrisy of him and Democrats everywhere, so interesting.

In response to an announcement that the LePage administration would move Department of Health and Human Services offices away from central Portland and locate them near the jetport, Alfond pulled no punches. Then again, does he ever?

Said Alfond, “This administration has a war on the poor, and this is another prime example of it.”

So here we have a rich, limousine liberal politician who went to boarding school, has no real professional accomplishments of his own, and was bourgeois enough to spend a brief period of time as a professional golfer, lecturing a man who grew up in poverty, left home at 11 years old after suffering domestic abuse, was homeless for two years and escaped welfare, about poverty.

Yet no one bats an eye. Were the parties of these two individuals reversed, the media narrative would be “out-of-touch rich guy trying to score points on the backs of the poor by grandstanding on an issue he knows nothing about.”

The decision by the administration was an attempt to make government more efficient. LePage says that moving to the jetport will save Maine taxpayers over $14 million. The logistical issues relating to the change in location are simple and easy to solve.

To the reasonable person, this makes sense and politics should have nothing to do with it. But, not to Alfond.

Many complain that the congenial tone of Maine politics is disappearing and our ability to work together is gone. Democrats blame this on LePage. But the real culprit is the bomb-throwing Alfond.

His entire political career is built around torching, almost always unfairly, his political opposition for political reasons, eschewing the collaborative work typically done by legislative leaders.

Why do you think we are hearing about a “war on [insert group here]” from him? This is a national political trope that Alfond saw used to great effect to demonize political opponents in the last cycle. So, from a phony “war on women” is created a phony “war on the poor.” The truth doesn’t really matter if Alfond can grab some headlines.

The hilarious thing is that he does this type of thing at the same time that he tries to claim credit for things his opposition did for which he deserves no credit. Earlier this week, Alfond had the audacity to try to claim credit for paying Maine hospital debt, when, as even Democrats know, the push to pay it off came entirely from LePage and the deal only happened because the governor essentially embarrassed Alfond and company into action.

So what am I saying here? Well, to start, personal wealth shouldn’t have anything to do with public policy debates. But it does because the Democrats insisted that it does, so if that is what they want, then their rich guys don’t get to lecture Republicans who grew up in abject poverty about “the poor.”

Beyond that, I’m saying that Alfond and his kind have gotten a pass for being far more mean-spirited and vitriolic than those they attack, and it is about time somebody shined the hot lights on them.

Matthew Gagnon

About Matthew Gagnon

Matthew Gagnon, of Yarmouth, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a free market policy think tank based in Portland. Prior to Maine Heritage, he served as a senior strategist for the Republican Governors Association in Washington, D.C. Originally from Hampden, he has been involved with Maine politics for more than a decade.