POLITICS
05/23/2014 04:43 pm ET Updated May 23, 2014

Paul LePage Suspends Payments To Welfare Reform Consultant For Plagiarism

ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON -- Republican Maine Gov. Paul LePage has suspended payments to a state consultant that was caught plagiarizing from a progressive think tank.

The Bangor Daily News reported Wednesday that The Alexander Group, which was hired by LePage to evaluate Maine's public assistance programs, had lifted the work of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and used it in its report to the governor. At least two pages of text were copied and passed off as the work of The Alexander Group.

“I am gravely concerned about these accusations and we will get to the bottom of it," LePage said in a statement Friday. "Upon learning of this information today, we have taken immediate action and suspended all payments to the Alexander Group. We will continue to look into these accusations and will take further action, including termination of the contract, if warranted."

The Portland Press Herald also noted Friday that a plagiarism expert found "lifted information from as many as five other sources either without attribution or improper citation of the original source."

Gary Alexander, founder of the group, said his organization had conducted an internal investigation this week and attributed the problem to one employee, who has been disciplined.

“We are disappointed in our own efforts,” he told the paper. “We have high standards and, in this particular case, we failed.”

LePage awarded the group a no-bid contract worth $925,000 in November for this work. The contract has been controversial from the beginning, with Democrats in the state legislature trying to cancel it.

The group has already received $500,000, despite missing several deadlines.

According to the Bangor Daily News, The Alexander Group's findings have generally "praised the efforts of LePage’s administration in working to reduce fraud, waste and abuse in the state’s welfare system, and it presented many of the same recommendations that the Republican governor and his allies put forward in the form of bills during the recently concluded legislative session."

What makes this plagiarism scandal especially ironic is that Alexander, considered a stalwart conservative, is accused of taking work from a progressive think tank that has criticized his own ideas on Medicaid.

Alexander previously served as Rhode Island and Pennsylvania's welfare chief. As the Portland Press Herald reported in November, "Alexander left Pennsylvania in February after becoming a lightning rod over proposals that cut public assistance programs in the course of an aggressive anti-fraud initiative."

Alexander's Medicaid cuts resulted in 130,000 people, including 89,000 children, losing health care coverage.

While in Pennsylvania, he also came under fire for his dress code that appeared to mandate that women wear skirts or dresses.

LePage is up for reelection in November, and both of his opponents have jumped on the scandal.

Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine) said it was nothing more "than a political document meant to further Gov. LePage’s re-election." Independent Eliot Cutler called it "a joke and waste of taxpayer money."

This story has been updated to include more information on Alexander's background.

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