George J. Mitchell Oral History Project
 

Interviewee

George J. Mitchell

Interviewer

Andrea L’Hommedieu and Mike Hastings

Date

8-19-2008

ID Number

GMOH 029

Document Type

Interview

Subject Headings

Benoit, Larry, Brennan, Joseph E., Finance Committee, Fundraising, Johnson, David, Judgeship, Legal career, Maine Democratic Party, Maine gubernatorial campaign (1974), Muskie, Edmund S., Press relations, Stern, Marshall, Tax, U.S. Attorney, U.S. Senate appointment (1980), U.S. Senate campaign (1982)

Abstract

Biographical Note
George J. Mitchell was born on August 20, 1933, in Waterville, Maine, to Mary Saad, a factory worker, and George Mitchell, a laborer. Senator Mitchell spent his youth in Waterville. After receiving his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College in 1954, he served as an officer in the U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Corps until 1956. In 1960 he earned a law degree from Georgetown University. Mitchell worked for Senator Edmund S. Muskie as executive assistant and as deputy campaign manager during Muskie's 1972 presidential campaign. He later became U.S. senator (D-Maine) 1980-1995, Senate majority leader 1989-1995, and, upon his retirement from the Senate, special advisor on Northern Ireland 1995-1998. Since 1998, Senator Mitchell has served on many boards and committees and has received high profile appointments including: chairman of the Sharm el-Sheikh International Fact-Finding Committee on the crisis between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (2000); overseer of the Red Cross Liberty Fund (2001); lead investigator into the illegal use of performance enhancing substances in Major League Baseball (2006); and special envoy for Palestinian-Israeli affairs (2009-2011).

Summary
Interview includes discussion of: early legal career; working for the Justice Department; working on Edmund S. Muskie’s Senate staff; Jensen, Baird law firm (1966-1977); divorce case story; assistant county attorney; chairman of the Maine Democratic Party (1965-1968); Democratic National Committeeman from Maine (1968-1977); U.S. attorney for Maine (1977-1979); drug cases and antique case; federal judge (1979-1980); Ed and Marshall Stern; 1968 Muskie vice presidential campaign; 1980 appointment to Senator Muskie’s Senate seat and Joseph Brennan; Larry Benoit; Paul Ziffren fund-raising story; 1974 Maine gubernatorial campaign; Tax Equity Act; Finance Committee appointment story; and relationship with Maine newspapers/press.

Restrictions

This recording and transcription are © 2011 Bowdoin College and are presented for private study, scholarship, or research only. For all other uses, including publication, reproduction, and quotation beyond “fair use” (Title 17, United States Code) permission must be obtained in writing from the George J. Mitchell Dept. of Special Collections & Archives, Bowdoin College Library, 3000 College Station, Brunswick, Maine 04011-8421, USA.

TEXT

Andrea L’Hommedieu: This is an interview for the George J. Mitchell Oral History Project, the date is August 19, 2008, and we are at the Samoset Resort in Rockport, Maine. This is Andrea L’Hommedieu, and I am accompanied by Michael Hastings, and today we’re interviewing former Senator George J. Mitchell. Senator Mitchell, we have in the past through the Muskie project captured some of your childhood background. I don’t want to duplicate a lot of that today, but I would like to catch up to when you started with the law firm Jensen Baird. Could you talk about that first legal experience?

George J. Mitchell: Yes, it’s an interesting story on how I ended up with that law firm. When I graduated from law school in the summer of 1960, I tried to get a job with a law firm in Maine. I wrote more than a dozen letters and sent out resumes. I was only interviewed by two or three firms and I wasn’t offered a job. At the time, not being able to get a job with a law firm in Maine, I explored the possibilities of transferring in the job I was in. That was as an insurance adjustor for the Travelers Insurance Company, a job I’d worked at throughout law school, because I went to law school in the evening and worked full time in the day. But they were not able to accommodate a transfer to Portland because as the manager I talked with said, “Oh, everybody wants to go to Maine.”

So I didn’t have any job prospects when, out of the blue, I received a letter from the Department of Justice offering me a position under something called the Honors Law Graduate Program. I’d done very well in law school, I think I finished third in my class my last year. Unbeknownst to me, the Department of Justice had a program where they offered positions to the top graduates from a number of large law schools. So I accepted that position, but my objective continued to be to return to Maine to practice law.

I joined the Justice Department in September of 1960, and I left in the spring of 1962 to join Senator Muskie’s staff. Senator Muskie’s office, his administrative assistant Don Nicoll, called me on the telephone. I didn’t know who he was; I’d never met Senator Muskie. [He] said that they were looking for a lawyer from Maine to fill a vacancy on Senator Muskie’s staff, and they didn’t know me but they knew my brothers and knew of my family. So they offered me a job, which I accepted. But I told Senator Muskie and Don Nicoll at the time that I really didn’t have any interest in politics, that my objective was to get a job with a law firm back in Maine. Senator Muskie himself had practiced law in Maine; said he understood. He asked me for a commitment to stay through the election of 1964, when he would be seeking reelection, so it amounted to a commitment of about two-and-a-half or three years.

I made the commitment. One week after I joined Senator Muskie’s staff, into his office walked a man named Jim Abrahamson who was, at the time, a professor of economics at Bowdoin College. Abrahamson said to me, “What are you doing here?” I said, “Well I’ve just started work for Senator Muskie.” He’d known me from Bowdoin, when I had been a student. We got talking and in the course of it I told him that my objective was to get a job with a law firm in Maine. He said, “I know a law firm in Maine that’s looking for a lawyer.” That was Jensen and Baird. The lawyer that he knew was a man named Mert Henry who, interestingly enough, had worked in Washington on the staff of Senator Frederick Payne, who Muskie had defeated in the election of 1958. After that defeat Mert went back to Portland and joined the firm of Jensen and Baird. Later it became Jensen, Baird, Henry and Gardner.

So Abrahamson put me in touch with them and one of the partners, a man named Ken Baird, just a wonderful guy, as was Mert and as was Ray Jensen, who I later met, came to Washington to interview me. He said, “We have this vacancy, we’d like to offer you the job.” “But I’ve only been working for Senator Muskie for two weeks,” I said, “and I made a commitment to stay through the election of 1964.” I said, “I’m sorry, as much as I want to do this, I just can’t.” He was, Baird was terrific, he said, “Well, we’ll just keep in touch,” he said, “and from time to time I’ll come down and talk with you and we’ll see how this thing works out.” The offer remained open essentially for three years. After the election of 1964, Senator Muskie [p/o] asked me to stay until the beginning of the next legislative session which was January of 1965.

So in January of 1965 I moved to Portland with my wife, and we had then a daughter who was less than a year old, oh wait a minute. [p/o] No, she was born in May of ‘65 so she was born in Maine, so Sally would have been pregnant at the time with Andrea. So we moved to Maine, bought my first house in Falmouth, and I started practice with the law firm. I think I began in late January, and stayed there for twelve years.

It was a wonderful experience. I was the sixth lawyer in the firm; there were only five lawyers before I joined it, very small. Just as an aside, now I am the chairman of the largest law firm in the world, which has 3,750 lawyers, so it shows what a change has occurred in the world and in my life since then. But it was a small practice, small office, a varied practice, and I learned the ropes of practicing law from Mert Henry, Ray Jensen, Ken Baird, and one of the other lawyers, Bob Donovan from Portland, later become a judge. Later we were joined by a man named Don Gardner and it became Jensen, Baird, Gardner and Henry. I became a partner in the firm a year after I joined them, which would have been early 1966, and I stayed there until 1977 when I was appointed U.S. attorney for Maine.

AL: What were some of the things that they taught you about the practice of law and that you took with you through the years? Were there certain nuances?

GM: I learned how to close a real estate transaction, how to search a title. Lawyers don’t even do that anymore, they have other people do it. I completely by accident ended up doing a number of divorce cases. That’s an interesting story which probably ought to be told.

When I grew up in Waterville, there was and is a prominent legal family, the Levines. The father was a man named Louis Lester Levine, who was a fairly prominent and successful lawyer. He had two sons who were lawyers, Julius and Fred, and his daughter married a lawyer, Morton Brody. One day I got a call from Julius, I—let me back up and say that in the first few years of practice I didn’t do much trial work, but I gradually began to do more and more trial work. In 1970, Joe Brennan was then the district attorney for Cumberland County and he hired me as an assistant county attorney. Under the arrangement that we had, I worked two days a week as an assistant county attorney, and then three days a week in other law firm business. Whatever salary I was paid went to the law firm. I spent most of that time trying cases, so I began to get [more] involved in litigation, the trial of cases.

I got a call one day from Julius Levine who said that he and his wife were being divorced and he wanted me to represent him in the trial, which was about to occur in Waterville. I said to him, “Julius, I’ve done a fair amount of trial work but I’ve never tried a divorce case. You’re really better off with someone who has divorce litigation experience.” “No-no-no,” he said, “I want you to do it.” I said, “Well, I think you better have someone [else] …. ” Severin Beliveau was already representing him, a prominent lawyer, and Bruce Chandler, a very good friend of mine and a terrific lawyer, later a judge, was representing Julius’s wife. So I declined.

A couple of days later I get a call from my mother. My mother was an immigrant from Lebanon, she spoke limited English [p/o], very accented, and she of course knew nothing whatsoever about the law [p/o]. She called me up and she said, “Why are you being so mean to Julius Levine?” And I said, “Ma, what are you talking about?” She said, “A long time ago your father had some problems and Louis Lester Levine helped him, and now Louis Lester’s son wants your help and I want you to help him.” She had no comprehension of the issues, but with her, it was a matter of reciprocal loyalty. What am I going to say to my mother, so I said, “Okay.” So I represented Julius in his trial, and it turned out we spent the days trying the case and in evening [negotiating a settlement], and we ended up settling it, and it was a good settlement from his perspective.

At that time the Maine Bar was small and word of mouth was important, so I started getting calls from people who had divorce problems. I ended up trying a whole bunch of divorce cases [p/o], and it happened really just completely by accident, as I’ve just described with Julius and my mother getting me into that practice. I did a fair amount of other trial work.

So when the time came for me to become the United States attorney, I had at least had some litigation experience, both criminal as the assistant county attorney, and civil in a variety of other [cases].

AL: And also during that time at Jensen, Baird, you were getting involved in Democratic politics at both the state and national level.

GM: I was, yes.

AL: Now, was that, did they allow some flexibility in your time for you to do these different things, or was it something you did on top of your regular work schedule?

GM: A combination of both. I came back to Maine in, as I said, early in 1965 [sic 1966], and it was a short time thereafter that Senator Muskie called and said that there was a vacancy in the position of chairman of the Maine Democratic Party, and he wondered whether I might be interested in seeking that position. I did, and I immediately campaigned, I went around to meet with the representatives from each county on the Maine Democratic State Committee; they choose the chairman. I traveled around the state on my own, met with the county committee members, usually one man and one woman from each county.

Since there was little or no competition, nobody wanted the job, I was elected unanimously that spring, I think it was at the State Convention which would have been held in May. And so [p/o] I served for a couple of years in that position. And then in 1968 I was elected the Democratic National Committeeman from Maine. In a similar structure but at the national level, each state has one man and one woman who is the Democratic National Committeeman and Committeewoman who become part of the Democratic National Committee.

I was elected to that in, I think it would have been the [ ] summer of 1968, so I served as state chairman for a couple of years before that, then I served as National Committeeman from 1968 until, let me think a moment now -

AL: It was quite a few years, I think.

GM: Until I became U.S. attorney.

AL: So ‘77.

GM: ‘Seventy-seven. I would have served nine years as the National Committee man, and one of those years, boy, it’s hard to remember exactly, I think it was 1972; I was a candidate for chairman of the Democratic National Committee. I ran against Bob Strauss, who was elected, and a fellow named Chuck Manatt from California, who lost but at a later time became National Committee chairman.

AL: And your time as U.S. attorney, what experience did you have there?

GM: That was a wonderful experience. I had a small staff, I think five lawyers, two of whom I’m proud to say, who I hired, later became U.S. attorneys themselves. One is Jay McCloskey; he’s from Bangor, and then Paula Silsby, who is from Ellsworth, who is now the U.S. attorney. I hired both Jay and Paula, and they both stayed on as career assistant United States attorneys.

I did a great deal of trial work. I hired a wonderful guy named Jim Brannigan, he worked with Jay and Paula. Jim was not from Maine, but he’s married to a lovely gal, Judy, who was I think from either New Brunswick or Nova Scotia, and they liked Maine, it was close to her family. He had had vast experience, he had been a career Justice Department lawyer and he really knew how to run an office, how to try a case. I learned a lot from him; he was extremely helpful to me. I think they’ve retired now to, back to California where he had worked at one point, although he lived in Maine for a time as well.

During my tenure as U.S. attorney, which extended, that would be from the spring of 1977—Jimmy Carter took office in January of that year, and then it would have taken a few months for the new U.S. attorneys to be appointed, in my case on the recommendation of Senator Muskie—and I served in that position until 1979 when, on Senator Muskie’s recommendation again, I was nominated and confirmed as a federal judge in Maine.

As U.S. attorney, I tried a lot of cases but two categories were notable. The first was drug smuggling. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Coast Guard had engaged in a substantial effort to interdict drug shipments into Florida. And of course those engaged in the criminal enterprise responded by just going elsewhere. Maine offered a very inviting location for them, deep water, sparsely populated, a long, relatively uninhabited coastline. So we started getting a lot of cases of huge shiploads of drugs, marijuana, hashish, other forms of drugs, and so I spent a lot of time prosecuting major drug cases.

I recall very clearly one case was at a place called Robin Hood, which is right, it’s part of Georgetown, just beyond Bath. There were thirty-two people arrested at one time, so we had this massive case with thirty-two defendants. There was another case up near where I am now. I have a home in Seal Harbor now, on Mt. Desert Island, and over on the, one side of the island, I guess you could call it the western side, there’s a place called Seal Cove. There was a huge drug bust there, a very large ocean-going vessel which had sailed from Bombay, India, to Maine with a huge shipment of hashish [p/o]. I don’t remember the size of the crew but it was sizeable. So there were major cases of that category.

The other notable [p/o] number of cases was in the antique business. I discovered as a result of this that there were at the time three major auctions at which antiques were sold on the eastern coast of the United States. One was in Boston, one in Petersburg, Virginia, and one in Tarpon Springs, Florida. It turned out—now this took years to develop so I’m sort of starting at the end—that the fellow who was the owner and operator of the Boston art auction, a very prestigious, elite place, was purchasing a lot of these antiques from gangs of criminals who broke into the homes of wealthy summer residents of Maine, stole their antiques, drove them down to Boston, sold them for a few hundred dollars, to be resold at auction for many thousands of dollars.

They got so brazen about it, they started breaking into antique stores up and down the coast of Maine. There was one antique store in Rockport [or] Camden that was emptied out; they literally backed the truck up to it, emptied it out over a weekend, on a Sunday at night I think, drove it down to Boston, it was [later] sold at auction.

There were two developments that revealed how this was working. One was a woman, whose family had a home in western Maine, a sizeable family home, and they wintered in Virginia. [She] walked into an antique store in Petersburg, Virginia, where the auctions were held, and saw an antique chest that had been in their family home in Maine for many years until it was stolen. She reported it and one thing led to another, and we ended up arresting a guy from Lewiston who had broken in, stolen the chest, [and] transported it to Boston.

What you do in these cases, of course, you get [cooperation from] one person and [p/o] it leads to another. There was this long process, and literally, I’m not sure how many but quite a large number of people, certainly double digits, probably dozens, that we ended up sending to jail for engaging in this kind of criminal activity, including, we ended up indicting and convicting and sending to prison the guy who owned and operated the Boston art auction.

Mike Hastings: I’d like to ask a question. With respect to the drug cases, who were you facing in the courtroom? Was it largely, I mean is it a single company, I mean a single firm, or? I mean in these big cases, like the thirty-two people in Robin Hood, were they represented by one firm or all individuals?

GM: The law was [then] in a state of evolution. Marshall Stern, who was from Bangor, who was one of my closest friends, for example, initially represented all of them at the arraignment, when the charges were brought against them. But under the law, as it evolved, you can’t represent more than one person because their interests might not be identical. So we had lawyers from all over the country representing these people, prominent criminal trial lawyers from Boston, New York, San Diego, quite a large number from Florida. So there were lawyers from all over the country [that] came to represent these people.

In some cases we went to trial; I tried a number of cases myself. The Robin Hood one I tried, and we convicted the young man who was at the heart of the enterprise. In the case of the thirty-two, [they] were not Robin Hood, that was a different case, right along the same area of the coast. I think they all pleaded [guilty] ultimately, we reached plea bargains with their attorneys.

MH: We hear now about, in drug cases, kind of going up the ladder to try to get the kingpins. Was that, you were very early in this (unintelligible).

GM: We didn’t really do much of that. We got all of those involved in the immediate activity, but we didn’t pursue it outside the state of Maine.

AL: I don’t want to get too far away from your mentioning Marshall Stern. I’ve heard the name before, and as you just said, he was a good friend of yours. Can you talk about him a little bit and how you developed your friendship?

GM: Marshall’s father was a man named Ed Stern. Ed was a very successful lawyer in Bangor. He was a Democrat at a time when Penobscot County was pretty Republican, and so Ed became famous because the Democratic Committee in Penobscot, wanting to fill out the slate on a ballot, would come and ask Ed if he would agree to have his name put up to run for virtually every office, and he always agreed and always lost. Ed was a very good friend of Senator Muskie’s, so I met Ed when I went to work for Senator Muskie.

I’ll back up a moment, when I worked for Senator Muskie, one of the things I did, it was a different era then, I mean this is unthinkable now, was when he came to Maine, I would come with him and drive him around and go from place to place. Now of course every senator has a big staff in Maine and a staff in Washington and they have more people doing those things in a more specialized way. In fact I remember when we’d go into rural Maine, we frequently would get one motel room with twin beds, so we stayed in the same room together because there wasn’t much money to go around, and we traveled, it was really quite nice. I got to meet really all of Senator Muskie’s friends. Some of them, I slept in their homes, and Ed Stern was one of them. Senator Muskie knew Ed Stern, he liked him, they were friends, and Ed was a successful, very successful lawyer and he had a great sense of humor. His son Marshall was a lawyer.

So let me get back to Ed. He filled out the ticket all these years, and then in 1964, the year Muskie was running for election when I was working for Muskie, Ed’s name was placed on the ballot for state senator. And that was the year of the Goldwater defeat by Lyndon Johnson, and Senator Muskie won a huge victory over Congressman Cliff McIntire, and [in the landslide] Ed Stern was elected to the state Senate.

There’s a very famous story, it actually appeared in Time magazine, that Ed was in Los Angeles on legal business the day before and after the election, and when he received a telephone call telling him that he won he said, “I demand a recount.” He was so used to, of putting up his name and never expecting to win, he wanted a recount when they told him he won. But he ended up serving in the Senate and he liked it a lot, and he ultimately was appointed as a Superior Court judge. He was a terrific judge, he was very funny, he had a great sense of humor, he was a fanatic Red Sox fan. He was reputed to carry a transistor radio in his pocket. Ed was hard of hearing and he had hearing aids in his ears, and reportedly he would take out the hearing aid and insert the transistor radio earpiece and listen to the Red Sox games during trials. So you had to be careful not to waste any arguments when the Red Sox were at bat. But he was a wonderful, wonderful guy [p/o].

Anyway, Marshall was his son, so I knew Marshall just briefly. But in 1968, [at the] Chicago Democratic National Convention, Senator Muskie was chosen to be the vice presidential candidate. Senator Muskie and Don Nicoll asked me if I would leave my law practice, take a leave of absence [p/o] from Jensen and Baird, and come help with the campaign, and I agreed to do so. The first task they assigned to me was to go to Washington to review all of the resumes of the staff people who already worked for Senator Muskie, to receive all of the [p/o] applications which were flooding in, and to hire the people who would run the staff and in effect create an organization.

So I went back to Washington. I think it was Labor Day weekend, maybe before that, I don’t remember the date of the convention. As I sifted through all of these applications, Senator Muskie told me that he had heard from Ed Stern and that Ed had a son, Marshall, who was a lawyer; he wanted to work on the campaign. Another was Peter Kyros, Jr., who I hired, Harold Pachios—there’s a funny story we can tell with Harold.

Harold had worked in the White House for Lyndon Johnson. When Johnson announced he wasn’t going to run, Harold got a job, a big job, at the Department of Transportation in Washington. That’s where he was when I called him up and said, “You’ve had experience handling advance work for a president, Muskie’s a candidate for vice president and we’d like to hire you.” He said, “Oh, I don’t want to do that, I’ve already done that. And besides, I’m now….” I don’t know, he was a deputy secretary of transportation or something. So I said, “Well, listen Harold, if Humphrey and Muskie lose, you’re out of a job because the Republicans will take over and obviously they’re not going to keep you on.” I said, “If you refuse to come and work for us, if Humphrey and Muskie win you’ll be out of a job,” I said, “because if you won’t help us you’re not going to get this plum job,” I said. “So your chances are better coming with us, to keep that job, than not coming with us.” Harold agreed with the logic, and he came and he was in charge of the advance team for Senator Muskie in the ‘68 election, and he did a terrific job. I mean he was a professional and there was no learning curve, he taught everybody else what to do. And he brought some guys with him who had worked on President Johnson’s staff, so he knew what he was doing.

Well, in the case of Marshall, he had no comparable experience, nor did Peter Kyros, Jr., although both of them were extremely helpful in their own way. The way the campaign broke down, I traveled on the plane with Senator Muskie for most of the time, and Don [Nicoll] ran the office at the campaign headquarters, although it was, it’s not clear cut as that, I mean there were times when we both did a variety of things. Peter Kyros, Jr. and Marshall worked for me on the plane. Marshall did a good bit of advance work, working for Harold, and Peter was in charge of the luggage on the plane. The smartest guy who ever handled luggage in any campaign in history, he was a great, great, great kid, as was Marshall. We became fast friends after that. And in a rather sad ending to the story, when Ed Stern died, Marshall’s mother asked me to do the eulogy at his funeral, which I did. Years later, when I left the Senate, June of 1965 [sic 1995], I remember it like it was yesterday, Marshall was killed in an automobile accident near Bangor, and his widow, Donna, asked me to do the eulogy at his funeral.

AL: Now, you said 1995?

GM: Nineteen ninety-five, yes, when Marshall was killed in an auto accident. With Marshall in the car at the time was his son Jason, just the most wonderful young guy you ever met, handsome, articulate, a great swimmer at Bangor High School and at Dartmouth, and he was then in law school at Georgetown University. But for a variety of reasons which I don’t really know or fully understand, a few years later Jason took his own life and I delivered the eulogy at his funeral. So I delivered the eulogy at three generations of the Stern family. And [p/o] they were all wonderful, wonderful guys. There’s hardly a day goes by [that I don’t think of him], particularly when I’m on Mt. Desert Island in the summer, because Marshall had a home there and he sort of introduced me to Mt. Desert Island and helped me find a place to stay there, and so forth. Yeah, he was a dear friend.

He was a controversial guy, some thought he was flamboyant. But he had a great, a very great and generous heart. He was forever contributing to good causes, and trying to get me involved and calling me to go help this group and go help that group and so forth, much of which wasn’t public, wasn’t publicized.

AL: Mike, would you like to, do you have any questions to jump in with?

MH: I do, I have some questions that, I’d like to focus if I could on the transition from federal judge to senator. And also the two-year period before your 1982 election, and if we have time, I have a few questions about after that. When did you first have an inkling that the Senate seat that Senator Muskie had occupied for so long might be vacated?

GM: I think I read about it in the papers with everyone else. I don’t think I had any prior knowledge of it. I don’t remember the details, but I think Governor Brennan and Senator Muskie made an announcement of some kind and, what I do remember is that it was a very fast process, it didn’t last long. You can look this up, Mike, but I don’t think there was a very long time between the time that Muskie announced and then Governor Brennan appointed me.

MH: Did you have a, once you learned that the senator was going to become secretary of state, did you sense that you were in consideration as his replacement?

GM: Not initially. You will recall Ken Curtis was a former governor, Bill Hathaway was a former senator; they were interested. There were a number of other names that were mentioned, so whatever the length of the process was, which I don’t recall other than that it wasn’t too long, it wasn’t until toward the end of it that I first thought about the possibility of my doing it. And what happened, as best I can recall, is that I got a call from Shep Lee who said to me, “Is this something you’d be interested in?” And I said, “Well gee, Shep, I don’t know, I haven’t thought much about it, but it sounds like something that might be . . .” And I, to this day I don’t know, and I’m not sure Shep will recall, whether or not Joe Brennan had asked him to call me or whether this was on his own initiative, I don’t know what happened. But it was just a couple of days later than Brennan contacted me.

MH: Beyond saying that you, it was an idea you’d entertained, what did you tell these people? I mean, there were obviously people lobbying the governor on your behalf, and on behalf of others.

GM: I don’t think there was anybody lobbying on my behalf, not that I know of, not that I can recall. And I mean, it tells you something about Joe Brennan. Remember now, this was 1980, and in 1974 Joe and I had run against each other in the primary, and I won the primary, then lost in the general election. And there would have been every good reason in the world why Joe would not want to consider me, given that we’d run against each other in the primary for governor. But he never said a thing about that, and he was very gracious. In fact, I don’t know if you heard me say this downstairs earlier, at the speech, but really he said two things to me when he asked me. He said, first, “Senator Muskie has asked me to ask you to give consideration to his staff,” he said, “so I’m conveying a request from Senator Muskie that you give consideration to people in his staff.” And I said, “Surely I’ll do so, every one.” And I ended up keeping I think almost all of them, I don’t think anybody was dismissed in any way with the [ ] transition. People subsequently left on their own, but not because of the transition.

And then the second thing he said to me, which I was very moved by and really have never forgotten, Joe said to me, “I’ll never ask you for anything. The only thing I want you to do is to, every vote you cast, every decision you make, do what your conscience and judgment tell you is best for the people of Maine and the country, and I will never attempt to influence you in any way based upon the fact that I, that I appointed you.” And he never, never ever called me, in all the years I served, when he was governor or later, never once called me and said ‘would you do this’, ‘would you do that.’ For any reason. It was really quite a lesson in what I think of as integrity in politics. So I’ve always been very grateful to Joe for appointing me.

MH: What was, after he asked you, what was that period like for you and your court staff and your family?

GM: Well, it was very difficult. I was, my family was in Portland, my wife and daughter, I was presiding primarily in Bangor. I’m pretty sure, you’ll have to check this, again, that the Democratic State Convention that year was in Bangor, and it was literally right at that time. I think it was the same week of the announcement, and so I think I resigned as a federal judge like on a Friday, and I went to the convention on a Saturday, and then I went to be sworn in on Monday. I don’t remember but, I don’t remember the details. You should reconstruct them, and I’m sure you will -

MH: I will, I will.

GM: Yeah, but I remember -

MH: I wasn’t aware of the convention, you know, I hadn’t thought -

GM: Yeah, I’m pretty sure it was, it happened so fast, it was just incredible, such a dramatic change in my life.

MH: So you were sworn in as you described in the speech downstairs today.

GM: Well, that was an embellished, humorous version of my swearing in. But I’ll tell you, about that much attention was paid to it. It wasn’t a big ceremony of any kind. And the Senate was in session, I mean they were going on, debating bills and so forth. And Senator Byrd was very nice to me.

MH: Students of Senate history have noted that very few appointed senators go on to be elected in their own right. Why were you successful?

GM: I think mostly because I was lucky. I’m aware of that, and I’ll tell you a story about that. I entered the Senate, it would have been in the middle of May in 1980, and the term of Senator Muskie which I completed didn’t end until November of ‘82, so I had nearly two-and-a-half years. That was my first bit of luck. I’m pretty certain that had it been less, much less than that, say a year, year-and-a-half, that I would not have been able to be elected because I wouldn’t have had time to establish myself.

A second bit of luck, there were at the time two Republican members of Congress from Maine, that is to say, there were two members of Congress from Maine, both were Republican; David Emery in the 1st District and Olympia Snowe in the 2nd District. They both announced that they were going to seek the Republican nomination to the Senate. In May of 1981, almost exactly a year from the time I took office, Congressman Emery released a public opinion poll which he had commissioned which showed that he would defeat me by thirty-six percentage points. In response, Congresswoman Snowe commissioned a poll and released it, I’m not sure when but probably a month or two later, which showed that if she were the nominee, she would defeat me by thirty-three percentage points. In response to that, former Democratic Governor Curtis, who had not been appointed to the position by Governor Brennan, announced that he was forming an exploratory committee to run against me in the Democratic primary, and that he had commissioned a poll which showed that he would defeat me in a primary by twenty-two percentage points. So in the space of a few months, I had three highly publicized polls, all of them showing that no matter who I ran against in whatever capacity, I would be trounced. It was a very difficult period.

I recall quite clearly—I’ll ask you Mike to check this and get the dates—but there was a big column in the Sunday Telegram, it was a reporter, John Lovell, was it?

MH: That’s right.

GM: John Lovell, yeah, short guy with a beard, nice guy. He basically wrote this long thing and quoted all kinds of Democrats, some of them by name and some anonymously that I had no chance, and the only hope that the party had was if I stepped aside and someone else ran. So it was really a very, very difficult period, from, I would say from the spring of 1981 until probably the late summer of 1982, it was a very difficult and down period.

Now, I mentioned one bit of luck, that I had two-and-a-half years. A second bit of luck, Congressman Emery made the argument that he had served in Congress longer than Congresswoman Snowe, and that it was his turn. The Republicans in Maine appeared to respond to that, so that Congresswoman Snowe ultimately withdrew from the race. I know Dave Emery and I like him, but I think it’s fair to say, and subsequent history has proven the case, I think Olympia Snowe would have been a much stronger Republican candidate. I think there’s a very good chance that she would have defeated me had she been the Republican nominee. She ultimately did go on, of course, to win the seat after I left. So I think a second bit of luck I had was that she stepped aside, and Dave Emery was the opponent and he proved not to be as strong a candidate as Olympia Snowe.

Then a third bit of luck, Ken Curtis suffered what was described as a mild heart attack or, he had some physical infirmity or ailment that occurred, that caused him to withdraw from any contest with me in the primary. I think I had a [p/o] chance to win that, because when he announced [p/o] I think he hoped, and I know I hoped not, that a large number of Democrats would immediately shift, or announce that they were shifting, and they didn’t. There were some, but not a large number. But [his withdrawal] was extremely helpful. I think had he persisted in the race [he might have won, and] even if I had won, I think I would have been so badly weakened that I couldn’t have won the general election.

Ken and I were very close friends. I was the Democratic state chairman when he was elected governor. I helped draft both of his inaugural addresses as governor. We were and are extremely close friends and I think he’s a great guy, and it would have been a very difficult thing for me to run against him. I think [he had] [p/o] the same feeling; it would have been very difficult for him to run against me because we were such good friends. He ended up not running, so I had a third bit of a break.

And then finally the campaign itself, it just gradually turned in my favor. Congressman Emery made a number of mistakes that kind of helped me, all of which have been documented, which I won’t go through here.

AL: And wasn’t it also, that was the campaign where they went through the state to get updated voter registration?

MH: Andrea’s referring to the voter list project, when David Lemoine, now state treasurer, was sent around with a friend in a vehicle with a photocopier and they went to every town hall in the state and got up-to-date voter lists.

AL: And when they were in Republican towns, they would call Tony Buxton, who would convince the people in the town office that they needed to release that information.

GM: Is that right, yeah, I’d forgotten about that.

MH: Larry talks about this in his -

GM: Larry Benoit, yeah, Larry was just tremendous, Larry worked for me and he ran my campaign, and he is the one who convinced me, I have to say I was not for this, to begin advertising early. I had very little money, I really couldn’t raise much money, given the polls and the prevailing attitude. Larry said, “Well, we got to go on the air early.” So in the fall of ‘81 we did a half hour show on Social Security, and we ran it and ran a few spots after that. Of course that took all our money, then we had to raise more money. I’ll tell you a funny story about fund-raising, too. I don’t think I’ve told this publicly, but it should be recorded.

When Muskie ran for president, the Democratic National Committeeman from California was a guy named Paul Ziffren, I think it’s Z-I-F-F-R-E-N. He’s a terrific guy, and I got to meet him because I worked on Muskie’s campaign. He was a good fund raiser, so when I got into the Senate, I contacted Paul and asked if he would do a fund raiser for me. Well, he said, “Nobody knows who you are.” He basically said it’s impossible to raise any money for you. But I said, yeah, but I’m really desperate and I don’t have any way to raise money, and everybody says you can raise money in California. He said, “Ah, I’m sorry, I can’t do anything for you.”

So I called Senator Muskie, I said, “Look, I’m really desperate, I have very little money; it’s very hard to raise money. Would you call Paul Ziffren and ask him as a favor to you, not to me, as a favor to you, would he do a fund raiser for me?” So Muskie said okay, he called Paul Ziffren and Paul Ziffren agreed to do a fund raiser [for me].

It was in October. I can’t remember, I think it was ‘81 but I’m not sure. I do remember it was the year the Dodgers were in the World Series and I was in Los Angeles (unintelligible). It was agreed that we would do a function. I stayed at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, very nice, lavish hotel. I flew out there on a Saturday, got there Saturday night, and the function was to be, I think it was a brunch on Sunday.

About eleven o’clock in the morning the phone rings, it’s Paul Ziffren on the phone, he said, “I’ll be right up to your room in a minute.” I said, “Well no, Paul, I’m all ready, I’ll come right down.” “No-no,” he said, “I want to talk to you first,” so he came up to my room. He said, “I’m very embarrassed to tell you that I sent out 145 invitations, and I did not get a single acceptance. There’s not going to be a fund raiser because there was not one person I could persuade to come to a fund raiser for you.” He said, “Here’s a check.” He gave me a check for a thousand dollars, [p/o] “That’ll at least pay for your airfare and hotel so this won’t be a loss for you, but,” he said, “one of the reasons that we weren’t able to get anybody is that Senator Henry Jackson, (from the state of Washington) who’s also running for reelection, is having a fund raiser.” And as a consolation, Ziffren had arranged that I could go to Jackson’s fund-raising event and I could introduce Jackson. The theory was that in so doing I would meet people who might subsequently contribute to me.

Now, I did go to the event and it was huge, there was a huge crowd there, Jackson was very nice. That didn’t help me raise any money but it did form the basis of a very good relationship I ended up having with Jackson in the Senate. I’d known him before, and he’d liked me primarily because I wasn’t Muskie. Jackson and Muskie didn’t get along too well; I think it was more turf over their committee jurisdictions. The fact that the senator from Maine was me, as opposed to Muskie, Jackson liked and we got along.

[p/o] I don’t remember when it was that he died suddenly of a heart attack, but he treated me extremely well, very courteously, and it was thoughtful of him to let me come. But that’s an example of the kind of difficulty I had raising money. I went to California and I literally didn’t raise a cent. I mean I got enough to pay for the air fare out and the hotel bill, that was about it. So it was a very, very tough period.

But Larry was absolutely right. We started out in the fall, it was a, I think it was a half hour show, I remember I was living in South Portland at the time and we taped it in my living room, we had a group of people come in, had a discussion that formed the ad. We then scraped up enough money to run a few spots, I think it was, in January or February, and each cycle of it built on the other and we ended up being able to run a reasonable campaign. Meanwhile, David was making some mistakes that hurt his campaign [ ]. I’ll never forget being elated when I saw a poll that showed me only twenty points behind. Ordinarily you’d think that’s not too good, but in my case it was great.

I also remember another incident which should be recorded for history. Within the [p/o] Senate, every Tuesday noon the Democrat senators meet in what they call a caucus lunch, and the Republican senators meet in a counterpart meeting in a separate room. And in those meetings, which later, for six years as majority leader I presided over, they discussed the legislative agenda, substance of bills, and the politics of the situation.

And I’ll never forget, in, some point in 1982, in a discussion of how the campaign was going, Pat Moynihan, senator from New York, who became, we become very friendly, got up and gave a little pep talk and said, “You know, we’re really doing well, we’re ahead in this race and,” he said, “I saw a poll that shows that even George Mitchell has a chance to win.” He says, “It may be remote.”

MH: October, 1981, your notes from the phone call.

GM: Oh, these are my notes? What is -

MH: That was when the phone call came in from the pollster after the half an hour TV show.

GM: Oh, really?

MH: Yeah, and you gave me a copy of it. And I took it home to my wife to show her that I hadn’t completely jumped off the bridge for joining your staff.

GM: Now what was this? This is the first poll with Snowe? No, what is this, Snowe (unintelligible), 63-32.

AL: Yeah, that’s what that is.

GM: Oh yeah, yeah, okay, so I’d gained four points since July. Oh, that’s pretty good.

MH: Fortunately, I dated it on the second page.

GM: You did?

MH: (Unintelligible), and I found it, I was going through my files and found that. Thought you’d, might like it. Let me ask you a question, Senator -

GM: Oh, this is interesting. I don’t remember this, Mike. I certainly recognize my handwriting, but I don’t remember this. So this showed that after that show I had closed the gap

MH: Considerably.

GM: Considerably.

MH: And that was vindication for that half hour. As I recall, you were still kind of dubious about it. It was a lot of money. You didn’t have much money and it was a lot of money to do a half an hour show. You mentioned earlier in this interview that your first run for state-wide office, the governor’s race, what, you lost it to independent Jim Longley by, I think your previous interviews have said in the last two weeks. What did you learn from that race, as you planned your ‘82 campaign?

GM: Well, several things. The most important one was that you really have to respond to statements and allegations that aren’t accurate. I will never forget, I don’t know if I’ve ever said this publicly, or whether Jim Erwin has ever said this publicly, but the three candidates in 1974 were myself for the Democrats, Jim Erwin, who was the attorney general, Republican candidate, and Jim Longley, the Independent. And it was clear that Longley was a charismatic, eloquent person who was a serious contender. It was not at all clear until the very end that he had a reasonable chance to win. And he made a lot of statements that should have been challenged, and could have been challenged, but nobody wanted to take it on.

And I recall with absolute clarity, as though this happened yesterday, the three of us were doing a debate or a discussion on Channel 7 in Bangor, not a widely watched channel at the time, although it broadcast east toward Washington County -

MH: It was very new at that time.

GM: - and southern Aroostook County, yeah. Longley was in the middle, and I was on the left and Erwin was on the right. Longley, for example, had advocated a program of consolidating the University of Maine, which would have resulted in the closing of branches in Aroostook County, but of course that was never mentioned in Aroostook County. Well, in any current campaign why, that would be all over the place. But we never did it because we didn’t want to appear to be responding to the guy who didn’t have a chance, and when you got a three-way race, if two people get into a hassle the only beneficiary is the third.

So Jim Erwin wrote a note and he passed it to me, right behind Longley, and I took the note and it said, (Longley was talking about Aroostook County) Jim Erwin said, “How long are you going to let this guy get away with this?” And I wrote him back a note, [ ] something to the effect, “I think you’re the perfect guy to respond to this.” The result was neither of us responded, and of course in the end Erwin’s campaign collapsed, support for him collapsed when the Republicans collectively reached the decision he didn’t have a chance to win so they were going to support the other conservative candidate. And Longley got, I don’t remember the figures, but he got less than forty percent, I think about thirty-eight or thirty-nine percent, I got two or three points less, and Jim Erwin got somewhere in the low twenties.

So the lesson to me was, whatever the circumstances, when statements are made that are just obviously wrong, you’ve got to respond to them. I mean you do it in a civil, decent, dignified way, but just to let things be said without any kind of response. So there was literally no response of any kind to Longley, by either Erwin’s campaign or mine. And both of us thought that it was going to hurt the other more, and he ended up (unintelligible). That was by far the most important lesson in the campaign.

The other lesson to me, if you go back and look at the press at the time, the characterization of me was that I was too bookish, too professorial, too issue-oriented and not emotional and personal enough. I never really agreed with that, but that was the perception. [p/o] When I ran for governor we put out almost every day a press statement that related to an issue. I didn’t do that as much in ‘82, and I concentrated on, I limited the number of issues that we tried to deal with. That was the other lesson. That is, there are hundreds of issues, but you just can’t tackle them all in a campaign, you got to pick priorities so people identify you with a particular issue. That was part of the purpose of the Social Security show that we did.

MH: I was going to say, what were the issues in the ‘82 campaign?

GM: Social Security was a huge issue, huge issue at the time. I remember, I can’t remember whether it was before ‘82 or after ‘82, I think it may have been later, after I’d been elected, when they had a commission [p/o] on the issue. I held thirty-three town meetings all over Maine explaining what had happened. It was an educational process, because it was not well understood. I understood it very well at the time and [many] people here didn’t, but it also helped me enormously politically because it attracted very large crowds. That didn’t occur in the campaign, that was later, but in the campaign that was a big issue and I identified with it and [ ] [learned] from the, the lack of establishing priorities among issues in the ‘74 campaign.

MH: Did Reagan’s success in 1980 significantly change your campaign strategy? You were appointed in May of 1980, and then in November -

GM: May, Jimmy Carter was president.

MH: November, so I guess my question really is, what was your campaign strategy, and did the success of Reagan to get to the White House change it any?

GM: Not significantly. There were a few issues that arose in the campaign with Emery, but on taxes they were counterintuitive. What happened was that, in Reagan’s first year we passed a tax program which I voted for. That caused a sharp increase in the budget deficit. Now, there were good reasons to vote for it, there were reasons to vote against it. I personally have always believed that the maximum marginal personal tax rate of seventy percent really was too high and that it should be brought down.

I’ll get to this in a later interview, but when Clinton came in we had a big argument, I’ll never forget it, in the Oval Office about what he should propose as a tax rate. Some of the Democratic senators wanted it above forty, and I wanted it below forty. I said it really ought to be in the thirties. That’s for another day. So I felt that reducing the maximal marginal rate down from seventy, where it had been, to a lower figure made sense. But there were arguments both ways, [and the tax cuts contributed to] an increase in the deficit. So come ‘82, the Senate Finance Committee, led by Republicans, Bob Dole was the chairman, proposed what was the biggest tax increase in history at the time. It was called the Tax Equity Act.

Now, you got to get deep into the weeds to understand this. Reagan was a brilliant guy politically, and one of the reasons for that is he had very clear views on things and he was not affected, he had a capacity to disregard facts that were inconsistent with his views. He always said he’d never raise taxes, but he signed this bill in ‘82, which at the time was the biggest tax increase [in history up to that time]. But it didn’t have a personal income tax increase. In President Reagan’s mind, if you go back and read his statements, the word taxes and personal income taxes are interchangeable. He did not regard increases in other forms of taxes as tax increases. In his mind when he said, “I never signed a tax increase,” what he meant was he never signed a personal income tax rate increase, although he signed many [other] tax increases. And one was in this so-called Tax Equity Act of ‘82. Which I voted against, and Emery voted for.

It was the biggest tax increase [to that] time, and I thought there was a lot in the bill that was, you know Mike, you’ve been in the Senate, you know how they name these bills, and [p/o] [often] the bill does the opposite of what the name says. The Fairness Act of ‘83 [p/o] [could] produce an unfair result to someone. They usually make up the names to offset what’s really happening in the bill. I thought the Tax Equity Act was not a good [bill, not equitable].

Well, Emery made a big deal out of that, that I had voted against this tax equity bill, because even Tip O’Neill had voted for it. So I ran an ad that said, “I don’t take orders from Tip O’Neill or anybody else; I take orders from the people of Maine.” I think it kind of helped me, actually. But that’s the background of the tax thing, it’s convoluted, it’s difficult, you got to get into the details to understand what was happening.

We had a few other issues. Dave made one big mistake, and that was on this veterans’ issue. [p/o] I’ve always felt bad for him about that. He sent out a mailing to all the veterans in Maine which said that he had an eighty percent favorable rating from the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and I had a zero percent [rating]. When I saw that in the papers, I said, “That can’t be,” I said, “it just can’t be.” First, I’m a veteran, he’s not. I’m on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, he’s not. I know I’m breaking my neck to do all these things for veterans, because I believe it’s the right thing to do. How can it be that I could be rated zero and he could be rated eighty percent?

Well of course we investigated and what we found out was that the Veterans of Foreign Wars is the one veterans’ organization that puts out these vote rating tables. The way they calculate it, which is common among these groups that make up these voting tables, is that they pick a certain number of votes, in this case ten votes, over the two-year period of a Congress. [Each time] you vote for them, you get ten points. So that if you voted for them on all ten, you get a hundred percent, if you voted for them on nine, you get ninety percent. A “no” vote, or an absence, counts as a zero. In my case, I had zero. But they had a footnote at the end of the booklet which pointed out that I was not in the Senate at the time these ten votes occurred. I wasn’t in the Senate yet. So I got a zero not because I voted against them, but because I didn’t vote.

Well, that’s obviously so manifestly unfair, you know, how could they do this, it creates such a misleading impression. So I put out a press release, I made a statement, and I think the Bangor Daily News, then a very strong Republican paper, maybe the Press Herald, one or two papers, ran editorials saying basically this really isn’t fair. We took the editorials and we made them into ads and [the] thing grew…. Now Dave said his staff did it, he didn’t know about it, and he’s probably right; I think he’s probably too smart to have done something like that. But then I said that he should send out a correction, a mailing to the same people who got it, and he agreed to do it but he never did it. So that enabled me to keep raising [the issue], when are you going to send out the correction, and sort of kept the issue alive. Interestingly enough, they waited until the very end of the campaign. They sent out another letter which was not a correction, it was another attack. But by then it had no effect, the tide [had] kind of shifted slowly on a number of issues.

I think even before the campaign had started, he had insisted on six debates, and I agreed. [p/o] They went pretty well for me. [p/o] So gradually it turned around. I was lucky, too, for all the reasons I previously gave, [especially] the economy was down that year. Voters tend to identify the state of the economy with the party of the president. It hurt Republicans generally, and helped Democrats generally, so he got hurt by factors over which he had no control, and I was helped by factors over which I had no control. So all in all I’d say I was pretty lucky.

MH: Going back to fund-raising, you have Larry Benoit working with your finance committee in Maine, David Johnson is working in Washington to raise funds, when it comes to fund-raising, candidates are often held to a higher standard than the law then in place requires. Was that the case during your first Senate campaign and, can you speak a little bit to the candidate’s role in fund-raising and what it was like in that first campaign?

GM: I can speak to the former. I can’t remember the details of that campaign as opposed to other campaigns, but the candidates were really central. You have to appear at a lot of events, you have to call people up. I always found it somewhat humbling and demeaning to have to go through the process, [I] never particularly cared for it. But it’s something you have to do, and if you can’t do it, then I think it probably makes it very difficult to succeed politically. I think it’s gotten progressively worse in our system. Costs are so much higher, the demands are so much higher, it’s very difficult to devise a system that fairly deals with the issues. So, I don’t even remember, Mike, how much we raised in that first campaign.

MH: I don’t have that figure here.

GM: It would be very small by current standards, I guarantee you that, it wouldn’t be very much. That’s the only tough time I ever had, because by the time I ran again I was, I had just been elected majority leader. And in fact in ‘88, I set a cap in advance on how much [I would] raise. I think I’m the only candidate who did that, where I said once I raise two million dollars I’m going to stop, and I did stop at two million dollars. Didn’t take me long in ’88. But I don’t, I’m guessing, Mike, and this is just a guess, Larry would know much better, that we probably raised around a million dollars in ‘82.

MH: I’ll try to get that figure, yeah.

GM: But it was hard going. And what happens is, life being what it is, most of that was raised at the end, when it looked like I had a chance. When you need it most, when you’re way behind, it’s darn near impossible. We really went from one cycle of ads to the other, just raising enough, scraping what we could together, put it all in television, in the hopes and the expectation that that would close the gap a little bit, we could then go out and raise more and get on, and that’s what happened. So we had, in the jargon of the trade they call them flights, we had several flights of ads beginning, I believe you’ll have this, it was either in October or November, twelve or thirteen months before the election. Then I think the next flight would have been like in January and continuing on from there. But each one took everything we had at the time. The risk was, of course, that we wouldn’t be able to close the gap and each flight would be the last one. Didn’t work out that way, went right through the fall.

MH: Senator, I have two final questions to ask about the 1982 campaign, and I’ll state them both and then you can respond to them. First I’d like you to talk about your appointed incumbency. Was it a burden, an advantage, or both? Question one. Question two is, can you talk a little bit about your relations with the press early on, the press, individual reporters, newspapers perhaps in Maine, dailies, weeklies, and then the people who reported from Washington.

GM: Well, being appointed and an incumbent was both a help and a hindrance. Having been appointed was a hindrance, being an incumbent was a help. The appointed part sort of was like having an asterisk after your name in the record books, and I was constantly referred to as the appointed senator. And while it was probably subconscious, both on my part and the part of other senators, I was acutely aware of it and I felt that other senators were as well; that they treated me differently. I hadn’t been elected, I hadn’t earned my way there, and so I could see why that would be so in their minds. Of course they didn’t know me, didn’t know much about me, and you pick up the paper and see that some guy is thirty-six percentage points behind, you don’t plan on wasting a lot of time talking to him or helping him out.

On the other hand, incumbency helped me a little bit in terms of fund-raising. What little money we could scrape together came about because of contacts I made. I went to other senators’ fund raisers, like the Henry Jackson one, in the hopes of making contacts. So I would say, on balance, it was both helpful and harmful.

I’ll tell you one story which was helpful; I don’t think I’ve ever said this publicly. David Johnson is as responsible as Larry Benoit for my staying in the Senate. They didn’t have anything to do with my getting there but they’re responsible for my staying. They’re really both just terrific guys who have done so much for me, there’s no way that I could ever repay the debt of gratitude I had to them. David was working for me when we got these polls showing that I would be trounced by either Johnson [sic Emery] or Snowe, so he set out to devise a strategy for how are we going to win? One of the things he said was that, “You’ve got to try to get on the Finance Committee; you’ve got to get onto a committee of importance.” I had inherited Senator Muskie’s committee assignments [p/o]. Environmental and Public Works and Banking were the two principal ones, and the Veterans’ Committee, which in the Senate’s terms is a ‘B’ committee, which is in a different category.

David convinced me that I should try to get on the Senate Finance Committee after the election of 1980. The Democratic senators had a steering committee, and they decided, a group of senators would decide the committee assignments. I later, as majority leader, appointed the people to the steering committee and played a big role in committee assignments, but at first I was nothing, I was literally at the bottom of the barrel with an asterisk by my name. And getting on the Senate Finance Committee was and is a very difficult thing.

But I’ll never forget, the senator before me went in and said, he recited the list of elections that he had won, and he’d never been defeated, not just in the Senate [race] but in his political career. Then they had a break and I was to be next, and during the course of the break a couple senators said to me, “You don’t have a chance.” I said, “Really, why?” They said, “Well look, this other senator’s in there,” and he ticked off [his election victories]. “This guy has a future,” he said, “you don’t have much of a future.” He said, “You don’t have a chance.”

So it hit me then. I started out the meeting by saying, “I have never won an election,” I said. “Of all of the senators who have appeared before you asking for help, I’m the one most in need of help,” I said. “And so if, in your deliberations, you factor in trying to assist people who are trying to work their way up,” I said, “I ought to be assigned to the Finance Committee.” And then of course I said, “I don’t want it done just on the basis of my needing help, I feel I’m qualified for the position,” and then I recited the qualifications. [Matt Severson?] was sitting there, said, “That was a pretty good, pretty good argument that you made.” So I always thank my lucky stars that I happened to be in line behind a guy who’d never lost an election, that there happened to be a break, that while we were waiting, you know, people having a cup of coffee, going for bathroom breaks and so forth, milling around waiting for the meeting to resume, a couple guys told me what had happened and it just struck me at the time, that’s really what I ought to say, and that’s exactly the way. I remember the words exactly. I began by saying, “I have never won an election. Of all those who appeared before you, I am the most in need of help, of your help.” And so they did. I got on the Finance Committee, and that in turn helped me a lot. It helped in fund-raising, it helped in a lot of areas, it helped in establishing a status. I liked the work on the Finance Committee and I think I did a good job and got involved quickly in issues. I had terrific staff people working for me. So being in that position, Mike, was a help and a hindrance; probably more of a hindrance, but nonetheless there were benefits for it too.

MH: Press.

GM: Well, the press, you know, I had been with Senator Muskie for a long time. At the time, the Bangor Daily News was an extremely conservative newspaper and quite ideological, and he felt unfairly so. So his [ ] political orientation was confrontational with the Bangor paper. It was unfair to him, he felt, in ways that were just wrong, [so] that the only way to deal with it was to go around and denounce [it] and try to undermine its influence on people.

That started to change during the time that I was in the Senate, so I never took that attitude. I took the view that, I think every newspaper in Maine when I entered the Senate was Republican, but I also felt that they were open to argument, open to persuasion. [ ] In my first eight years in the Senate, until I became majority leader, I came back to Maine almost every single weekend. I worked hard every weekend. On recesses, particularly in the early years, I never took a day off, I spent all my time going around the state. I went to every paper over and over again, I made myself available for questioning, I answered every question a reporter ever had, or editorial board, and I think that ultimately helped me in the election campaign with Emery. I think that the people involved in the business came to get to know me better, they appreciated the attention I paid to them. But also that they had a chance to observe and participate in my thought process, how I justified the actions that I took. We’ll get into the individual reporters at the next meeting.

MH: Thank you very much.

AL: Thank you.

GM: Thank you, that’s great. That’s terrific; you brought back a lot of memories, Mike.

End of Interview

 
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Interview with George Mitchell (1) by Andrea L’Hommedieu and Mike Hastings

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