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Robert A.G. Monks

Big Talk: Interview With Robert A. G. Monks

This week on Big Talk, Suzanne Murphy spoke with Robert A.G. Monks, a corporate responsibility expert and crusader.

Monks has also served as head of the Maine Republican party and ran for Senate as a Republican three times, the last in 1996. More recently, he has endorsed Democrats and independents, including President Obama in 2008.

Monks speaks about his own personal history and his work to improve corporate governance, which he says began with his concern about paper company pollution damaging the Penobscot River.

"I think I should have been much more respectful," Monks says in passing about his 1972 primary race against Margaret Chase Smith.

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Maine GOP Hits Monks Hard

The Maine GOP sent out a release today disowning former State Republican Party Chair and three-time Republican US Senate candidate Robert A.G. Monks.

Chairman Mark Ellis and House Minority Leader Josh Tardy rightly point out that Monks has given more money to Independents and Democrats than Republicans lately, but that's not the main focus of the release. The main claim they make is that Republicans want nothing to do with him because of his campaign tactics.

"If Bob Monks is the kind of player the Obama campaign wants to associate with, they can have him," said Maine Republican party Chair Mark Ellis. "Monks has a long career of attacking Republicans, even Maine’s beloved U.S. Senator Margaret Chase Smith. Monks’ kind of tactics and games are not something with which the Republican Party wishes to associate. Republicans haven’t considered Bob Monks a Republican in years." [...]

In 1972, Robert A.G. Monks ran in the primary for U.S. Senate against incumbent Republican Senator Margaret Chase Smith. In December of 1971, just before he officially announced his candidacy, Monks had 74 roses delivered to Sen. Smith on the Senate floor on her birthday – pointing out her age as an encouragement for her to retire. It was an inappropriate and tactless message from an immature and politically inexperienced Monks to send to a highly respected woman and U.S. Senator who had served Maine well for decades. Monks [sic] tactics did not go over well with Maine people.

Those tactics did go over well with Maine Republicans, however. They chose him as their nominee for US Senate in 1976 and leader of their party in 1977.

Even more than two decades later, in another Senate race in which the GOP now lambastes his questionable political tactics, Monks had rock-solid support from the Republican party (and this was after he had supported Independent Angus King in 1994). In fact, party leaders even starred in an ad for him. Here's the script:

Announcer: "Why do we need Bob Monks in the U.S. Senate?"

State Senate President Jeff Butland: "Let's face it, things in Washington are a mess."

House GOP Leader Walt Whitcomb: "Bob Monks has taken on the establishment and won in Washington."

Georgia Chomas of Auburn: "Bob Monks is a leader."

State Sen. Peter Mills of Skowhegan: "Bob Monks is incapable of becoming merely one of the crowd."

Clare Payne of Holden: "He's met a payroll, he's provided jobs."

Charles Webster, former Senate GOP leader: "I like the fact he's run a business."

Butland: "Bob Monks will go down there . . . he will say no to the special interests . . . get the deficit in line."

Harvey Berman of Cape Elizabeth: "I think he'd make a great senator."

Mills: "He's another Bill Cohen."

Announcer: "Bob Monks for U.S. Senate."

Mills: "He'll be a marvelous leader for Maine."

The accusation that he now often supports Democrats is right on the money, but the claim that the GOP has always abhorred his campaign tactics is laughable.

Hat tip: Politicker ME

Maine Obamacans

Obama's Maine campaign is holding an event in Portland tomorrow to announce the creation of "Maine Republicans for Obama," which will be co-chaired by former State Representative Sherry Huber and former state GOP chair Robert A.G. Monks.

Huber served in the Maine House from 1976-1982 and came in second in the Republican gubernatorial primary in 1982. She ran again as an independent in 1986 and received 15% of the vote. She has been a leading environmental advocate in Maine.

Monks is a huge figure in the history of the Maine Republican Party, and it was his money and organizational help that put Bill Cohen in Congress and helped build the political careers of Olympia Snowe and Jock McKernan.

Monks ran for Senate three times himself, losing to Margaret Chase Smith in the 1972 primary, to Ed Muskie in the 1976 general election, and to Susan Collins in the primary in 1996. He also chaired the Republican party from 1977-1978.

Monks is also a lawyer, author and a leading spokesperson for corporate governance and responsibility. He is the subject of the 1998 book A Traitor to His Class: Robert A.G. Monks and the Battle to Change Corporate America .

Monks held a fundraiser with Obama at his Cape Elizabeth home last September, and his son, Robert C.S. Monks, was Obama's Maine campaign manager during the primaries.

Monks is one of the featured Republican endorsers on Obama's website, where he is quoted as saying:

When I have asked Barack Obama a question, I have the distinct feeling that there is a person, an intellect, a sensitivity who is responding. This is rare in politics and unique in the presidential politics of 2008.

Monks is also a blogger, but hasn't posted much.