WASHINGTON -- Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) said that 47 percent of "able-bodied" Maine residents do not work, according to a recording of his remarks obtained by Bangor Daily News blogger Mike Tipping.
Tipping, who is also the communications director of the Maine People's Alliance, provided The Huffington Post with a more complete recording of LePage's remarks. "About 47 percent of able-bodied people in the state of Maine don’t work," LePage said in front of an audience of conservative women last week. "About 47 percent. It’s really bad."
"One in three are collecting welfare," he went on. "Highest in the country."
Listen to the full audio below:
LePage's figures are far off. In fact, Maine's Labor Force Participation rate was measured at 65.3 percent in August 2013, above the national average of 63.2 percent. The figure measures the number of working-age people who are either employed or searching for work. In March 2013, 15,729 families in the state were receiving TANF benefits, according to the Department of Health and Human Services -- far lower than one in three of Maine's estimated 551,601 households. (Based on those figures, it comes out to about one in 35.)
Susan Dench, the founder and president of the Informed Women's Network, the group to which LePage was speaking, discussed the audio in a post on the group's website. She called the secretive recording "pathetic" and those who captured it "hapless little girls." Dench is also the author of a personal responsibility book.
When asked to confirm or deny that it was in fact LePage on the recording, the governor's office supplied the following statement to HuffPost:
"The governor understands that not everyone who is dependent on taxpayer dollars is 'able-bodied,' but he does believe that everyone, regardless of their ability or physical condition, can contribute to society in a meaningful way," spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said. "Liberal activists are determined to increase the number of residents who take tax dollars by expanding the size of government and the benefits government workers get and increasing the welfare rolls."
Bennett pointed to a report by a conservative think tank on the state's social safety net. The report touts a video by conservative activist James O'Keefe, and claims that the state's "rich benefits package encourages dependence."
The governor's remarks echo Mitt Romney's infamous comments made during a closed-door fundraiser, in which the then-presidential nominee said that 47 percent of Americans are "dependent upon government" and therefore would vote for President Barack Obama.
LePage's comments reverberated through Maine's gubernatorial race, where LePage is running for reelection in 2014. Independent candidate Eliot Cutler called his comments "plain wrong," and Democratic candidate Rep. Mike Michaud said that Maine workers are the "hardest working in the world"