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Politics

Eliot Cutler hires top defense lawyer after state police search his homes

Eliot Cutler, Angus King
Joel Page
/
AP
Independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler, right, is joined by US Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, left, as he speaks Monday, Aug. 18, 2014 in Portland, Maine after King endorsed Cutler for Maine governor. (AP Photo/Joel Page)

AUGUSTA, Maine — A top Maine defense lawyer is representing two-time gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler after state police searched his Portland and Brooklin homes as part of a two-month investigation about which they have released few details so far.

The Wednesday searches have become a major water cooler topic in Maine political circles. Cutler, a 75-year-old lawyer and Bangor native, fell just short of beating Republican Paul LePage in the 2010 gubernatorial election. Friends and foes have been surprised by the searches, though neither Cutler nor anyone linked to him has been charged with a crime.

Maine State Police executed search warrants on Cutler’s homes at 84 Pine St. in Portland and 523 Naskeag Point Road in Brooklin, spokesperson Shannon Moss confirmed. The searches were completed on Wednesday. Police have not disclosed the subject of the probe or what they are investigating.

Cutler was at his Brooklin home overlooking Blue Hill Bay on Thursday morning. After a Bangor Daily News reporter knocked on his door, he answered it but declined comment when asked about the searches. Then he waved and closed the door. He has not responded to calls and a text message since News Center Maine broke the news of the searches on Wednesday.

Augusta-based criminal defense lawyer Walter McKee confirmed he was representing Cutler on Thursday, but he did not answer questions about whether his client knew whether he was the subject of the probe or what the allegations linked to the searches are.

“I am representing Eliot Cutler,” he said. “I have no comment beyond that.”

It is rare in Maine for police to hit the home of such a notable public figure. After getting his start in politics as an aide to Sen. Edmund S. Muskie in the 1960s and 1970s, Cutler was a top adviser to President Jimmy Carter. While he is best known in Maine for his political forays, he made his name and money in law and business.

After his time in public service, he started one of the biggest environmental law firms in the country. It later merged with the international firm Akin Gump, for which Cutler went to work in China in 2006 representing clients there who wanted to enter outside markets. He returned to politics ahead of the 2010 election to make good on a boyhood dream to be governor.

His work in China became a key issue during that campaign in which the independent overtook Democratic nominee Libby Mitchell during a year marked by the rise of the conservative tea party movement. Cutler’s campaign surged late but he lost to LePage by just 2 percentage points. Advisers thought he was days short of becoming governor.

But Cutler’s 2014 campaign was another story. After exploring a run as a Democrat and trying to convince eventual Democratic nominee Mike Michaud to not run against LePage, his campaign bottomed out en route to getting only 8 percent for also-ran status in the three-way race.

BDN writers Jessica Piper, David Marino Jr. and Bill Trotter contributed to this report.

This story appears through a partnership with the Bangor Daily News.