Cheers to our corporations

While it probably won’t have a catchy name, Mainers will remember the October storm for years to come. With more power outages and likely a higher total cost than the infamous Ice Storm, it would be hard to forget.

So thank goodness for corporations.

Wait, what?

Directing hate towards “corporations” is a cause celebre in parts of the public political discourse. They are deemed responsible for everything from environmental damage, money in politics, and the high cost of health care. Ergo, they are soulless, lifeless, and evil.

Except when they are putting the power back on.

Crews work on power lines Monday in Bangor. A storm caused wide-spread damage to the power grid leaving hundreds of thousands of people without electricity. Gabor Degre | BDN

Central Maine Power and Emera Maine are, yes, corporations. But you’ll find Facebook feeds filled with praise for their efforts as they work to restore electrical service to people across the state. And those who are coming into Maine — from New Brunswick, Quebec, and the Midwest — to restore our lines? Many of them are dreaded “corporations” as well; some small, some large, yet all here to help.

That is the reality of the situation. While it is easier to heckle “corporations” as big, bad boogeymen, they are simply groups of people coming together to achieve common goals. And like people, they come in all shapes, sizes, and moral alignments.

Some of these corporations are established to sell goods and services to earn a profit. All those subcontracted line crews from away? Many are corporations offering skills and equipment in exchange for compensation in a competitive market. For a contracted rate, be it hourly or by job, they take on some measure of risk to get the work done.

CMP and Emera? They are selling for a profit as well, but operate in a unique environment. As regulated utility providers, Maine law grants them a certain guaranteed profit margin to be paid by electricity customers. The perk of that structure means that the power is definitely coming back on; they make money regardless.

Hospitals are corporations, too. They are built to help people by providing health care (for a price often paid by third parties), technically non-profit but requiring revenue in excess of their expenses to live to serve another day. You will find them in our state’s largest health systems, like MaineHealth and Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems, or as small rural organizations like Down East Community Hospital.

Other corporations are established to focus on political activity. Maine Equal Justice Partners is a corporation according to the secretary of state. That enables them to act in a single name, instead of as a group of individuals, in pursuit of their political beliefs.

All together, the picture is mottled. Some of the family businesses incorporated as line crews are lauded universally. Every politician wants to support the mom-and-pop company, with family members sharing a truck and going to work together. CMP and Emera get a lot of praise, but take knocks for operating via a government-granted monopoly.

Hospitals are a mixed-bag as well. They provide healthcare to the sick and infirm, a critical service in any society. However, they get attacked by the left when they oppose foolhardy “tax the rich” 3 percent income tax surcharges and by the right when they ask for increased government spending in the form of Medicaid expansion.

And political organizations? The only thing everyone seems to agree on is that “the other side” is wrong, however defined. We can watch the Maine Heritage Policy Center lob white papers across the net, to be met by the Maine Center for Economic Policy responding “nuh-uh!” Meanwhile, Maine Equal Justice Partners bought a Facebook ad claiming Down East Community Hospital is running in the red and needs a “yes” vote on Question 2 to stay afloat.

The only problem? Down East says that isn’t true, and they don’t appreciate political groups “falsely using” their identity; they call it “both misleading and unethical.”

That’s the reality. “Corporations” are as different and varied as people, because they are nothing but a legal name given to groups of people acting together. So laud corporations for doing great work, curse the ones who act poorly, and acknowledge that our differences exist because we are all individuals with differing ideas, beliefs, philosophies, and motives.

And for those working to restore power to our state? Thank you. Regardless whether CMP or Emera’s customer is an individual, a family, or a corporation, we’re all in this together.

Michael Cianchette

About Michael Cianchette

Michael Cianchette was the chief counsel to Gov. Paul LePage from 2012-2013 and deputy counsel from 2011-2012. A Navy reservist, he was deployed to Afghanistan from 2013-2014 as a trainer and adviser to the Afghan National Police. He is an alumnus of the Leadership Maine program and holds a BA in economics and political science from Boston College along with a JD and an MBA from Suffolk University. He works as in-house counsel and financial manager for a number of affiliated companies in southern Maine.