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While we await a response from Sen. Collins on her campaign staff’s insulting “fem-blog” blunder with their own blogger error, we need to clear the air on a point of particular confusion.

Despite Mr. Dutson’s online presence as campaign foot-in-mouth flack, the public mouthpiece for the campaign to date has been Collins’ own Senate office Chief of Staff, Steve Abbott. As Jane pointed out yesterday evening, we had erroneously credited him as the campaign spokesperson because he has popped up so frequently in that capacity in press reports and releases. But he doesn’t have an “official” role with the campaign.

Sen. Collins is already facing questions about her current Senate run — because she had promised, her first term and her second term, that she would serve “two terms, and then come home.” A promise that she reiterated to constituents repeatedly through the years…until, that is, she decided to run for re-election for a third term this year to keep her comfy Senate seat.

Now, Collins faces additional issues: whether she is really the moderate she poses as in public — or the staunch conservative her voting record and endorsement of Iraq war cheerleader John McCain’s presidential bid show her to be on a whole host of issues.

And now this about Abbott: what job is his primary one? And is the public dime paying for his “campaign volunteer spokesperson” expenses? And how much work is he really doing for the public while contemplating his own run for office? Maybe it’s just my old-fashioned, West Virginia values talking — but if the public is paying your salary, then I think you owe them a full day’s work. And the big question is: are voters in Maine actually getting one?

Are all these trips back home to Maine and phone calls and FAXes to the press paid for by Abbott directly? By the Collins’ campaign? By her Senate office — which would be an ethics violation, if I’m reading Senate regs correctly (PDF — see rule 34)? Are they done on the public’s time — because campaign issues don’t just crop up at convenient after-hours moments, now do they? And doesn’t the public have a right to know all of this?

Seems to me that Sen. Collins has been taking lessons from Karl Rove and the Bush Administration on mixing the public’s business with political operations geared toward marshalling all available resources for her re-election campaign. Sounds a bit too close to the USAttys mess for comfort, to me.

Here Abbott is, for example, in an April, 2007 quote with Hotline, touting her close working relationship with Joe Lieberman as a “model of bi-partisanship.” Yes, because Lieberman is the model of a modern “bi-partisan”, self-serving, Bush-war-policy loving neocon, now isn’t he? And as for her “moderate” protestation, as the General points out ably here, her voting record on judicial appointments is akin to Thad Cochran and Trent Lott, not exactly the “moderate” record there either.

But, back to Mr. Abbott. Here he is again, this time having written an open letter on behalf of the Collins’ campaign to the press all over Maine. He is, again, speaking as a campaign spokesperson while simultaneously working on the public’s behalf (and the public’s dime? one wonders who is footing the bill for his tireless campaign work…), as her Senate chief of staff.

Mr. Abbott is quite the busy little bee, isn’t he? But, on whose behalf is he working: Sen. Collins’ constituents — the citizens of Maine? Sen. Collins re-election hopes, despite her promises to the contrary that she wouldn’t be running for a third term at all? Or his own political aspirations? Inquiring minds and all that…