The response to the publication of an excerpt from the first chapter of my book, “As Maine Went: Governor Paul LePage and the Tea Party Takeover of Maine,” on Monday has been intense and fascinating.
The chapter details a series of at least eight meetings Gov. LePage held with members of a group called the Constitutional Coalition who identify themselves as “sovereign citizens,” a loose network of conspiracy theorists recognized as one of “the nation’s top domestic terror threats” by the FBI and Maine law enforcement.
On their radio show, “The Aroostook Watchmen,” members of the group often claim that the government is illegitimate and has used mind control to perpetrate false-flag terrorist attacks and mass shootings. They discuss a coming “holocaust against Christians” to be committed by the American government and the United Nations.
In written correspondence with the governor’s office and in later accounts of the meetings, coalition members claimed that House Speaker Mark Eves and Senate President Justin Alfond, both Democrats, should be arrested and tried for treason, a capital crime. LePage took steps – including asking Kennebec County Sheriff Randall Liberty to help pursue their case – that encouraged their actions and validated their conspiracies.
There is voluminous evidence, including audio recordings of the participants discussing the meetings and documents obtained from the governor’s office by Freedom of Access request, that prove the timing and contents of these meetings, which is what makes it so surprising that Gov. LePage and his defenders have attempted to respond to the controversy with easily disprovable falsehoods.
First, while admitting to meeting with the Constitutional Coalition multiple times, LePage claimed that the subject of “execution” never came up.
This is at odds with what “The Aroostook Watchmen” said on the radio, two days after their first meeting with the governor. On the show, Constitutional Coalition member Jack McCarthy describes exactly how the subject first arose, while discussing their treason charges:
“And I didn’t say it, but the governor said it,” McCarthy said. “I never opened my mouth and said the word. The governor looked at us and looked at his buddy and said, ‘They’re talking about hanging them.’ I said, ‘Praise the Lord, let’s hang a few. We’ll be done with this crap.’ ”
‘THE 1776 OR THE 1865 OPTIONS’
The documents back this up. A number of letters sent to LePage about the sovereigns’ supposed case are titled “TREASON!” One document, an agenda for an April teleconference, has their claims against the Democrats as “Subject for discussion #1” and says that if they aren’t able to make headway, “we will be left with the 1776 or the 1865 options.” 1865 is the year President Lincoln was assassinated.
The governor’s office and the Maine Republican Party have also claimed that the men who met with the governor were not “sovereign citizens.” This, however, is not how the men represented themselves in their meetings with the governor.
“That document says that all four of us are domestic terrorists,” McCarthy recalls telling the governor on that same broadcast, referring to a training manual on the “sovereign citizen” movement from the Maine Criminal Justice Academy.
“If I am asked if I am a sovereign Citizen; by definition of all the protections of the Constitution (and by this training manual), I answer proudly yes!” wrote Phil Merletti in a later statement sent to the governor’s office, referencing the same law enforcement document.
Finally, LePage has claimed that he just meets with anyone who asks (apparently as often and for as long as they want). False.
For just three examples, he has refused to meet with Democratic leaders and stormed out of a meeting with independent legislators – and it took months of requests and eventually a 50-person protest outside of the Blaine House for LePage to finally agree to meet in 2011 with then-Rep. Andy O’Brien, D-Lincolnville, on the issue of jobless benefits.
DISPLAY OF POOR JUDGMENT
No one is saying that LePage actually planned to have Eves and Alfond arrested and tried, but he showed incredibly poor judgment in sitting with these men and discussing their desires to do so on so many occasions.
He should have known better than to encourage people who believe these kinds of violent conspiracy theories, especially as the same ideology they espouse has led other “sovereign citizens” to attack and kill law enforcement agents and government officials on numerous occasions.
He may have thought he was simply flattering and indulging a fringe element of his political base (the Constitutional Coalition members often talk about how they helped to get him elected), but his actions crossed way over the line. He should show some public contrition and offer a personal apology to Eves and Alfond.
Mike Tipping is a political junkie who works for the Maine People’s Alliance. He can be contacted at: