Two Maine elected officials have been found on the membership rolls of the violent anti-government group the Oath Keepers, whose leader is now on trial for sedition for leading the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Benjamin Hartwell Press Herald file photo

Benjamin Hartwell, a town councilor in Gorham, and Wayne Erkkinen, a commissioner in Piscataquis County, were listed as members of the group, according to an analysis by the Anti-Defamation League Center On Extremism, which this week published a national examination of Oath Keeper members who also are elected officials, in the military, in law enforcement or first-responders.

The ADL analyzed a trove of leaked data to count current or one-time members who also are public servants. The anti-hate organization released Hartwell’s and Erkkinen’s names at the request of the Portland Press Herald, but declined to name the one Maine police officer and the Maine first-responders – private citizens who work for the government – to prevent them from being targeted for harassment, an ADL spokesman said.

The membership rolls of 38,000 names were contained in a five-gigabyte cache of emails, chat logs and other data that was leaked to the public by a nonprofit transparency group, Distributed Denial of Secrets. Nationwide, the ADL identified more than 370 members of law enforcement, more than 100 military members and more than 80 elected officials.

The Oath Keepers’ founder, Stewart Rhodes, a military veteran, Yale law school graduate and disbarred attorney, was indicted in January for seditious conspiracy against the United States for his alleged role in organizing and planning the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. A total of 17 members of the Oath Keepers face federal charges for their alleged roles in the insurrection. Rhodes’ trial is scheduled to begin in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 27.

In addition to Hartwell, Erkkinen and the police officer, two non-police first-responders were found among the 215 Mainers who were at one time paying members of the group, according to the ADL’s analysis. The ADL declined to identify what towns or agencies employ the three government employees they would not name.


“We cannot provide the names of individual law enforcement officers or military personnel as this report is not meant to ‘unmask’ or ‘dox’ rank-and-file personnel,” said Jake Hyman, the ADL spokesman. “ADL has been in contact with each law enforcement agency affected by our report and we continue to work with them in addressing the challenges of extremism within their ranks.”

Erkinnen did not respond to a phone message requesting an interview left at his home in Greenville Junction.

Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers, center, speaks during a rally outside the White House in Washington, June 25, 2017. AP Photo/Susan Walsh

On the surface, the Oath Keepers were formed around a commitment to uphold the tenets of the U.S. Constitution and the oath sworn by every member of the military and law enforcement.

But since its founding, the group has followed the line of anti-government groups that believe federal authorities are engaged in a conspiracy to impose martial law nationwide, take away citizens’ weapons, herd opponents into concentration camps and impose a socialistic “new world order,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks and studies violent extremist groups.

Hartwell, a town councilor since 2013 who practices law in Portland, said he cannot recall how he heard about Oath Keepers. He said he joined in 2014 or 2015 but that he never met with any members or attended any events and that nothing came of his involvement.

“From what I recall, the organization was built around people who had sworn an oath to defend the Constitution, to remember that oath, and never break that oath,” Hartwell wrote in an email responding to questions.


Hartwell said he had to search his email inbox to find information about his past membership.

“I found a short email exchange from someone in the organization after I joined, and he made a point of saying that the organization wanted nothing to do with so-called unorganized militia members, and they had to cancel an event because one of those folks was trying to ‘take over’ the Maine Oath Keepers group.”

He said he had googled the group and recognized its involvement on Jan. 6, and suspects the group took a “sharp turn” somewhere along the way.

“I guess I didn’t renew because nothing really maintained my interest after joining,” Hartwell wrote.

This report contains material from The Associated Press.

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