By Ramona du Houx
On June 2, 2016 The Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) called on Governor Paul LePage to stop spending Maine taxpayer money on his smear campaign against NRCM, which has featured an incendiary “Wanted” poster displayed at a Town Hall meeting in March, weekly attacks by the governor on NRCM in speeches and radio interviews, and most recently an unprecedented harassment letter sent May 27, 2016 from the governor to NRCM members.
“Governor LePage is the most anti-environment governor in Maine history. He’s angry because his attacks on Maine’s waters, air, forests, and wildlife have been broadly rejected through bipartisan votes at the State House,” said NRCM Executive Director Lisa Pohlmann. “The steps he’s taking to lash out at a nonprofit organization like NRCM, because we disagree with his misguided agenda, are unprecedented and must stop. The governor should not be using Maine taxpayers’ money for his vendetta against NRCM.”
Today NRCM is sending a Freedom of Access letter to the Governor’s Chief Counsel requesting copies of all documents in possession of the Office of the Governor that mention NRCM. The letter includes a request for all information about involvement of the governor’s staff and the use of taxpayer funds for research into NRCM’s membership, tracking down addresses of NRCM members, and producing and mailing a letter to NRCM members.
“Gov. Paul LePage’s egregious use of taxpayer dollars to send harassing letters to supporters of NRCM is both unethical and unprofessional,” said Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett. “The governor may disagree with the policies promoted by NRCM, but that does not give him license to use his government staff and taxpayer-funded office supplies to harass its donors. I call upon Gov. LePage to apologize to NRCM and to personally compensate the state for the government resources expended on this outrageous effort.”
“Last week the governor’s office was scouring the Internet for the addresses of NRCM members so he could send them a harassment letter, but next week he could be sending similar letters to members of any organization that disagrees with his policies. Where does this stop? This tactic harkens back to something that Joseph McCarthy would have done in the 1950s, not a governor of the state of Maine in 2016” said Pohlmann. “In his war against NRCM, the governor is wasting the taxes of hard-working Mainers, including NRCM members, to attack the state’s leading organization that works to protect Maine’s environment and promote a sustainable economy. That is unacceptable behavior."
Over the past two months, the governor has mentioned NRCM by name at least 40 times in more than a dozen speeches, interviews, and Town Hall meetings—more frequently than he has mentioned any other organization in Maine.
“Since elected in 2010, the governor has tried to weaken the laws and safeguards that protect Maine’s lakes, waterways, forests, and wildlife. Maine people don’t support his anti-environment agenda, and a bipartisan majority of Maine lawmakers has consistently voted it down,” said Pohlmann. “The governor is wrong and Maine people are right: a healthy environment is the very foundation for our economy.”
“Maine’s environment and economy go hand-in-hand. Over the past 50 years, Maine people, nonprofit groups, businesses, communities, and state lawmakers have worked carefully to create safeguards for Maine’s air, clean water, forests, and wildlife that contribute billions of dollars annually to the Maine economy.”
“The governor may believe we need to wreck Maine’s environment to create jobs, but he is wrong. NRCM will continue to fight against the governor’s radical anti-environment agenda, confident that we represent the overwhelming view of Maine people who love the nature of Maine."
Citizens and other organizations quickly got behind the NRCM.
“Governor LePage’s letter is part of an all-too-familiar pattern of irresponsible, abusive behavior. Whether his target is NRCM or Speaker of the House Mark Eves, he is once again misusing the power of his office, in this case using taxpayer dollars, to wage a baseless campaign against his political opponents," said Glen Brand of the Sierra Club Maine .
"The content of his NRCM letter is full of falsehoods and attacks against Mainers’ strong environmental ethic and our common-sense understanding that Maine’s economy depends upon protecting our conservation heritage and maintaining a safe and clean environment.Governor LePage is reminding us once again why he has become a state and national embarrassment."
The Letter from Gov. LePage to the NRCM's director, Lisa Pohlmann