Maine's Gov. Paul LePage directly targeted donors to the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) with harassing letters (pdf) that accused the conservation group of advancing "job-crushing, anti-business policies," the organization announced at a press conference on Thursday.
It is unclear how LePage acquired the organization's list of donors and donors' contact information.
"This seems like something Sen. Joseph McCarthy would have done in the 1950s, not a governor of Maine in 2016," NRCM director Lisa Pohlmann said in a press statement.
The group has filed a Freedom of Access request (pdf) with the governor's office to release all documents that mention NRCM.
"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?" Pohlmann continued.
"The governor is attacking Maine's environment, pure and simple."
—Lisa Pohlmann, NRCMLocal radio station MPBN reported that "Adrienne Bennett, the governor's press secretary, told reporters that the governor was merely trying to educate NRCM donors about the organization's 'job-killing' agenda. Bennett said the letters were not political, but about policies that the governor believes the group has effectively blocked."
The letters take LePage's taxpayer-funded "smear campaign" against the green group to new heights, the group says.
Indeed, NRCM documented no less than 14 attacks on the group from the governor in only the last two months.
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One such attack saw the governor describe NRCM an "enemy" of the state of Maine. At the governor's recent town meeting in Bath, Maine, "the photo of an NRCM lobbyist was depicted on a wanted poster," MPBN reported.
At issue is the conservation group's support for a proposed new national park in Maine. While a recent analysis found that the creation of such a park would create jobs and grow the local economy, and most residents support the park, LePage has railed against it.
LePage was also angered by the group when he sought to weaken environmental regulations to allow metal mining in the largely rural Aroostook County, and NRCM supported keeping such laws that preserve the region's pristine wildlife habitat from industrial disturbance.
For Mainers, LePage's latest travails are somewhat unsurprising: the right-wing, conspiracy theorist governor has topped the watchdog group Citizens for Ethics' list of the nation's worst governors for two years running. He's made headlines previously for opposing life-saving medicine that reverses the effects of heroin overdoses, threatening to close all public schools if the legislature didn't approve the governor's cuts to public health services, and for a racist rant that blamed out-of-state drug dealers "named D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty" who "impregnate a young, white girl before they leave" Maine, for the state's current opiate crisis.
"We have clearly gotten under the governor's skin," Pohlmann said. "He seems fixated on denying everything that has gone wrong on his watch as governor and deflecting blame away from himself. He appears to relish creating enemies and attacking those who disagree with him—and now NRCM is his target. This is no way to govern."
"But don't mistake the real message here," Pohlmann went on:
The governor is attacking Maine's environment, pure and simple. 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. The governor is wrong and Maine people are right: a healthy environment is the very foundation for our economy.
"The governor may believe we need to wreck Maine's environment to create jobs, but he is wrong," Pohlmann said. "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."