Gov. LePage met with, encouraged Sovereign Citizen extremists

Members of the Constitutional Coalition speak at a Tea Party rally (from YouTube)

Members of the Constitutional Coalition speak at a Tea Party rally (from YouTube)

This morning an excerpt from the first chapter of As Maine Went is up at Talking Points Memo. I’m very proud to have my work featured on a site that has been a national trailblazer for online journalism, one of my favorite news sources for more than a decade and a big influence on my own writing.

The excerpt is written in narrative form and runs 4,500 words (and could easily have been much longer). A book chapter, however, doesn’t allow updates after publication, links to sources, or multimedia content. I’ll use this post to provide some of that, as well as a summary of some of the important points from the excerpt. Context is important to the events described, so please take the time to read the whole piece.

There’s another reason why I chose to approach TPM  for this excerpt, beyond their general history of award-winning journalism; their long history of reporting on anti-government extremist groups and in particular the Sovereign Citizens.

Summary

A review of audio recordings of a conspiracy theory radio show, documents obtained from the governor’s office through Freedom of Access requests and interviews with participants indicate that over a period of eight months from January to September, 2013, Governor Paul LePage held at least eight meetings with a group of Sovereign Citizens, recognized by the FBI and Maine state law enforcement as belonging to “a domestic terrorist movement.”

During these meetings, the governor and the sovereigns (calling themselves the “Constitutional Coalition”) discussed a wide range of conspiracy theories, mostly related to their belief that the federal and state governments are illegitimate and that federal officials and the United Nations are preparing for a genocidal attack on Christian Americans.

Coalition members who met with the governor believe that the September 11th attacks, the Boston bombing and most other mass shootings and terrorist events are false flag operations facilitated by government mind control as a prelude to this conflict.

The central topic of conversation for most of the meetings was the sovereigns’ “remonstrances,” documents they said gave them the authority to arrest and execute Maine House Speaker Mark Eves and Senate President Justin Alfond for treason (listen to minute 19 of the recording below for a specific discussion of this).

LePage indulged and supported the sovereign’s beliefs. He allowed them to present a number of conspiracy theories, told them he agreed with their interpretation of state law, promised to publicize their beliefs, discussed with them the arrest and hanging of Eves and Alfond and brought in Sheriff Randall Liberty to pursue their case, among other actions (for complete context of this incident, see the full excerpt).

LePage also publicly endorsed several specific Sovereign Citizen beliefs that they had discussed, including that the federal government was acting like the Nazi state, that wind power is a hoax and that the county sheriff is the highest law enforcement official. He also introduced conspiracy theorist author Michael Coffman at an event at Lake Region High School and sat by as Coffman claimed that local sustainability initiatives were a United Nations plot and that “Barack Obama’s presidency is part of a plan by the Islamic Brotherhood to turn America into an Islamic controlled nation,” according to the Bridgton News.

LePage was aware of the threat posed by the men he met with. They showed him training materials from the Maine Criminal Justice Academy (which they objected to) clearly identifying their movement as a terrorist threat and mandating that law enforcement officers report contact with Sovereign Citizens to the FBI Regional Office and the Regional Organized Crime Information Center. He also discussed with them their ownership of weapons.

At least one of the Sovereign Citizens LePage met with had previously worked with Schaeffer Cox, the founder of the Sovereign Citizen group Alaska Peacemakers Militia, who was sentenced last year to twenty-six years in prison for conspiring to murder federal and state government officials and for stockpiling illegal weapons and explosives.

LePage only stopped meeting with the Sovereign Citizens after I filed a Freedom of Access request regarding the meetings and after his legal staff presented him with a five-page memo disputing some of the sovereigns’ beliefs.

During the time period of the meetings, LePage was refusing to meet with other groups and individuals, including the Democratic leaders whom the sovereigns accused of treason. He wasn’t present for the presentation of his own budget proposal, refused to talk to reporters at certain newspapers and stormed out of a meeting with independent legislators.

Extensive notes that participants say LePage took during the meetings were not made available, despite repeated Freedom of Access requests.

Background

It’s hard to get a real sense of who these people are and where they’re coming from without listening to them in their own words. You probably don’t have the time to sit through the hours of audio I listened to in researching this chapter, but here’s a 20-minute highlight clip of the radio show where they discuss their first meeting with Governor LePage, edited down from 2 hours (warning – contains offensive language):

The full episode and the entire Aroostook Watchmen archives are available here.

More information on the Sovereign Citizen movement can be found at the websites of the FBI and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Here’s a law enforcement training video that provides some background:

Updates

When LePage began meeting with the Constitutional Coalition, Sovereign Citizens already had a long track record of domestic terrorism against government officials and law enforcement. That record has only grown since then. In the last month alone there have been three significant attacks by Sovereign Citizens:

The sovereigns are still attempting to have Eves and Alfond arrested and have placed notices to that effect in Maine newspapers. They are currently holding a series of symposiums across the state to share their interpretation of the state Constitution and are encouraging candidates for the legislature to attend.

As Maine Went: Governor Paul LePage and the Tea Party Takeover of Maine is available for pre-order at Kickstarter.

Mike Tipping

About Mike Tipping

Mike writes about Maine politics and policy with a focus on analysis and explanation. He works at the Maine People's Alliance and Maine People's Resource Center, writes a political column for the Portland Press Herald