Constitutional Coalition member doubles down on Gov. LePage’s “hanging” remark

Jack McCarthy - speaking at a 2014 Tea Party rally in Augusta

Jack McCarthy speaking at an April 12, 2014 Tea Party rally in Augusta

On Friday, for the first time since his meetings with Governor Paul LePage became public knowledge two weeks ago, Constitutional Coalition member Jack McCarthy returned to the airwaves as host of the Aroostook Watchmen radio show on WXME.

During the hour-long program, McCarthy spent fifteen minutes discussing a particular exchange that has garnered significant attention and that he says occurred during the Coalition’s First meeting with LePage in February of last year.  McCarthy reiterated his description of a conversation where he says the subject of hanging was brought up as punishment for the treason that the Coalition members believe Maine House Speaker Mark Eves and Senate President Justin Alfond have committed against.

“My statement was: ‘To the best of my knowledge, the penalty for treason hasn’t changed in 150 years.’ To the best of my knowledge, the governor said ‘They’re talking about hanging.’ The conversation ended right there,” said McCarthy on Thursday’s show.

McCarthy defended the exchange by insisting that they were simply talking about hanging as a legal punishment for a crime, to be administered after a guilty verdict from a court, and that it didn’t represent a plot to kill Eves and Alfond outside of the judicial system.

“Our entire emphasis and focus in all of these efforts that we have been working on in our little loose coalition have been to get our information into the grand jury; to process and go through a system which could render a verdict of guilty or not guilty,” said McCarthy. “If I was going to threaten somebody, it certainly wouldn’t be on the radio and it certainly wouldn’t be an idle threat.”

McCarthy seems to believe that a clouding of this distinction is the reason people are upset about the conversation. His argument is apparently that the trying and hanging political opponents for treason is a reasonable topic of conversation for a meeting with the governor, provided it’s only discussed in the context of (a unique, “sovereign citizen” interpretation of) state and federal law. (They believe, for instance, that the presiding officers must be tried in a “common-law court,” rather than a normal courtroom, which they say operates under “admiralty law.”)

I would submit that it’s the fact that Governor LePage discussed treason charges and hanging with the group at all, regardless of the supposed legal context, that’s disturbing.

I would also note that, despite these recent reassurances, members of the Constitutional Coalition have, previously, often discussed the possibility of using extra-legal violence if their demands aren’t met.

During their January, 2013 press conference at the State House (which prompted LePage to set up his first meeting with the group), Coalition member Wayne Leach made reference to armed conflict during the American Revolution and declared that “hopefully this remonstrance, which uses words, will be sufficient. The weapons, I hope, will not be used.”

In an agenda for a teleconference with the governor sent to his office on May 28, 2013 by Phil Merletti, Coalition members state that if they are unable to advance their agenda with the governor and the sheriff, “we will be left with the 1776 or the 1865 option.”

“What possible alternative do the People now have, other than to take up arms (before they are confiscated), as did the Founders against the world’s most powerful nation at the time???” they write later in the same document.

“Thank you Phil, I will get this in front of the Governor first thing tomorrow morning,” LePage’s scheduler, Micki Mullen, wrote in reply.

These references, while troubling, are actually less heated than the rhetoric used regularly on the Aroostook Watchmen radio show, where McCarthy and others affiliated with the Constitutional Coalition routinely discuss the coming war or holocaust that they believe will be waged by the American government against its own people. They often discuss a time when they will have to take up arms against representatives of what they believe to be a tyrannical regime.

As Maine Went: Governor Paul LePage and the Tea Party Takeover of Maine can be pre-ordered through Kickstarter and will be available in bookstores later this week.

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