In letters sent to the council’s donors last week, the governor accused the organization of supporting ‘job-crushing, anti-business policies.’
By Kevin Miller, Staff Writer
Portland Press Herald news story
AUGUSTA — Maine’s largest environmental organization is accusing Gov. Paul LePage of waging a “smear campaign” and harassing donors by sending letters to supporters outlining what he claims are the group’s job-killing activities.
The Natural Resources Council of Maine on Thursday released a copy of letters that LePage sent to an unknown number of NRCM donors accusing the organization of “job-crushing, anti-business policies.” The letters, which follow weeks of LePage statements highly critical of the organization, conclude by saying that “your financial support of NRCM is costing rural Mainers good jobs and keeping them mired in poverty.”
NRCM officials fired back on Wednesday.
“It appears the governor has taken the unprecedented step of directing public employees to hunt down the names and addresses of NRCM members so that he can send harassment letters to their homes,” said Lisa Pohlmann, NRCM’s executive director. “This has got to stop. The governor should not be using Maine taxpayer money for his vendetta against NRCM.”
LePage staff said the letters were intended to give NRCM members the facts about an organization that has been heavily involved in legislative fights over mining, timber harvesting, environmental regulation, renewable energy and land conservation.
“It’s unfortunate that NRCM believes it is harassment when the governor is simply trying to inform Mainers about what an organization is doing,” said LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett. “NRCM spends millions of dollars trying to push the bills they want forward and trying to oppose the bills they don’t want daylight to see.”
LePage has lashed out at NRCM repeatedly in recent months during his speeches and weekly town hall-style forums, even displaying the name and picture of one prominent NRCM lobbyist and staffer on a “WANTED” poster at forums.
In April, he labeled the environmental group one of the “two of the biggest enemies of the state of Maine,” alongside the progressive activist group the Maine People’s Alliance.
“And not only are they the enemies, they intimidate,” LePage told several thousand attendees of the Maine State Republican Convention. “They will do and say anything, they lie through their teeth and they scare Republicans in election years because they gang up on people.”
LePage has hinted several times that he would take action against NRCM. And during a town hall in Millinocket on Wednesday evening, he bashed the organization for opposing a controversial bill last year that sought to change state environmental regulations to allow mining under Bald Mountain in Aroostook County.
During his Millinocket talk, the governor said he had received NRCM’s mailing list and once again portrayed the organization as beholden to out-of-state interests or wealthy southern Mainers.
“I got their mailing list, by the way, and most of the people who contribute come from around the country,” he told a friendly crowd of roughly 70 people in Millinocket. “They get money from all over, as far as California, Florida, Texas, they are all over the country. They are raising hundreds of thousands and millions of dollars to come to Maine to say that we cannot have mining in Aroostook County, where we have double-digit unemployment, we have a lot of people looking for work.”
“We will not have mining in Maine because the people of Brunswick and Falmouth and Cape Elizabeth and Portland say we can’t,” LePage said.
Asked about the organization’s donor base, Pohlmann said the “vast majority” of NRCM’s members are full-time Maine residents. It was clear Thursday that the organization hoped to use LePage’s letter as a rallying or perhaps fundraising tool against a governor that Pohlmann described as “the most anti-environment governor in Maine history.”
The organization planned to send the letter to its 16,000 members.
“I think the important thing is that our members are outraged and they are going to choose to act in all different kinds of ways,” Pohlmann said. “Some of them may choose to send us additional funding, some of them may write the governor a letter directly . . . they may decide to write to the papers.”
This story will be updated.