Gov. Paul LePage speaks to reporters shortly after the Maine House and Senate both voted to override his veto of the state budget, Wednesday, June 26, 2013, at the State House in Augusta, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty/ap

Casting Paul LePage in a more alarming light

Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) has earned his ignominious reputation. The far-right governor, elected with just 38% of the vote in a multi-candidate race four years ago, has spent his term saying and doing often ridiculous things, embarrassing himself and his state, while presenting himself to the nation as something of a buffoon.
 
But there’s evidence this week that it might to be time reevaluate LePage. The caricature of the Republican governor as a bumbling-but-harmless clown may be overly charitable in light of new revelations.
 
TPM yesterday published a book excerpt from author Mike Tipping, whose new book on LePage reports that the governor met repeatedly with Sovereign Citizens extremists. It’s a little tough to excerpt here, though Josh Marshall took a stab at summarizing the first chapter’s revelations.
It’s a mix of scary, bizarre and hilarious, with LePage’s staff trying, in profound discomfort, to reel him back to reality while he keeps meeting with [the state’s local “Sovereign Citizen” movement], buys into various of their conspiracy theories, has a sheriff look into some of their demands and finally has his legal staff draft an opinion on the group’s theory that the Democratic leaders of the state legislature should be arrested and executed.
As the argument goes, Maine’s Democratic leaders would have to be punished by the ultra-conservative movement because, of course, they’re guilty of “treason.”
 
It’s unclear why, exactly, the governor met repeatedly with members of this hyper-extremist movement, but the fact that these meetings took place is not in dispute. They’re documented in Tipping’s book, but moreover, the Portland Press Herald reported yesterday that it, too, has obtained the relevant records under the Freedom of Access Act.
 
The governor’s office yesterday did not deny that the meetings occurred, saying only that LePage has met with “hundreds of Mainers hearing thousands of ideas, concerns and suggestions.” It doesn’t mean, the governor’s spokesperson added, that LePage necessarily agrees with those he’s met.
 
Perhaps not, though that doesn’t explain why the governor met with activists from the furthest fringes of society eight times.
 
In case anyone’s forgotten what Sovereign Citizens are all about, the Portland Press Herald provided a compelling summary:
The citizens movement, a conspiracy organization, believes the government is plotting a Christian holocaust via the mass collection of firearms, that it runs mind-control operations and that it was behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Sandy Hook school shootings.
 
Sovereign Citizens is considered a domestic terrorist organization by the FBI, and members of the Sovereign Citizens movement in other states have been known to falsify currency, impersonate and threaten law enforcement officers, and, in several instances, commit violence.
The group gained national prominence recently in the wake of the standoff at Cliven Bundy’s ranch in Nevada. As Rachel explained on the show in April, “Today, the people who call themselves sovereign citizens are definitely still around. Their numbers are increasing, according to the people who track these things. One of the most visible signs about them is they tend to make their own IDs if they carry them at all. They may not put real license plates on their cars as well because to them, there is no legitimate state or federal government. And it`s silly stuff in a way, but over time, these self-proclaimed sovereign citizens have become pretty violent and therefore pretty scary.”
 
LePage would owe the public an explanation if he’d so much as given this movement the time of day. The fact that the sitting governor met repeatedly with activists associated with the Sovereign Citizens movement warrants even more.
 
The Maine Republican is up for re-election this year. Polls show a very close contest.
 
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Maine and Paul LePage

Casting Paul LePage in a more alarming light