An Aroostook County man associated with a conspiracy group that last year met eight times with Gov. Paul LePage appears to have sent a letter to Maine lawmakers and lobbyists declaring his independence from pretty much any contract or law he disagrees with or involving the federal government.
The so-called "courtesy notice" was sent Wednesday from an email address claiming to be Jack McCarthy and is the latest twist in the bizarre saga involving the Aroostook Watchmen, a conservative radio show whose hosts are members of the Constitutional Coalition, a group that held extensive meetings with LePage in 2013 despite the objections of his senior staff. Those meetings were originally detailed in a book by Mike Tipping, a liberal activist and supporter of the governor's Democratic opponent U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud. The topics of the meetings -- alleged acts of treason by Democratic legislative leaders and other far-flung conspiracy theories of government plans to depopulate northern Maine -- ignited another controversy that LePage had initially appeared to weather, although it may well crop up during the election.
The group continues to capture media attention. Tipping has been discussing the meetings with television media while promoting his book. On Tuesday, Brent Littlefield, the governor's senior political adviser, appeared on WCSH-6 to discredit Tipping as a paid political operative, but he failed to explain to host Rob Caldwell why LePage would meet with individuals who believe in an imminent Christian holocaust via the mass collection of firearms and that the government runs mind-control operations. Littlefield said that the governor meets every week with people of all stripes during his Saturday constituent hours. However, the meetings with the Constitutional Coalition went beyond constituent outreach, involving both senior staff and, at one point, the sheriff of Kennebec County, who was asked to enforce so-called remonstrances against Democratic Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland and House Speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick.
Here's the segment:
The courtesy notice sent to lawmakers and lobbyists was sent the day after the WCSH segment with Littlefield. The notice is a form letter from the website thepublictrust1776.org and contains much of the language and ideology consistent with the sovereign citizens, a movement of self-governing citizens who reject laws and established courts. In fact, the notice underscores the detachment from bank and government agreements, which the Aroostook Watchmen describe as "slave systems." According to the notice, efforts to enforce these slave systems without a contract approved by the Watchmen will result in a financial penalty to be paid in silver -- the sovereigns' preferred currency. For example, if a person who received a "courtesy notice" calls the Watchmen to pursue any claim, the person owes a payment of 1,000 ounces of silver; any enforcement -- presumably an arrest by a law enforcement officer -- of a court judgement yields a penalty of 5,000 ounces.
It's easy to file this stuff in the same drawer as letters from unhinged inmates or angry emails written in all caps, but law enforcement has a tendency to take interactions with sovereign citizens very seriously. In 2012 the Maine Criminal Justice Academy devoted a specialized training to encounters with sovereigns. While the manual states that 97 percent of sovereign citizens are nonviolent, contact with the remaining 3 percent can be dangerous. The section entitled "weapons" begins with, "Sovereigns are known to like guns. Especially those than can be easily converted to full-automatic. The rule of thumb is that there are at least two in every vehicle." The FBI has identified sovereigns as domestic terrorists. Recently, a survey of 364 officials from 175 law enforcement agencies known as the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Response to Terrorism (START), identified the extreme anti-government subculture of sovereigns as the country's top terrorist threat -- higher than Islamic extremists.
Again, there's little evidence the individuals who met with the governor or who sent these notices are of among the violent sect of sovereigns. The ones that have been interviewed by the Portland Press Herald and other media outlets have denounced violence and come across as polite older men -- older men who just don't happen to think most laws apply to them