BANGOR, Maine — In two calls Monday evening to the Bangor Daily News, Gov. Paul LePage vehemently disputed assertions made by a liberal blogger in a forthcoming book that LePage made references in 2013 to executing Maine’s speaker of the House and Senate president.
“I was never in the room where ‘execute’ was used,” the governor said in a phone call to the BDN managing editor.
“It never happened,” he said later in the call. “We did not discuss execution, arrest or hanging.”
Mike Tipping, communications director for the Maine People’s Alliance, has written a book about LePage titled “As Maine Went.” He has launched an online fundraising campaign to pay for the book, which has yet to be published.
The first chapter of the book was published exclusively on the national political website Talking Points Memo on Monday morning. Tipping also summarized his chapter in a related blog post, which is hosted by the BDN.
In the book, Tipping has written about LePage meeting with a group known as Sovereign Citizens, sometimes called the Constitutional Coalition. Sovereign Citizens are recognized by the FBI and Maine state law enforcement as belonging to “a domestic terrorist movement.”
“LePage indulged and supported the sovereign’s beliefs,” Tipping wrote. “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 [House Speaker Mark] Eves and [Senate President Justin] Alfond and brought in [Kennebec County] Sheriff Randall Liberty to pursue their case, among other actions (for complete context of this incident, see the full excerpt).”
Tipping cited a recording of a Feb. 4, 2013 , radio program called the “Aroostook Watchmen.” During the recording, the show’s hosts, Steve Martin and Jack McCarthy, recall a recent meeting with the governor. The men say they talked with the governor about hanging being the punishment for high treason, which they believed Eves and Alfond had committed.
When told that the audio of the show was included on Tipping’s blog, LePage said he wanted to see the tapes.
“None of this stuff ever happened,” he said again. He said he talked with the group about the U.S. and Maine constitutions. Further, he said, he disagreed with much of what the men said.
“I listened and listened and listened,” LePage said. “Some points they were making were reasonable and some were off-the-wall.”
The governor mentioned that he meets with many constituents and groups, from a variety of backgrounds.
“I met with President Barack Obama, but I’m not a liberal,” LePage said.
When asked about the governor’s denial, Tipping pointed out that Martin and McCarthy discussed the meeting during a radio show two days after it happened, while LePage’s version of events is coming more than a year later.
“It’s just sad that the governor of our state would indulge in some of these conversations,” he said.
Eves, D-North Berwick, said that by meeting with the group, LePage was validating “their criminal and violent ideas.”
Alfond, the Maine Senate president and a Portland Democrat, on Monday called LePage’s meetings with members of the Constitutional Coalition, “disturbing and irresponsible.”
In a second phone call to the BDN, LePage said he didn’t know about a Freedom of Access Act request that Tipping had filed to secure details of his meetings because “no one told me about it.”
He said he didn’t stop meeting with the Sovereign Citizens after the FOAA request was filed, as Tipping contends, but stopped meeting with them “because they were not listening.”
“They got mad and called me all kinds of names,” he said.
LePage said the group called again Monday to meet with him after Tipping’s blog post, but he said “no way.”
LePage said he never has refused to meet with any group of people. Although he and Democratic legislative leaders had a dispute in 2013 in which the governor reportedly called off scheduled meetings, LePage claims that Eves and Alfond actually didn’t ask to meet with him until recently. He said the leaders recently asked to meet with him about the controversial Alexander Group report and he said he would meet if they agreed to talk about additional funding for Maine’s nursing homes. He said he hasn’t heard back from them.
Tipping, who is actively supporting Democrat Mike Michaud in the governor’s race, said LePage has refused to meet with him.
LePage also said there was no five-page memo from his legal counsel about the Sovereign Citizens, which Tipping linked to from his blog. When pressed further, the governor said he remembered the memo and the lawyers explained the process of remonstration, by which citizens can petition the government for redress of grievances.
As for the Freedom of Access request, LePage said Tipping is welcome to his notes — Tipping said in his chapter that a previous request for the governor’s notes was denied — but that they are in shorthand and code that only means something to him.
“That’s why I never use email,” he said.
LePage also threatened to sue Tipping for publishing his book, as well as the Bangor Daily News.
Sun Journal writer Scott Thistle contributed to this report.