AUGUSTA, Maine — A Republican lawmaker was barred from bringing guests into the State House after taking an activist who has spread conspiracy theories about the coronavirus into the building after Democratic leaders found the move violated legislative rules.
Rep. Shelley Rudnicki, R-Fairfield, was disciplined by legislative leaders after bringing Naomi Wolf and an affiliated cameraperson into the State House on April 28 while the Legislature was in session. They later approached Gov. Janet Mills’ office suite and were told to leave by Jeremy Kennedy, the governor’s chief of staff.
Wolf, an author who advised former President Bill Clinton, has been touring the country with the “Five Freedoms” campaign, which is advocating for the end of pandemic restrictions and the full reopening of in-person schooling. She has also spread misinformation about COVID-19, saying masks do not tamp down spread of the virus, questioning the effectiveness of vaccines and saying they could be used to microchip people.
The move looked to violate the Legislative Council’s guest policy, which permits lawmakers to bring two constituents into the State House to meet in their offices as long as they check with staff to ensure space is free. Rudnicki said she did not check with her chief of staff before bringing Wolf in but spoke with Suzanne Gresser, executive director of the Legislative Council.
A letter from Maine House Speaker Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, says Rudnicki “explicitly disregarded” the policy. The decision to revoke her ability to bring guests in was made after a 6-4 vote of the council, which is a panel of 10 legislative leaders with six Democrats and four Republicans. The decision was made by ballot and not in a public meeting.
“The decision is not one that was made lightly, but one that was necessary to protect health and safety,” the letter read.
In an interview, Rudnicki said she and Wolf first went to the Republican office to meet, but it was closed because legislative staff were at the Augusta Civic Center. A video of the visit from DailyClout, a web platform that Wolf runs, does not make clear if they went to those offices first.
The video shows Rudnicki and Wolf outside the House chamber. It records their interaction with Kennedy after that. Gresser declined comment on the incident, citing her office’s nonpartisan status.
Rudnicki, who said she has been trying to meet with Mills through other channels, called the policy “arbitrary” and said it should not exist. She also disagreed that Wolf should not be allowed in the building because she does not live in her district.
“It is the people’s building and there should be no reason that it should be locked to anybody,” Rudnicki said.
The State House has been largely closed to the public aside from legislators, staff and third parties such as the media, contractors and deliveries since March after the pandemic’s arrival in Maine caused the Legislature to adjourn. The policy on guests was added in February. A session scheduled for Wednesday was delayed for a week after two lawmakers tested positive.
Rudnicki said she plans to send a letter to Fecteau to appeal the decision and was not given a chance to discuss the matter prior to the decision being made.