Maine’s Governor LePage had his attorneys issued a five page legal memo on the topic of “Remonstrance” in response to a self-described group of “patriot activists” with ties to the John Birch Society in early 2013. This information supplements the flurry of media coverage criticizing LePage’s meetings with sovereign citizen groups last week, when news outlets discovered LePage’s fascinating relationship with “sovereign citizens,” a group who he lent an enthusiastic audience to on at least 8 different occasions.
Of course, as the media looked deeper into the bizarre meetings between LePage and the group of the conspiracy-minded “patriot citizens”, much of the story was downplayed by the Governor and local conservatives, and a series of less-than-plausible denials made their way to the media for rebuttal.
According to LePage, things just didn’t happen quite the way that Mike Tipping’s book, As Maine Went: Governor Paul LePage and the Tea Party Takeover of Maine, describes it. “I was never in the room where ‘execute’ was used,” LePage told the Bangor Daily News. “It never happened. We did not discuss execution, arrest, or hanging.” The Aroostook Watchmen and Mr. Tipping seemingly mistook his enthusiasm with plotting. “I listened and listened and listened,” LePage said. “Some points they were making were reasonable and some were off-the-wall.”
It is unclear exactly which ideas LePage considered “off the wall.” An archived version of the Aroostook Watchmen website highlights “recommended products” that links to multilevel marketing (MLM) schemes such as ZeroPointGlobal. Their top outgoing link went to the International Medical Council on Vaccination (IMCV), an organization that tries to create the appearance of a dispute over vaccines within the medical community. The CEO of ICMV is Suzanne Humphries, a well-known kidney doctor turned quack. Most of Aroostook Watchmen’s beliefs are clearly over the top, the kind of stories and conspiracies normally reserved for phone calls in the wee hours made to Coast to Coast AM.
One idea that LePage apparently took seriously was something called “Maine Remonstrance”, also on the Aroostook Watchmen agenda. This is something that LePage actually admitted to – albeit reluctantly at first. When initially questioned about the legal opinion LePage asked his attorneys to issue, he denied any knowledge. According to Bangor Daily News:
“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.”
In January, 2013, a group by the name of “Maine Republic” posted several legal-looking documents (sovereign citizens are known for serving make-believe legal complaints and lawsuits) directed at Governor LePage, including an “Affadavit of Truth and Facts” filled with complaints about various bills that LePage signed into law and lamenting the overall illegitimacy of the state and federal government.
“Wayne Leach mailed a Letter, dated November 27, 2013, to you by Certified Mail, which was delivered to you at the State Capitol Postal Center, and was signed for by a Dick Sherburne, on December 2, 2013. This Letter required a response, within thirty (30) days from the letter’s date, and a rebuttal, with particularity, constitutionally supported positions and authority, truth, evidence, fact, and valid law, of anything in it, with which you disagree. This Letter notified you that: “Your failure to respond as stipulated, is your agreement with, and admission to the fact that everything in this Letter is true, correct, legal, lawful, and is your irrevocable agreement attesting to this, and which is fully binding upon you in any court in the United States of America, without your protest or objection and that of those who represent you.” This Letter was approved, supported, and agreed to by 26 other Citizens of the State of Maine.”
A “Declaration, Remonstrance, and Demand” was posted to the Maine Republic website for group members to download, sign and mail on January, 13, 2013. The “Declaration” explains a myriad of grievances the group had against LePage , the Maine government, and US government in general. ”
You can view the document in its entirety below:
On April 15, 2013, the group of self-described “patriot activists” held an event with speakers in Augusta, Maine. They regularly post their videos on a Youtube channel called “Maine Porcupines.” The channel is a guide to fringe conservative politics in Maine, featuring speakers from the John Birch Society, JBS Bulletins, AIDs conspiracy theories, and an eclectic mix of “liberty”-oriented speakers alongside a video of Lauren LePage, Gov. LePage’s daughter, speaking to a small Tea-Party related gathering.
Watch as Walter Leach, Phil Merletti, and Gary Smart explain more about the Remonstrance Declaration against LePage.
A video press release on the channel explains, “A Remonstrance was served on Maine’s Governor Paul LePage on 14 January, 2013 (1/14/13) asking that wrongs upon the people of Maine be addressed and a receipt was obtained. The Governor was asked to respond within ten days. There was no reply to this Remonstrance. On 30 January, 2013 (1/30/13) a press conference was held in the Capitol outside of the Governor’s office in the Hall of Flags. Shortly after the press conference Governor Paul LePage finally contacted those who signed the Remonstrance saying that he never received his copy of the Remonstrance from his office staff. The Governor is set to meet with those who signed the 1/14/13 Remonstrance. Stay tuned.”
Talking Points Memo explains what happened after the meeting,
“Soon after this meeting, a Freedom of Access request for the documents that have informed much of this report was filed, alerting the governor’s staff that word of the meetings had spread. Sometime before the governor’s next meeting with the Constitutionalists, LePage’s legal staff presented him with a five-page memo arguing that the Sovereign Citizens were misinterpreting the law. They wrote that the right of remonstrance “does not include and has never included any rights of citizens to compel legislation or compel the government to act in any certain way.” In short, they finally explained to LePage the sheer ridiculousness of the basic premise of the conversations the governor had been having with the group for the prior eight months.”
The document below is the response that the Governor’s attorneys issued to the group, originally posted on blogger Mike Tipping’s website.
According to Talking Points Memo, the group met one more time to discuss Remonstration, but remained dissatisfied by the results. “On September 14, 2013, Governor LePage, accompanied by staff lawyer Hancock Fenton, met again with the Watchmen and discussed this legal opinion. It would be the group’s last meeting with the governor. The press conference was canceled. Although the Constitutionalists were disappointed by this outcome, they say they’re still grateful to LePage for all the time and support he gave to their cause.”
After providing an audience to the group’s grievances, it seems not only did LePage take them seriously, but the legal opinion leaves readers with the impression that LePage wanted to set their minds at ease. All the statutes, taxes, ordinances and other laws that Governor LePage signed into law were constitutional, and his lawyers could prove it to the group of sovereign citizens. Of course, all the sovereign citizens needed to hear was that their right to Remonstrance, “does not include and has never included any rights of citizens to compel legislation or compel the government to act in any certain way.”
The idea that sovereign citizens were waiting eagerly for a government lawyer, hired by a government official, to explain why our current form of government is valid is undeniably laughable. On top of the wasted time, LePage also wasted government funds to attempt to make his case. The document was clearly meant to be a rational legal argument against the act of Remonstration, however, it’s unclear what the Governor believed the response would accomplish. Is it possible he believed all he needed was a legitimate legal finding to be explained and the movement would quit trying to end most forms of government? Did he believe that an explanation of laws would make the sovereign citizens more accepting of the law and his authority?
It’s really hard to say.
After all, this particular brand of anti-government extremists believes that most laws are illegally enforced, and therefore invalid. They don’t believe in acts or ordinances, and they believe that signing anything into law that isn’t specifically mentioned in the Constitution is an act of tyranny from an illegitimate government. Stop signs, crosswalks, and taxes are considered to be symptoms of an out-of-control, bloated, fascist government that has no right to tell you to even do so much as carry an ID bearing your full birth name.
What did the meetings LePage had with the sovereign citizens really accomplish, other than a colossal embarrassment for the Governor’s office and enough fodder for a tell-all book that will likely remain in circulation long after the next election cycle?
An educated guess says more still waits to be revealed.
There’s no way this is the final word for the Aroostook Watchmen or the sovereign citizen movement in the state of Maine.