AUGUSTA, Maine — The war of words between Gov. Paul LePage and the Natural Resources Council of Maine escalated Thursday, after the group castigated the governor for his recent letter to hundreds of the nonprofit organization’s donors.
LePage’s May 27 letter repeated allegations he has made in numerous public statements that the NRCM kills jobs with its environmental advocacy. In March, LePage hung a “wanted” poster featuring an NRCM employee outside his town hall meeting in Bath.
“The job-crushing, anti-business policies of the NRCM are preventing rural Mainers from getting the kind of jobs the need to raise themselves out of poverty,” LePage wrote in the letter.
NRCM officials said during a news conference outside LePage’s office at the State House on Thursday that the governor’s letter was misleading and meant to harass or intimidate the organization’s donors. NRCM Executive Director Lisa Pohlmann said her organization plans to send the letter, which was addressed to Pohlmann but reportedly sent to about 200 donors, to all of its 16,000 members.
“Gov. LePage is the most anti-environment governor in Maine history,” she said. “He’s angry because his attacks on Maine’s waters, air, forests and wildlife have been broadly rejected through bipartisan votes at the State House.”
LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said Thursday that the administration found a list of donors to NRCM on its website and tracked down their addresses.
“The governor is trying to get out information about what NRCM has been trying to do,” Bennett said. “They have been backed by lobbyists who are spending millions of dollars. … They have been doing it for years, and the governor is pushing back. There is nothing wrong with the governor stating what NRCM opposes.”
LePage criticized the NRCM for opposing a bill that would have allowed large-scale mining in Maine, for supporting the creation of a national monument in the Katahdin region and for opposing hydropower. The governor and the organization also have clashed on solar power, wind power and energy conservation programs.
“These policy decisions have contributed to the decline of the manufacturing base that has been an anchor for rural Maine and has employed generations of sportsmen and women,” LePage wrote.
Pohlmann argued that Maine’s pristine natural setting is its biggest asset and that it can be protected and enhanced in ways that create jobs.
“Clearly, we have gotten under the governor’s skin,” Pohlmann said. “The governor is attacking Maine’s environment, pure and simple.”
The organization also announced it would file a detailed request under Maine’s Freedom of Access Act for documents related to the governor’s offices work to create the letter and other statements critical of NRCM, as well as evidence of any state costs related to those efforts.