Constitutional Coalition launches new watchdog group, denounces violence

Phil Merletti, Wayne Leach and Jack McCarthy, aka. the Constitutional Coalition, at the State House on Tuesday. BDN photo by Chris Cousins.

Phil Merletti, Wayne Leach and Jack McCarthy, aka. the Constitutional Coalition, at the State House on Tuesday. BDN photo by Chris Cousins.

By now, I probably don’t need to tell you who the Constitutional Coalition are.

The previously obscure group was thrust into the public spotlight by liberal activist/blogger Mike Tipping, who revealed the group of extremists had met several times with Gov. Paul LePage in pursuit of their agenda to have high-level lawmakers charged with crimes.

The group claims that lawmakers and governors have violated the U.S. and Maine constitutions, according to their unique interpretation of the documents. (It should be noted that none of the members of the Constitutional Coalition are attorneys, but refer to themselves as “researchers.”)

Tipping, citing documents and statements from members of the group, identified the Coalition as part of the “sovereign citizen movement,” which has been associated with violent anti-government acts across the country. An expert on extremist groups told me that the Coalition may not be members of that particular movement, but espouse many of the same beliefs and hold disturbing, radical views associated with criminal activity, though he was careful to say that doesn’t mean these men will necessarily turn to violence. 

Anyway, the Coalition was back in the State House on Thursday, unveiling its newest project, We the People of Maine Inc. The nonprofit organization is meant to help like-minded people hold the government accountable to the group’s vision of Constitutional law.

“We’re trying to restore a Republic,” said Jack McCarthy, a member of the group and host of the “Aroostook Watchmen” radio show up in The County. McCarthy said the stakes are high.

“If we do not stand forward and take absolute hold of our every right, then in the extreme, our right to life can be converted to a privilege, assigned a permit and a fee charged. Just imagine if you couldn’t pay the fee. You would have to be extinguished.”

During the sparsely attended event — there seemed to be as many reporters as supporters — the group also expressed disappointment that LePage has stopped meeting with them and distanced himself from their views after meeting with them eight times in 2013.

“The governor has backed away from us for reasons we do not yet understand, and so be it,” said Wayne Leach. He emphasized that the group “still believes” in LePage.

“We were among those who campaign, and put him in office back in his first election cycle. We believe that he wanted to restore constitutional obedience in our state,” he said. “We see that it’s an uphill battle for any individual in office, surrounded by political machinery and corruption.”

The group also rebuked any consideration of violence, despite Leach having made reference to “the 1776″ or “the 1865″ solutions to their grievances and McCarthy telling his radio listeners that he told LePage “Let’s hang a few (legislators) and be done with it.”

McCarthy said he didn’t mean it. “I embellished that. It’s a radio show,” he said. He also said the “1776 option” was indeed a reference to the American Revolution just not, you know, the violent parts.

“You know when the revolution started? It started about 30 years before that, because the American Revolution started in the hearts and the minds of the people,” he said. “The clash of arms was the last resort.”

The 1865 reference was not meant to conjure up the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, he said, but to allude to states rights — despite the Civil War having ended in 1865. Perhaps 1860, when South Carolina became the first state to secede from the union, would have been a less misleading year to cite.

Said Leach: “We can do this by peaceful means. … I”m not going to bring a cannon to the State House and try to take over. I got more common sense than that. That’s why I’m here today.”

Lastly, the group called for Mainers to attend their seminars, where they give lessons on their understanding of the Constitution and make the case that politicians regularly violate the law or even commit treason. Like the group’s press conference, these seminars are also sparsely attended. BDN reporter Judy Harrison attended one. Here’s her report.

When I asked today why Mainers should believe their expertise, rather than generations of lawyers and judges who have studied law and the Constitution without deciding en masse that every politician was committing treason, McCarthy took issue with the question.

“Why would you assume that the average Mainer is not capable of reading those first articles and understanding them completely?” he said. “It’s not written at a lawyer-college level, it’s written for the Maine people, and the Maine people are the ones who authorized it. Why would you even suggest that a lawyer is necessary to understand our laws?”

Mario Moretto

About Mario Moretto

Mario Moretto has been a Maine journalist, in print and online publications, since 2009. He joined the Bangor Daily News in 2012, first as a general assignment reporter in his native Hancock County and, now, in the State House.