- Associated Press - Thursday, June 2, 2016

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - A top environmental nonprofit organization lambasted Republican Gov. Paul LePage on Thursday for tracking down its top donors and sending them letters urging them to rethink their financial support.

At this year’s Maine GOP convention, LePage declared war on the Natural Resources Council of Maine for its opposition to hydroelectric power agreements and mining bills. In a May 27 letter, LePage said the group’s “job-crushing, anti-business policies” mire rural Maine residents in poverty.

“It is easy for out-of-state visitors, residents of wealthy coastal towns and those living in southern Maine to support the perceived policies” of the nonprofit, LePage wrote.

LePage also cited the group’s support of a proposed national monument in the Katahdin region that he said would “eliminate hunting and timber harvesting.”

The group’s executive director, Lisa Pohlmann, said the “unprecedented” letters must stop and called them LePage’s latest smear tactic against the group.

“He’s angry because his attacks on Maine’s water, air, forests and wildlife have been broadly rejected through bipartisan votes at the statehouse,” she said.

LePage has criticized the group in recent op-eds, town halls and radio interviews. In March, he displayed a wanted poster featuring the nonprofit’s scientist Nick Bennett.

Pohlmann said the group will share LePage’s letter with its 16,000 members and supporters, who live in 488 Maine towns.

About 50 people reported receiving letters from the governor last week, she estimated. The group has sent a public records request to LePage’s office seeking information about the use of taxpayer funds for research into the nonprofit’s membership.

At a Thursday press conference, two recipients said the letters smack of McCarthyism and bullying.

Retired New Gloucester businessman Buzz Lamb said environmental stewardship jump-starts the economy.

Jake Plante, of Brunswick, said the letters seem like LePage’s audition for a spot in presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s administration.

LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said the office looked up publicly available addresses for donors named in the nonprofit’s reports. She asked why the Natural Resources Council of Maine did not contact LePage’s office directly.

The governor “is not going to stop speaking out against special-interest groups,” she said.

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This story has been corrected to show the name of the group is the Natural Resources Council of Maine, not the National Resource Council of Maine.

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