Sleazy Anti-Immigrant Tactics Cross Line Into Criminality

On Thursday, September 4th, representatives of organizations who have an interest in immigration issues held a conversation by phone to discuss an educational response to false anti-immigrant ads that the Portland Press Herald has called "misleading," "absurd" and "mean-spirited" and the Bangor Daily News has called "disingenuous" and "morally repugnant." Groups represented on the call included the Maine People's Alliance, Maine Equal Justice Partners, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, the NAACP, the Maine Immigrant Rights Coalition and others. They decided to write letters to the editor on the issue and invite the governor to meet with more actual Maine immigrants.

It has since become clear that an employee of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, who was not invited to join the call, was surreptitiously listening to and recording this private conversation. This action is almost certainly a violation of Maine's law against the interception of wire and or oral communications, a Class C crime. Information about the breach has been sent to the Office of the Attorney General's Investigation Division.

Subsequent actions by MPHC employee Steve Robinson indicate that he knew the recording was likely illegal. He claimed on Twitter on September 8 that he had "just obtained" the recording and he has since insisted to journalists that the recording was given to him by a participant on the call. However, records indicate that Robinson himself accessed the conference line using the phone number listed as the official phone line for the Maine Wire, (MHPC's blog). That number accessed the call at 12:06 PM and remained on the line for 55 minutes.

"The right's attacks on Maine immigrants seem to have now crossed the line from sleazy scapegoating into outright criminality," said Maine People's Alliance Executive Director Jesse Graham. "We stand by our advocacy for Maine immigrants and against these kinds of attacks. We ask that the Maine Heritage Policy Center fire any employees that were involved in this phone hacking and we anticipate a criminal investigation as well."

Steve Robinson is the second self-styled reporter for the Maine Heritage Policy Center. The first, Leif Parsell, was fired in 2012 for posting anti-immigrant and white supremacist statements online, including on the MHPC's Facebook page.