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It Occurs to Me

Smears and Lies: The Polstein Style in Action
By Michelle Anderson
May 20, 2006 - 11:45:00 AM

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The other day, someone sent me a copy of Downeast Magazine, which featured Councilor Matthew Polstein and his Hammond Ridge resort plans. I read a statement from Councilor Matthew Polstein about hate mail he claims he got a couple of years ago and thought to myself, "Elections must be coming up again."

You might recall that just prior to last year's election, on October 4, the local weekly paper carried a front page story about hate mail Councilor Polstein said that he and his wife Wendy Polstein, received. The newspaper headline read "Attorney General's Office Investigating Threats Against Councilors."

While there were actually no threats involved, there was some vulgar mail, and while that local weekly published the text of the mail verbatim, we will not do that here. Suffice it to say that the letters were indeed ugly; the kind of ugly that makes you wince when you read it.

Here's the story as laid out in the paper:

  • In April of 2004, a letter postmarked San Diego "contains obscene vulgarities" that were described by an anonymous former Millinocket police officer as "the most vile comments ever seen."
  • The second letter, postmarked Los Angeles, California, started out, "You like to play big shot? You like to hurt feelings? Let me hurt yours." It went on to call Mrs. Polstein repulsive names and ended thusly: "What have you ever given the world but greed for money?
  • The third letter, postmarked Arizona, contained nothing more than a business card belonging to Mrs. Polstein.

What is not made clear in the newspaper account is the fact that the most recent of that mail was sent more than a year before the newspaper article was published.

So, to recap:

The letters were sent to Councilor Polstein's wife, Wendy, who has absolutely nothing to do with the political goings-on in Millinocket. They were indeed hateful letters. They were dreadful. And they were sent from various states nowhere near New England.

But Councilor Polstein and his political allies have consistently spread rumors, both verbally and online, that my husband, Ken, and I were responsible for those letters. In a recent post, someone purporting to be Councilor Polstein said, "Ken recently posted that he had never been talked to or questioned by the police regarding the investigation of the hate mail..... Ask him why he hasn't bothered to take them up on the invitation they gave he and Michelle to come on in and have a chat about it at their convenience????"

Since this statement was an outright lie, and since the local press seemed to have forgotten all about the allegations once the election was over, we decided to follow up on the case.

Thursday, I called the State Attorney General's office to ask about the progress on the case.

Imagine my surprise when I found that the Attorney General is not investigating either case. They closed the business card case in 2004, the year before the Community Press printed their front-page story. The other case was closed months ago because the letters, while hateful and hideous, were not illegal. They were simply "the letter writer exercising his or her 1st Amendment rights."

It was further explained to me that in order for such letters to be "actionable, they must contain threats of physical force or property damage."

According to the Attorney General's office, the much-touted incident is not an active case and won't be unless new evidence comes to light.

That out of the way, I contacted Millinocket Police Chief Donald Bolduc. I directed him to the online posting which claims the police wanted to talk to us, and amazingly, Bolduc told me that he did not want to "chat" with us, nor did he know where that idea would come from.

Strange that the local newspaper, the one that was so willing to print verbatim the alleged hate mail, never followed up on this front-page "story."

Could it be that once the story was printed and the reputations of two people seen as Polstein's political opponents smeared, the story had served its purpose?

Strange, too, that Councilor Matthew Polstein and his cohorts continue to propagate the lie that the case is still being pursued and pointing to his political detractors as the suspects in the "case."

With absolutely no basis in fact, Polstein continues to lie to the media.

The April edition of Downeast Magazine article includes this statement:

"The Portland native also serves on the Millinocket Town Council, where his ideas for rebuilding the local economy have earned him some vicious hate mail, in addition to just blank stares."

While he has clearly been lying about the "vicious hate mail" being sent due to his political stance, he has, with his smear campaign and lies, indeed earned the blank stares.

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