The Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine (SAM) on Tuesday called on its former director to stop interfering with its business and to disclose his political work on behalf of candidates for elected office.
George Smith, who ran SAM for 18 years before becoming a columnist and consultant, claimed he is advising both of Gov. Paul LePage’s opponents in the current gubernatorial race, according to emails obtained by The Maine Wire.
The emails in which Smith said he is advising both Democratic Rep. Michael Michaud and independent Eliot Cutler were forwarded to The Maine Wire by SAM following Smith’s scathing Bangor Daily News column published Monday. The headline of the column said it all: “LePage Should Not Get Votes of Maine Sportsmen or SAM’s endorsement”
No where in the column did Smith disclose his alleged professional relationship with Michaud and Cutler. (The Cutler campaign said Smith has no relationship with them whatsoever, while the Michaud campaign did not respond to an email seeking clarification.)
In the July email exchange provided by SAM, Smith attempted to procure LePage’s SAM survey for use in a blog post. The survey would have provided Smith with LePage’s positions on various sportsman’s issues.
Cherly C. Timberlake, the chair of SAM’s board of directors, declined to provide Smith with the information and raised questions about his work on behalf of candidates for statewide offices.
“I am helping both Michaud and Cutler and have made no secret of it,” Smith wrote in response.
Smith said he’s working without pay.
The email exchange was also forwarded to BDN.
BDN News Director Tony Ronzio did not respond to inquiries about his paper’s blogger policy. However, last year two writers — Matt Gagnon with the Republican Governors Association and David Farmer with Michaud’s campaign — had their columns suspended due to conflicts of interest or the perception thereof.
As of this writing there is still no disclosure on the post, which was displayed prominently on BDN’s homepage.
In a statement to BDN, SAM Executive Director David Trahan blasted Smith for using his former ties with SAM to make representations on the group’s behalf.
“The Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine is deeply concerned and troubled by the recent blog postings and attempts by George Smith to interfere with the internal processes our organization employs to question and rate Legislative, Congressional and Gubernatorial candidates,” said Trahan.
“George Smith has continued to use his columns, blogs and film media outlets to promote his preferred candidates and issues under the guise of an independent journalist,” he said. “It’s his right to support and promote the issues and candidates of his choice, but his continued use of our organization and his past employment as Executive Director of SAM to bring credibility to his postings and columns must stop!”
“Mr. Smith’s continued use of our organizations name while promoting personal positions on issues like the creation of a National Park in northern Maine, gun control and other controversial policy decisions causes SAM members, elected policy makers and members of the press great confusion,” said Trahan. “Our organization has asked Mr. Smith to stop using our name while advocating his personal political positions and it appears he is unwilling to do so. So we are again asking him to stop this practice.”
“We hope the Bangor Daily News and any other media outlets that have or will run this blog will place a disclaimer on his writings that confirm he does not represent, work for or participate in any of the programs, boards, committees or other activities at the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and his opinions expressed are his own,” Trahan said.
Smith did not respond to an email and a phone call seeking comment.