Commentary

Bucky Owen Owes Reynolds and Sportsmen an Apology

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On July 24, 2016, Bucky Owen, former commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife under Governor Angus King, wrote a column in the Lewiston Sun Journal titled, “Get the facts about question 3.” In this article Owen arrogantly attacked the integrity and intelligence of outdoor writer V. Paul Reynolds who had written an earlier column in the Lewiston paper opposing Question 3.

In addition, he, not so subtly, threatened to use ex-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s lawyers to go after the respected outdoor writer and editor of the Northwood’s Sporting Journal for libel. Owen’s personal attack on Reynolds was a typical bullying tactic and one New York billionaire Bloomberg uses to silence anyone that has the nerve to oppose him in his efforts to ban guns.

But worse, it was a well-orchestrated use of one respected Maine outdoor leader, Owen, to try and destroy the credibility of another outdoor leader and divide the outdoor community. I will take the worse accusations in the Owen’s piece and explain why they are untrue.

First, this is what Owen said of Reynolds:

“Although Reynolds is a widely known writer in the sporting community, as the former commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, I must call out his inaccuracies.” He went on:

“Reynolds claims that “non-resident petition gatherers” were used to put Question 3 — asking voters if they wish to approve expanding the current National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to most non-dealer transactions — on the ballot. This is absolutely false.

In truth, during the campaign to collect signatures, Bloomberg hired and paid the professional signature collection company “Fieldworks” from Washington D. C. and paid them well over $570,000 to oversee the paid signature collectors in Maine.

During the paid signature collection process, one New Hampshire resident admitted on camera she had collected signatures and was not a resident of Maine.

Most Maine citizens don’t know that our Secretary of State, Mathew Dunlap, issues a detailed decision when certifying signatures for ballot initiatives.

This is what the Secretary of State, Mathew Dunlap, said in one section of his certification letter dated 2/18/2016 when he rejected 1,090 petition signatures, “1,090 signatures are invalid because the status of the circulators as residents of Maine could not be confirmed.”

In his attack piece, Bucky Owen made this thinly veiled threat to use Bloomberg lawyers to go after Reynolds for “libel.” Owen writes, “The writer, (Reynolds) goes on to claim there has been “documented hanky-panky” with notarization of signatures. When it comes to this question, Reynolds is not just wrong, he’s sailing into libelist waters with that outright false assertion.”

In the Secretary of State’s certification letter, he said, “5,600 signatures are invalid because the circulator’s signature on the circulator’s oath or the signature of the notary administering the oath did not match the signature on file and it could not be determined that the signature was made by that person.”

I followed up with the Secretary of State Dunlap and clarified his concerns with Notary inconsistencies and I quote Secretary Dunlap’s e-mail to me on August 1, 2016, “We received a number of inquiries from town clerks about questionable notarizations on the universal background check petitions prior to their submission for certification. The inquiries stemmed from notarial signatures displaying a broad variety of iterations, and we began watching for what we would deem unacceptable variations of notarial signatures.”

Secretary Dunlap’s clarification further included the state statute and reasons for rejecting thousands of Bloomberg’s signatures for notary “hanky panky.”

“When we began discerning that notarial acts were being performed outside the expectations that we read in Title 4, I eventually made the decisions to disqualify vertically all the signatures that had been notarized by five notaries. That decision did not impact the certification of the universal background check legislation.”

In other words, even with the disqualification of 5,600 signatures because of notary discrepancies, they still had enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

On January 19, Owen stood proudly with gun control advocates, Maine Moms Demand Action, to announce his proud support of expanding background checks to all gun sales. The press event was to announce that Bloomberg’s group had collected and was delivering to the Secretary of State more than enough signatures to qualify for the ballot in the following November election.

In effect, at that moment, Owen became a formal spokesman for the Yes on 3 campaign.  Because Owen was an official member of the Yes on 3 campaign, it is very likely that his article was, at least, reviewed, or possibly written and vetted by campaign staff, lawyers and political strategists.

When this background check initiative is done, some of the hired political operatives, spokesmen and law firms hired by Bloomberg will need their credibility and integrity intact. In other words, the Owen article was part of the Bloomberg campaign. If, indeed, the Owen article, with its falsehoods and unfair accusations against Reynolds, was in any way directed or influenced by Bloomberg lawyers or operatives, they will share the responsibility for its content.

There is no way to know for sure, but, one thing I do know for sure is that anyone involved in writing that attack piece against Reynolds owes him a public apology. If not, it is my sincere hope that every sportsman in this state remember the individuals and groups who used lies to attack a good and honest man.

About David Trahan

David Trahan is the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine. He served in the Maine House of Representatives for four terms and the Maine Senate for two. He lives in Waldoboro.

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