On Tuesday night, Amy Hale -- one of the leaders of the Patriots group -- posted an odd message to the group's website, suggesting that she'd been forced to give up control of the site, according to media reports (the post has since been removed):
I was cornered in the parking lot by 10+ people and told that bad things would happen to me if I did not give them the password and hand over Maine Patriots. Therefore, I no longer have control of Maine Patriots. AmyHale reported the incident to the police. Last night, she refused to comment on the matter because, she told me, "the investigation is ongoing." Details beyond what she wrote that first night are sketchy.
Piecing together posts from tea party websites in the past couple of days, however, paints a picture of a state tea party in disarray -- and a look at tea party paranoia.
Since Tuesday, other tea party sites in Maine have been hotbeds of conspiracy theories and accusations, with some claiming that Hale was undermining the movement and others suggesting that those who allegedly removed her from the Maine Patriots site are anti-tea party plants.
Over at Maine Refounders, another tea party site, one tea partier offered up some more detail on what allegedly happened Tuesday night:
Down in the comments to that post, other tea partiers offered their opinions on what happened. "We are clearly succeeding at restoring sanity to our country or hidden plants wouldn't be so desperate to disrupt our communications openly and chance blowing their cover," one wrote.
"Yesterday, a group of members of Maine Patriots extorted the passwword [sic] and took control of Maine Patriots' website. Amy is working with the parent site Ning to correct this. A police report is being filed."
Others were more introspective, calling on Hale to stop her self-imposed silence on the matter. "This is just the kind of action that the opposition loves to use to discredit us," one commenter wrote. "Don't fool yourself into thinking that the media won't pick up on this eventually and then who knows what will come of it."
Eventually, a leader of the movement to remove Hale from the Maine Patriots, Jeff Cucci, took to the web to offer his explanation for what happened. According to Cucci, Hale had fallen victim to that most common affliction among those who dabble in politics -- hubris.
"Amy Hale is a liability to the Tea Party Movement," Cucci wrote. "Amy Hale has been alienating people by prideful statements, pirating ideas, controlling statements and actions, manipulative actions, shunning advice and giving untruthful advice, which in some cases has resulted in no participation or refrained participation in the Tea Party Movement by those affected."
Cucci says Hale's rallies "are nothing more than a GOP promotional with little or no understanding gained for participants as to what the Tea Party Movement is about." The worst sin, according to Cucci? The tea party rally Hale hosted in Dover, Maine, "was boring, not motivational as claimed by several participants."
Of course, politics are part of the problem. "Amy has vetted a candidate and at least three Patriots believe political favoritism was demonstrated," Cucci wrote.
In the extensive comments under Cucci's post, Maine tea partiers go back and forth about who is doing what to whom in classic small-political-group-infighting fashion. One member tries to put a stop to it, but judging by the posts that continue to fill up the websites in Maine, Hale's ouster will be a topic of discussion among tea partiers up there for months to come -- assuming her police report doesn't result in some kind of criminal actions, that is.
"UNBELIEVABLE - Don't you people understand this is just what everyone expected and were waiting to happen!!!," one upset tea partier commented to Cucci's post. "Now everything we have fought so hard to accomplish will be wiped out by one headline 'Tea Party in Maine Eats It's Own'"