What did Paul LePage, Maine's Republican governor, see in a state agency's labor mural that he found so troubling that he ordered it removed and sparked a battle with the state's unions?
Turns out, he never actually laid eyes on it.
According to a document filed in U.S. District Court in Bangor by the Maine attorney general's office on Thursday, LePage never saw the mural, which depicted various scenes from the state's labor history.
Instead, John Butera, who was appointed by LePage as his senior economic adviser to deal with economic development and job creation matters, had visited the state's Department of Labor "numerous times" before January 2011 and had, according to the document, "had considered the mural to be overwhelming and pro-labor and anti-business."
The document, called a stipulation, sets forth facts which the parties to the lawsuit are in agreement upon. It was filed in response to a lawsuit from five individuals seeking to reverse LePage's decision to remove the mural.
When asked for comment, Adrienne Bennett, the governor's spokesperson, replied, "This was information previously released to reporters as stated in the Maine AGs stipulation."
The mural came down from the walls of the Department of Labor on March 27, an incident that sparked protests and protest art. LePage had argued that the mural was biased against the business community.
Just a week after the mural was removed, LePage admitted to his GOP caucus that he was surprised by the uproar and regretted stirring up the issue in the middle of the legislative session.
As part of the stipulation, the parties also filed the anonymous letter that prompted the governor's office to take up the mural issue. In the letter, someone who identifies himself or herself as "A Secret Admirer" writes: "In studying the mural I also observed that this mural is nothing but propaganda to further the agenda of the Union movement. I felt for a moment that I was in communist North Korea where they use these murals to brainwash the masses."
Jonathan Beal, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, cast doubt on the authenticity of the letter, noting that the governor's office had earlier identified it as a "fax."
"I have serious questions about whether this was an actual complaint from a member of the public, as opposed to just something the governor's office cooked up," said Beal. "With a fax, we could see where it came from, but it appears that the fax was sanitized to prevent this."