PORLTLAND, Maine (AP) — Lawyers for a political consultant who created a website targeting independent Eliot Cutler in the 2010 race for governor says the online attack was constitutionally protected political speech.
Dennis Bailey’s lawyers submitted the written arguments in U.S. District Court in Portland as part of their effort to overturn a $200 fine imposed by the state ethics commission.
The Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices said Bailey, who was working for a rival candidate, should’ve disclosed who authorized and paid for the “Cutler Files” site.
Witnesses on journalism also gave sworn testimony in the case that appears to support Bailey’s case.
Those experts, Paul Grosswiler, chair of the Journalism Department at the University of Maine, and Jason Shepard, assistant professor of journalism at California State University both testified in depositions that The Cutler Files was journalism and contained information that was important to Maine voters, according to a statement from Bailey filed with the court.
“As I understand the Maine law at issue in this case,” Grosswiler stated, “if the Cutler Files had been read on TV by Sean Hannity or Bill O’Reilly or Rachel Maddow or other “news reporters” or “political commentators,” it would have been exempt from the requirements of Maine election laws.”
Bailey has maintained he wasn’t working for two Cutler rivals, — Democrat Rosa Scarcelli and independent Shawn Moody — at the same as Cutler’s lawyer has claimed in motion for summary judgement on the case.
The Portland Press Herald says Maine Assistant Attorney General Phyllis Gardiner representing the ethics commission is defending the fine.
The filing said the commission, and voters, need to know who’s paying for campaigns.
Gardiner’s brief also states the commission takes issue with Bailey’s assertion that he feared retaliation. As a well-known and longtime political operative in Maine it’s unlikely was in any fear at all, according to Gardiner’s filing.
“The record does not establish a reasonable probablity that bailey would have recieved threats, or been subject to harassment or reprisal, had he compiled with the attributetion requirement in the first instance,” Gardiner wrote.
Regional Editor Scott Thistle contributed to this report.