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Maine’s First Amendment Online Rights Under Attack

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Bloggers think of themselves as a different breed to normal journalists. A breed of writers who are willing to say the things that need to be said. There are many bloggers who do it on the side of their normal endeavors, quite a few of whom write under a non de plum’.

In Maine a rich lawyer who ran for governor in 2010 is challenging that right. He was offended and annoyed by a site called “The Cutler Files”. The site dedicated itself to educating its readers about what Elliot Cutler got up to his long legal career. This was not made up of smears or rants against Cutler, it was merely a collection of links and quotes of press about the man.

Elliot Cutler is not Maine’s governor, Paul LePage is the governor. Cutler lost by less than 1% to LePage and blames the Cutler files for his loss. This bitterness has led him to go after those behind the blog with all his might. Much of the Maine press is fully behind Cutler.

In fact Cutler is trying to bring bloggers into the remit of the Maine Electoral Commission. Any post pro or con about any candidate will be seen as falling under “full disclosure” laws. In short it will end any anonymity for bloggers if they chose to write about Maine politics. One has to wonder whether it would also apply to anonymous forum posting as well.

The establishment and the state of Maine were peeved that main person behind the site Dennis Bailey was working for another candidate at the time. This is their position.

“”As a practical matter, allowing any individual or organization — let alone a paid political consultant, working for an opposing candidate in the same election — to anonymously advocate for or against a candidate would undermine the commission’s ability to enforce Maine’s campaign finance laws,” the commission’s filing says”

For his party Dennis Bailey argued in an article that the site is protected free speech under the 1st amendment. Our normal professional life does not mean we have no 1st amendment rights as an individual.

The case is over a site that cost $91 to maintain and a small fine. However the principle that is under attack is worth far more than one site in 2010.

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