receive a submission from Richard Spencer on behalf of the Cutler campaign, which wewill forward to you by e-mail.The Commission staff has conducted a partial investigation, which includes oneinterview of someone whom we believe is connected to the Cutler Files website and twoindividuals who are not. Mr. Billings has submitted a sworn affidavit in response to aquestionnaire we sent to him. Some of the information in the affidavit is corroborated bythe interview responses.
Potential Legal Violations
Disclaimer Violation (21-A M.R.S.A. § 1014(2))
As explained below, the Commission staff believes that Dan Billings has made aFirst Amendment argument that deserves to be considered seriously, and may justify notenforcing the disclaimer statute in this matter. Nevertheless, the staff believes that theCutler Files website very likely did violate 21-A M.R.S.A. § 1014(2) (attached), particularly in its first 10 or 11 days. The Commission staff believes the website meetsthe standard for express advocacy is in the Commission’s rules (Chapter 1, Section 10(2)(B)). Throughout its public posting, the website has contained a number of sharplynegative statements about the candidate that question his qualifications for office(trustworthiness, competence,
). During its first 10 or 11 days on the internet,(approximately August 30, 2010 to September 9), the site also contained such phrases as"You'll see why Eliot Cutler is unfit to be Maine's next governor," "[Cutler] would makea lousy governor,” "Eliot Cutler, alleged independent candidate for Maine governor."The staff believes that during the 10-day period, the entire content, taken together, couldhave no other reasonable meaning than to urge Mr. Cutler’s defeat.On September 9 or 10, the language on the website changed. The authors of thewebsite later told me in an e-mail that they received some informal legal advice anddecided to change the language to eliminate express advocacy. I am not sure that youwill agree that express advocacy has been eliminated. Also on September 9 or 10, theauthors of the site added the message “Not paid for or authorized by any candidate.” Asof yesterday, the bottom of the home page’s text is:
Who we are: We are a group of researchers, writers and journalists who are frustrated that Maine’smainstream media is either unwilling or incapable of adequately investigating the backgrounds of candidates