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Maine candidate strikes at negative website

By Glenn Adams
Associated Press / October 5, 2010

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AUGUSTA, Maine — Gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler is threatening to sue to find out who’s behind a website that’s highly critical of the independent’s political, business, and personal background and labels him “a phony and a fraud.’’

Cutler’s campaign has asked the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices to investigate the website, which Cutler contends contains defamatory and false statements. The commission plans to take up the matter of whether any campaign laws were broken within the next two weeks.

Cutler leads the two other independents in the five-way race for governor. But a survey last week shows him lagging behind Republican candidate Paul LePage and Democrat Libby Mitchell, who appeared to be in a neck-and-neck race, making votes for Cutler potentially pivotal in the outcome.

A letter dated Friday from lawyer Peter DeTroy, representing the Cutler campaign, says that legal action is imminent unless a domain registration company discloses the names of those who authorized the site, www.cutlerfiles.com.

Arizona-based Domains by Proxy does not reveal the names of people who register domain names unless ordered to do so by the courts. When its attorney, Daniel Billings, was asked if it was another candidate or campaign, Billings said, “It is not.’’

Billings said the site is a blog and “citizen journalism’’ and is not required to reveal its sponsors. Doing so would chill First Amendment rights, Billings said.

DeTroy said that the site was “express advocacy’’ under the law and must disclose who authorized its content.

The website takes direct aim at Cutler. “He’s a phony and a fraud,’’ it asserts. “He’s rewriting and revising his history and profile to fit a carefully created campaign persona.’’