The New Hampshire Attorney General’s office arrested the publisher of a small-town newspaper for publishing political ads on Thursday.
Debra Paul, 62, publisher of the Londonderry Times in Londonderry, New Hampshire, was arrested by police on Aug. 24 and charged with six misdemeanor counts of violating statute 664:16, Identification of Political Advertising.’
Between February and March of 2022, Paul allegedly published six political advertisements in the print edition of the Londonderry Times without attributing them as such.
The Election Unit of the Attorney General’s office claimed that was “warned against such conduct on two prior occasions,” and was issued warning letters in 2019 and 2021, according to a press release. The unit further claims that the second letter issued Paul a “final warning” that her advertisements were in violation of state law.
Paul’s lawyer, Tony Naro, said that “Ms. Paul acted with no criminal intent, denies the allegations, and is presumed innocent,” in an email to the Daily Caller News Foundation. It is our intention to handle this matter exclusively in the court system where it belongs and not in the press.”
The Times had allegedly published political advertisements for Londonderry School Board candidates Tim Porter and Rachael Killian, among other local candidates, per Paul’s arrest warrant, obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation from the New Hampshire Department of Justice. Both Porter and Killian are running on platforms seeking to hold the school board accountable and assert “parents’ rights,” respectively, per the Derry News.
The Attorney General’s office began investigating Paul after a tip from Laura Morin, a mental health counselor with the Greater Nashua Mental Health Council, which works with schools near the Derry area, according to the arrest warrant.
Statute 664:16 reads that “Political advertising printed in newspapers, periodicals or billboards shall be marked at the beginning or at the end thereof “Political Advertising.” Violation of the section carries a fine of $2,000 and imprisonment of one year.
The same rules apply to federal elections. “Any public communication made by a political committee…must display a disclaimer,” a rule that applies to “print communications,” according to the Federal Election Commission.
“This is clearly a case of a small business needing to defend itself against an overreaching government,” Paul claimed in a statement to the Daily Beast. “To threaten a small business owner with jail time over something this insignificant is very heavy-handed.”
Paul is scheduled to appear before the Rockingham County District Court in Derry, New Hampshire, on Oct. 19.
Naro declined to comment on whether Paul’s First Amendment rights had been violated by the state. The Daily Caller News Foundation was unable to reach Morin for a comment.
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