Sunday, December 26, 2010

When do websites become campaign advertisements?

An anonymous website called the "Cutler Files," became an important facet of Maine's recent gubernatorial race. The website contained content critical of unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler, and raises questions about future applications of campaign finance laws.

Cutler filed an ethics complaint concerning the website because it did not disclose its authors or funding.Websites may be subject to campaign finance disclosure and disclaimer provisions. Simply put, if the website was, for instance, authorized by another candidate, that's information that should be publicly disclosed. One of the authors of the website has already been fined, and the legal wrangling continues.

The next question for Maine will likely be, should there be a financial threshold that one must reach before falling within campaign finance disclosure laws. For instance, a website that expressly advocates for or against a client may cost little money. Does the public still have a right to know who is behind a website?

For more, click here and here.

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