The saga of Debra Paul, the New Hampshire newspaper owner charged with a crime for publishing political ads without the required disclosure, is getting weirder and weirder.
Friend of Media Nation Aaron Read has been doing some digging, and I’m sharing some of what he posted on Facebook. It turns out that in addition to owning the Londonderry Times and another paper, Paul is a member of the town council. In February 2021, her fellow councilors complained about an editorial she published, saying she had engaged in “bullying” for writing, “Are you frustrated that nobody at town hall is listening to you? Do you feel that your town or school officials have an excuse for everything or justify decisions you don’t agree with?”
According to Julie Huss of The Eagle-Tribune, Paul replied that the editorial ran in both of her papers covering four towns, and that her words were not specifically directed at her colleagues in Londonderry.
The Daily Caller, a right-wing outlet founded by Tucker Carlson, picked up on the story a couple of days ago. Arjun Singh, citing the Derry News, reports that two of the candidates whose ads were not properly labeled were running for the school committee on so-called parents’-rights platforms. Singh also writes: “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.”
Morin appears to be a “dear friend” of the town clerk, Sherry Farrell. And in March 2018, Paul’s paper published a story about illegal political lawn signs in Londonderry that had been investigated by the state attorney general’s office. Farrell’s signs were among those targeted for lacking proper disclosure information.
It all sounds pretty incestuous. And yes, it is a massive conflict of interest for Paul to publish a paper in the same town where she’s serving as an elected official. But that doesn’t change the fact that Attorney General John Formella really needs to find something better to do with his time. It would be one thing if these political communications were aimed at deceiving people, but they were not. No harm was done. Yet Paul faces at least the theoretical possibility that she could be hit with a heavy fine and a prison term.