By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

N.H. publisher charged with running illegal ads closes two of her three newspapers

Londonderry (N.H.) Town Hall. Photo (cc) 2021 by Sdkb.

There’s been a sad development in the case of a New Hampshire newspaper publisher who was criminally charged with running political ads that did not include the required disclosure. Debra Paul announced last Friday that she and her husband, Chris Paul, are closing two of their three weekly newspapers, the Nutfield News and the Tri-Town Times. They will continue to publish the Londonderry Times. She wrote:

It’s been a good 18+ years, all things considered. Chris and I didn’t make millions, but we never expected to. I’ve never felt such delight as when people would come up and thank us, saying it seemed like “their” newspaper. Over the years we have come to know so many amazing people, some we call friends and hope to continue to keep even though we are not printing the paper.

The story of Paul’s arrest was reported last August by the investigative news organization InDepthNH. Paul published ads for political candidates that, in several instances, failed to include the words “Political Advertisement,” a violation of state law. No sentient being could possibly have thought the offending materials were anything other than political ads, but that didn’t stop the state attorney general’s office. At least in theory, Paul could be hit with a $2,000 fine or at least a year in prison.

It sounds like an outrageous breach of First Amendment protections, but the law isn’t necessarily unconstitutional because paid advertising does not enjoy the same protections as other forms of speech. In an odd twist, Debra Paul is also an elected member of Londonderry’s town council — an obvious conflict of interest for a newspaper, although that’s entirely unrelated to her arrest.

I could not find a follow-up, so I don’t know if this ridiculous case against Paul has been disposed of. But I’m going to try to find out.



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  1. Paul Hutch

    From the linked InDepthNH article:

    “Paul, publisher of the Londonderry Times newspaper, was previously investigated and warned against such conduct on two prior occasions by the Attorney General’s Office Election Law Unit. Those instances ended with formal letters being issued to her in 2019 and 2021, the release said. A “final warning” letter issued by the Election Law Unit in September of 2021 warned Paul that all political advertising must be properly labeled as such in her publication.”

    So they were given two written warnings from the AG’s office for previous infractions and a final warning 11 months before the arrest, yet they went ahead and violated the law again.

    People who break laws they don’t like, get multiple warnings then cry because they got arrested when they break the same law again, get little sympathy from me. I have zero sympathy for business people who do this, it indicates they are either too stupid to be running a business, or they where making money from breaking the law and greed overrode following the law (like all people who cheat in any way on their taxes).

    Regardless of how one feels about a law, one must be fully prepared for the consequences when you flagrantly violate the law after multiple warning over years. Whining about the consequences after the fact is frankly childish.

    • “Whining about the consequences after the fact is frankly childish.” This is a dishonest and evil conclusion. It means that we can never protest tyranny if we happen to violate a tyrannical law. No actual crime was committed in the case discussed. No one was robbed or murdered by the incidental absence of a legend stating the obvious about a political ad.

  2. Ryan Evans

    Dan, Caroline Collorusso deliberately ran political ads disguised as op-eds and political news articles on the PATCH during her campaign for US House District 5. How come that was on your back burner and essentially the same story up in the New Hampshire gets so much more of your attention? The true, more concerning point of these stories is that politicians are seeking to blur the line between journalism and politics. Where’s the accountability?

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