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.
- The NH political-ad story is getting weirder and weirder (Aug. 28)
- Here’s the arrest warrant in the NH illegal-advertising case (Aug. 25)
- A NH newspaper publisher is arrested and charged with running illegal political ads (Aug. 25)