Mayor sues paper for pulling campaign ad
CONNECTICUT–The mayor of Waterbury in late October filed a complaint with the state elections commission charging that a newspaper violated campaign finance laws by refusing to run the mayor’s campaign advertisement.
Recently re-elected Mayor Edward Bergin said his campaign committee in early September submitted to the Waterbury Republican-American an advertisement that discussed a lawsuit involving Fred Mascolo, another candidate in the mayoral race.
The ad was rejected the same day and the newspaper issued a refund check for the amount paid by the campaign committee.
William Pape, the newspaper’s editor, said that he refused publication because some parts of the ad were misleading. He noted that the paper continued to publish other ads from Bergin.
“The ad implied that Mascolo was criminally involved in the case,” Pape said. “Some of the people involved were criminally involved; Mascolo was not.”
The ad read: “On October 23rd, Mascolo has a date with a federal judge in Newark. Mascolo was found guilty of defrauding people just like you with stock fraud, selling worthless stock and pocketing the money. The judge will decide how much money he has to pay back.”
Bergin’s complaint said that Pape had told Bergin’s election committee that the ad was not run because it was not true. The committee said that the ad was true and much of the information it contained had been reported in newspapers, including the Republican-American.
“When a publisher exercises a level of control over advertisers, then he has the power to promote the success or defeat of a candidate,” the complaint stated. “When he does so, that exercise must be deemed to be a campaign contribution.” Because this amounted to an undisclosed contribution to candidate Mascolo, the complaint said, the publisher should be fined $5,000.
In comments attached to the formal complaint, Bergin also said that Pape’s refusal to print the ad may have violated the federal antitrust laws because the paper is “a dominant force in Waterbury.”
Pape said that the Republican-American will argue before the commission that it cannot regulate the content of newspapers. (Complaint 95-299, State Elections Enforcement Commission)