The Maine Republican Party is accusing U.S. Sen. Angus King of violating the First Amendment free speech rights of Maine voters following the revelation that King’s 2018 campaign kept an “enemies list” which it used to have dozens of Mainer’s censored on social media.
King’s enemies list, which was first exposed by independent journalist Matt Taibbi, includes hundreds of Facebook users and Twitter users.
Many of those users had their accounts deleted or permanently suspended after King’s campaign flagged them to Facebook and Twitter employees. Most of those users ended up on the list because they appeared to criticize King or support his GOP opponent, State Sen. Eric Brakey (R-Androscoggin).
“This is a full-blown violation of the free speech rights of dozens of Maine people by Angus King, a US Senator who used to pretend to care about the U.S. Constitution,” said Jason Savage, executive director for the Maine GOP.
“Let there be no doubt, this revelation shows that Angus King was actively trying to silence Maine people with no justification, in many cases, other than they supported his opponents or shared opinions his team did not like,” said Savage.
“Angus King was eager to violate that most basic of American principles, a principle that even partisan political operatives and elementary school children understand, just to protect his own political career,” he said. “There is no room on the Senate Intelligence Committee, let alone the United States Senate, for an anti-free speech demagogue like Angus King.”
King, who identifies as an independent but caucuses with and votes with Democrats, has for decades cultivate an image as a non-partisan who rises above traditional mudslinging politics.
The revelation that his campaign was using privileged access to large social media corporations to silence his critics contrasts sharply with the reputation he has attempted to build in office.
King’s apparent concern over online criticism is also ironic considering his 2012 Senate campaign was caught using paid staffers to pose as average newspaper readers in the comments sections of news stories.
King has so far declined to comment publicly on the enemies list.
UPDATE: The Bangor Daily News published a story about King’s list Monday afternoon and was able to get a King staffer to comment.
BDN identified the campaign worker who supplied the list to Twitter as Toby McGrath, the former campaign director for King who now works for Drummond Woodsum.
King’s spokesman Matthew Felling told the BDN that the enemies list was sent to Twitter after the campaign reached out over the video it described as “doctored.”
The video was not, in fact, doctored. The video merely contained two separate clips of King comparing alleged Russian hacking around the 2016 election to 9-11.
Referring to footage that reflects poorly of a candidate as “doctored” is a common political tactic, and in this case it appears to have worked on multiple Maine media outlets.
Regardless, King’s official explanation for the push to censor hundreds of Mainers social media accounts is that it began as an effort to censor a video the campaign did not like.