Monday, February 20, 2012

Glenn Greenwald: Billionaire Romney donor uses threats to silence critics @ Salon

[Excerpt]  " ...  On February 10 — four days after the Mother Jones piece was first posted – Forbes published an article entitled “Meet the Men Behind Romney: Four Contributors Mitt Probably Doesn’t Want You to Know About”. Written by Elliot Suthers – a Forbes blogger and GOP operative (he worked on the campaigns of McCain 2008 and Saxby Chambliss) — the article examined what it called (based on this 2004 Forbes profile and complaints to government agencies) Melaleuca’s “somewhat shady business model,” and also referenced the “number of anti-gay causes” which VanderSloot has funded.
But again, if you click on the link to the Forbes site where the article originally appeared — here – you will be greeted by a message error; the only evidence of the article is found from other sites that linked to it. Forbes, too, received complaints from Melaleuca lawyers which caused them to remove the article entirely. The very day the article was published, Melaleuca’s General Counsel, Ryan Nelson, sent an email to Suthers (as well as to various Forbes editors) accusing him of making “defamatory statements” and directing: “We expect immediate action here and no more stonewalling from you.” It warned them that “this is serious business” that “will escalate this quickly if you do not help us resolve these issues immediately.”
These national magazines are encountering what small local journalists and bloggers in Idaho have confronted for years. The website 43rdStateBlues is written by a collection of Idaho Democrats and they all write under pseudonyms. In 2007, one of them (“TomPaine”) wrote a critical post about VanderSloot, and then quickly received a letter from Melaleuca’s in-house General Counsel at the time, Ken Sheppard, threatening a lawsuit if the post was not removed within 24 hours. The website complied by removing the post, but wanted their readers to know why the post was removed. So another poster (“d2″) explained that they had received a letter from Melaleuca’s lawyers demanding its removal, and then posted the lawyer’s letter.

Melaleuca responded by obtaining an after-the-fact copyright certificate for that lawyer’s letter, then demanded that the hosting company remove the letter from the website on the ground that it constituted copyright infringement (the hosting company promptly complied), and Melaleuca then sued the website for copyright infringement for having published the now-copyrighted lawyer’s letter without their consent. Worse, as part of that lawsuit, Melaleuca issued a subpoena demanding the identities of both anonymous bloggers — the one who wrote the original post about VanderSloot (“TomPaine”) and the one who posted the lawyer’s letter (“d2″). A district court in Idaho ordered the website to disclose to Melaleuca the identity of the blogger who posted the lawyer’s cease-and-desist letter, but refused to compel disclosure of the identity of the other blogger. It’s almost impossible to imagine any more thuggish attempts to intimidate people from speaking out and criticizing VanderSloot: this was a tiny website being sued for trivial offenses in federal court by a company owned by a billionaire. ... "

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