Monday, December 9, 2013
Anyone who has been closely following the U.S. Senate race is probably familiar with Crash Barry. Independent candidate Angus King certainly is.
Barry, a former reporter with alternative publications in Maine and now an indie author living in Western Maine, has been writing scathing critiques of King's record as governor, his involvement in the wind business, his $130,000 Mercedes Benz RV, and most recently, the offensive tweets of one King's sons.
Barry's latest move against King -- one of his last, he says -- was to compile and reprint all of his writings in a special supplement in the Portland weekly The West End News. The supplement, "The Crash Report - Election Edition," contains six stories about King (and one about independent candidate Danny Dalton), including Barry's 4,200-word polemic, "The King and Me."
Barry said that he paid $1,275 to design and print 10,000 copies of the section. He said 5,000 copies will run inside The West End News, while another 5,000 will be distributed across Maine.
Asked Tuesday why he purchased the supplement, Barry said that he'd put a lot of time and energy into reporting on King and that he wanted his work to remain in print. Additionally, he said, the supplement doubled as advertisements for his books, "Sex, Drugs and Blueberries," "Tough Island: True Stories from Matinicus, Maine" and the pending release of "Marijuana Valley."
Still, the supplement will likely rile King supporters who have suggested that Barry has a personal beef with King that borders on obsession. That sentiment has been fueled by the unusual steps Barry has taken to, as he put it, expose King as a "corporatist millionaire who has never sided with average people."
Before King entered the race, Barry purchased two domain names -- anguskingforsenate.com and angusforsenate.com -- because he had a hunch the former governor would run.
In September, Barry obtained a pass code that allowed him to eavesdrop on a King campaign conference call, which he later detailed in a blog post. Barry said that he sandbagged King during a campaign stop near Barry's home in western Maine.
More recently, published offensive tweets posted by King's son, a move that yielded some heat from media critic, and his former colleague, Al Diamon.
Barry said Tuesday that his critiques of King has led some to accuse him of working for Republicans.
"It's the first time in my life I've been accused of being a Republican operative," he said Tuesday. "Usually people call me a pinko-commie, pot smoker."
Barry said it's not personal with King.
"I don't hate the dude, I barely know him," he said. "I hate what he stands for."
Barry says his critiques are motivated by the former governor's policies and King's role in creating industrial wind farms on Maine mountaintops. Barry also said King can't sympathize with the trials of ordinary people, yet manages to hide it "with his folksy charm."
"I've been accused of class warfare, but I don't have a problem with people getting rich," he said. "We all want to have money, right? I'm just tired of rich people buying their way into politics."
Barry also believes King has been able to circumvent any substantive media scrutiny. Nonetheless, King supporters may claim that the stories in Barry's supplement are advocacy, not journalism.
Barry anticipated that criticism, which is why the section contains a disclaimer that notes that the publication is not affiliated with any candidate, political action committee or "any other gang of hoodlums."
Barry said he wanted to head-off any claims that the supplement was an elections communication as defined by campaign finance laws.
In 2010, former political operative Dennis Bailey ran afoul of those laws with the website "The Cutler Files." Bailey later sued the state, claiming that the site was a journalistic enterprise and protected by the First Amendment. However, a judge recently ruled that Bailey wasn't acting alone and that his site was effectively a campaign mailer attempting to influence voters.
Barry's work is essentially a re-print of stories that previously appeared in other news publications, so it may be more difficult for one to make the Cutler Files argument.
Steve Mistler covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.