AUGUSTA — Preliminary findings from Maine’s ethics commission indicate creators of a website that attacked former independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler began researching him in 2009 and tried to shop the findings to rival campaigns.

The finding, based on the commission’s investigation, indicates research began while creator Dennis Bailey was working for Democratic candidate Rosa Scarcelli. The Sun Journal says Scarcelli’s husband did some of the research.

During the campaign, Cutler’s spokesman called the then-anonymous website creators “gutless cowards” who were distorting Cutler’s record.

The commission said the pair should’ve disclosed who authorized and paid for the site. It also said the website falsely stated it was the work of “a group of researchers, writers and journalists.”