NH Newspaper Publisher Fined $620 for Illegal Political Ads

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Damien Fisher file photo

At left are state prosecutors Myles Matteson and Matthew Conley and at right table are attorney Tony Naro and publisher Deb Paul in Derry District Court during her trial.


Londonderry Times publisher Deb Paul must pay $620 in fines for running political ads deemed illegal by the state.

On Wednesday, Derry District Court Judge Kerry Steckowych imposed a $124 fine per conviction. Paul has until Jan. 5 to pay the total. Paul was convicted on Dec. 7 for five counts of violating the laws on identifying political advertising.

Prosecutors charged Paul, 64, with six Class A misdemeanors which carry up to a year in jail and $2,000 in fines for the ads she ran in the Londonderry Times and Nutfield News, though Steckowych found her not guilty on one count after November’s bench trial.

Paul did not respond to a request for comment.

According to prosecutors, Paul repeatedly broke the law when publishing ads for local political candidates and warrant articles in the Londonderry Times and the Nutfield News in the run up to the March 2022 municipal elections. The Nutfield News has since ceased publication.

Tony Naro, Paul’s attorney, said during the trial that his client never meant to break the law, and she made repeated efforts to follow the instructions she got from the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office.

“Her intent is abundantly clear. Her intent was to comply with the law,” Naro said in his closing argument.

Paul’s failure to follow the law completely is due to her faulty understanding, and not an attempt to subvert democracy, Naro said.

But Assistant Attorney General Matthew Conley argued at trial that ignorance of the law is no excuse, especially when Paul can’t exactly claim ignorance.

Paul’s political ads were the subject of multiple reports to the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office for years. She got warning letters in 2019 and 2021 about the way she was publishing ads, and the 2021 letter informed her that if she broke the law again she could face prosecution. 

According to testimony, Paul struggled to handle the ads in early 2022. Paul operated the two newspapers with one employee, her husband Chris Paul. The mistakes she made were not intentional, Naro said.

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