Romney finance co-chair VanderSloot and his distasteful practice of threatening journalists

The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Trevor Timm comments on billionaire Frank VanderSloot's "systematic campaign to silence journalists and bloggers from publishing stories about his political views and business practices." VanderSloot, the CEO of Melaleuca, Inc. (Wikipedia calls it "a multi-level marketing dietary supplement and cosmetics company", Forbes called it "a pyramid-selling organization," and the State of Michigan called it "an illegal pyramid") is also finance co-chair the Romney campaign. He has long used copyright threats and libel threats to intimidate journalists in his home state of Idaho, and now that his work takes place on a national stage, he has expanded his scope accordingly.

An excellent, faintly terrifying Salon article by Glenn Greenwald sets out the case in detail, and Timm adds some wider context and notes that the Streisand Effect has kicked in, increasing awareness of VanderSloot's views and practices.

At the beginning of February, a blogger for the The Idaho Agenda was forced to take down a post after receiving a defamation suit threat from Melaleuca’s in house counsel. The author indicated that he took it down because he feared the expensive litigation battle but insisted that “the facts included in the post are a matter of public record found elsewhere, including the internet, periodicals and newspapers.”

Back in 2007, Melaleuca pressured the politics blog 43rdStateBlues to take down a critical post written by a pseudonymous blogger “TomPaine.” Another blogger on 43rdStateBlues, “d2”, posted the lawyer’s letter explaining to readers why the original was taken down. Incredibly, Melaleuca’s lawyers then obtained a retroactive copyright certificate on the threat letter and demanded the hosting provider take down the post as well. Even after they complied with the letter, Melaleuca sued TomPaine for copyright infringement then subpoenaed TomPaine’s and d2’s identity.

...Now, VanderSloot is at it again. He and his company's lawyers has targeted a local Idaho independent journalist Jody May-Chang over posts that are four years old. Melaleuca’s lawyers have challenged a series of articles written by May-Chang, most notably this one in which she describes VanderSloot’s funding of the billboard campaign and opines that he is “anti-gay.” Melaleuca first sent a letter to May-Chang in 2007, asking not only to correct the post but to take down the stock photograph of VanderSloot that was on his personal website (a common practice among journalists). The photo was taken down but the posts stayed up at a new URL. After re-discovering the post last month, they sent another letter to May-Chang repeated their demands from 2007, but May-Chang has held her ground and kept the post up despite the threat of costly litigation.

Allow me to take this opportunity to remind Mr VanderSloot and his counsel of Boing Boing's long history of using anti-SLAPP statutes and withering scorn in the face of groundless censorship and intimidation attempts, and the Streisand Effect accruing thereto.

Billionaire’s Bogus Legal Tactics Against Bloggers Threaten Free Speech