Pa. lawmaker caught making anonymous posts online attacking pro-fracking constituents

Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, May 30, 2013

One Pennsylvania lawmaker is in hot water for making anonymous and fictitious posts online in which he attacked some of his own constituents for their pro-fracking views.

Rep. Jesse White, a Democrat from the Pittsburgh suburbs, acknowledged Thursday that he did write the posts in question and that he intends on apologizing for anything “offensive or hurtful” that he wrote.

“On occasion, I have exercised my First Amendment rights and responded in kind, which was an error in judgment that I regret. To be clear, I did not use government resources while posting comments on these sites,” White posted on his Facebook page Thursday.

“I apologize to Janice Gibbs and Donald Roessler for any action I’ve taken that may have been offensive or hurtful, and I will be extending a private invitation to meet with them to discuss our viewpoints face-to-face in an effort to find common ground and foster a more professional and respectful level of communication,” he added.

In one of his anonymous posts, White mentioned Gibbs, who supports the concept of drilling for oil in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale region, by name. Then, posting under other pseudonyms, he called Gibbs an “industry troll,” “uneducated yonder,” “dumber than a box of rocks” and “an embarrassment to her community.” He even went as far to adopt the pseudonym “Janice Gibson” and write that “Janice Ludwin Gibbs is a local mole for the gas industry propaganda group Energy In-depth.”

White was caught when a CBS Pittsburgh investigation into the IP addresses of the pseudonyms traced back to the computer on which he answers his state emails. The investigators also found that White was the domain owner of the site GasRootsPA.com, a Drudge Report look-a-like page that “chastises drilling supporters as ‘whores’ and regularly praises White.” Within an hour of his interview with CBS Pittsburgh, however, the site’s domain registration was changed to a purportedly fictitious Tony Stewart.

White also went after Roessler, a farmer, because he earns royalties from Marcellus shale drilling. He even posted that people should boycott Roessler’s crops because of the royalties.

“He’s gone on insulting me, insulting my intelligence,” Roessler told CBS Pittsburgh.

Ironically, White recently voted for a bill in the State House that aimed to prevent “individuals from creating fake profiles online with the intent to maliciously harm another person.”

Although his comments may have been distasteful, White did not break any rules or cross any ethics boundaries by posting his comments as long as he didn’t benefit financially from the comments, according to John J. Contino, the former executive director of the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission.

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