The Portland Press Herald

On Twitter, “Angus King” muses about how Eliot Cutler needs to lay off the whoopie pies, describes a Republican senator from New Hampshire as a “yummy little morsel” and shares that Brad Pitt should play the younger version of himself in “AngusBall: The Movie.”

These tweets are not those of the actual Angus King, the independent former governor who is making his bid for the U.S. Senate. You’ll find these snippets under the Twitter handle King_Angus. The anonymous holder of the Twitter account, one of several unofficial ones, mocks King as self-absorbed, self-important and sometimes out of touch.

This fake King likes to reminds followers about the leadership classes he teaches at Bowdoin and Bates colleges. He taunts Donald Sussman, the husband of U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, about whether he’ll run. He sees laptops as the answer to a good number of political questions, whether it’s bombing Iran or the debt ceiling.

“What do you mean the time changed? No one asked me. The time is my time, and it’s 8 am till @King_Angus says otherwise,” he posted about daylight saving time on Monday.

Social media didn’t exist when the real King ran for re-election in 1998, the last time he campaigned for public office. King, who announced his plans in the wake of Oympia Snowe’s unexpected announcement that she will not seek re-election, acknowledged during at interview with The Portland Press Herald last week that the Internet has become a huge factor since then.

“Already, Sunday night, some bozo set up a Twitter feed purporting to be me — Angus King — with my picture, with all these crappy twitters. I mean what kind of world is this?” King said.

It’s not clear who the “bozo” is. King_Angus declined a request for an interview sent through a Twitter direct message.

Nonetheless, King_Angus has left some clues. The user of the account sometimes posts with a BlackBerry, the favored smartphone of government types. King_Angus started tweeting around the same time that satirical Twitter accounts for a fake Cutler and a fake Pingree appeared.

The campaign’s official website — — will be up within a week, said Crystal Canney, King’s communications director. She said the campaign will also have a Facebook page and Twitter account soon. Twitter recommends the best way to make sure followers know an account is by the real person is to link it to an official website. Twitter used to have a verification symbol that could be put on sites to show it was the actual person’s, but it is no longer available to public users.

As for the fakes, Canney said the campaign would continue to focus on the issues that are important to Maine.

“This is part of the negative advertising campaign that we don’t agree with and certainly will not engage in,” she said.

King’s campaign didn’t have a website in 1994 and there wasn’t even email when he got into office, said Dennis Bailey, who was King’s communications director in both campaigns and for the six years he was governor. Bailey recalled how he would be unable to reach King at home some nights because he was using dial-up access to talk about, say, education policy with teachers in online chat rooms.

“All this is new to him, very new to him. There’s no reason for him to get upset by it. Every candidate is going to face this kind of stuff,” Bailey said.

King is going to find that the political world has become more chaotic, with more possibilities for mischief since the costs of causing it have dropped considerably, said Darrell West, director of the Brookings Institution’s Center for Technology Innovation.

West said fake tweets could cause actual problems for King. A large portion of the electorate hasn’t seen him in a public position and fake information could stick

“You can have false impressions of prominent people,” he said.

But Robert Klotz, a University of Southern Maine political scientist, thought any impact on King’s campaign would be minimal because it’s clearly parody. Klotz said the best way for King to counter is making clear what his official Twitter account is.

“It’s not King_Angus. That’s the one indication that they give that it’s probably not the real thing — in addition to all the messages,” he said.

A few individuals who seemed like possible King_Angus suspects denied any involvement.

Tom Connolly, a Portland-based defense lawyer who was the Democratic candidate for governor in 1998, has demonstrated a penchant for political mischief through his leak about George W. Bush’s 1976 drunken driving arrest to an Osama bin Laden impersonation on the Casco Bay Bridge to protest a proposed government spending cap. On Tuesday, he recalled how he brought a manniquin to stand in for King at a debate, but said he wasn’t behind the Twitter account.

“I would sign my name. Oh, I would,” he said. “If I were going to hit him, I would hit him straight ahead.”

Crash Barry, a writer who covered King for eight years as a journalist, has publicized that he has bought the domain names and Barry said he’s planning to use the sites to “shed a little sunshine” on the candidate. He said he would not hide behind an alias on the Internet and didn’t start the Twitter account.

“I’m not funny at all like that. I’m not a comedian,” he said.

Dan Demeritt, a former spokesman for Gov. Paul LePage who follows King_Angus, said he doesn’t have the right temperment.

“I don’t have the guts to do it. I’d get caught,” he said. “I’m a very passive-aggressive tweeter. I write tweets sometime I don’t end up ever sending.”