The AP has an article on groups buying up the domains of the names of their political opponents and putting up critical sites:

inda McCulloch is running for secretary of state in Montana, and a Web site bearing her name makes no mention of why the Democrat is qualified for the job. Instead, it says ‘‘Bad Grades. Bad Candidate.’’

McCulloch’s domain name,, was bought by Republicans, which some people are calling ‘‘political cyberfraud.’’ Others say such Web sites are fair and protected under the First Amendment. {…}

McCulloch is unable to do anything about the site, which she used to own and used in her last campaign for state school superintendent. After winning the race, she had stopped paying for the site. It is now owned by the state Republican Party, which bought it earlier this year in advance of the 2008 elections.

‘‘In this day and age of identity theft, taking somebody’s name and using it without their permission seems kind of like going into their house without permission,’’ McCulloch said.

The notion that this is anything remotely comparable to identity theft or fraud is nothing short of ludicrous. A quick visit to not-McCulloch’s site (or not-Bob Keenan’s) and tell me if you think that there is any chance whatsoever of honest confusion.

The questionable journalism of the article aside, it’s an interesting issue.

When Delosa Lt. Governor Steve Moriarty first ran for Insurance Commissioner, he notably did not have a website the entire campaign. I remember reading an article in the paper about how campaign websites were unserious and “pretty useless” (this is the kind of forward-thinking politician that Delosa keeps putting in office). Flash forward to his first run for his current position. On a whim I decided to see what use was being made of his name’s domain. The website actually said something to as juvenile as “Steve Moriarty is a big poo-poo head”. Then below it you said “If you’re running for office, you should hire a firm to help you unless you want your site to be used by your opponents to tar your name. Call our Colosse office at 555-555-5555.” Members of both parties were on their client-list, so it was more that Moriarty was an easy target than part of any political issue.

It was a pretty ingenious trick that eventually made the papers and got the web firm considerable publicity.

Though I don’t plan on running for office, I actually do own my name’s domain. I’m not really doing anything with it and I don’t know that I ever will, but I will never let my dreaded enemies, whoever they are, get a hold of it.

Category: Server Room

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2 Responses to

  1. Peter says:

    As the familiar saying goes, everything old is new again. Deceptive campaign tricks of this sort long pre-date the Internet. An example, which could have occurred decades ago: Smith and Jones are running for mayor. Fliers appear on people’s doorsteps, emblazoned “Smith for Mayor,” and contain Smith’s explanation why he wants to raise everyone’s taxes. The fliers are actually from Jones’s campaign, and Smith doesn’t know a thing about them.

  2. trumwill says:

    That makes me think of James F Byrnes, an ally of Roosevelt’s and Harry Truman’s Secretary of State.

    Byrnes was born Catholic but converted to Episcopalianism. When he was first running for congress, he received the ringing endorsement of the local Catholic league. The Catholic league for whatever reason did not like the guy and rightly saw their embrace as a political liability. They advertised for Byrne saying how great it was that a Catholic would be elected to congress in North Carolina. The anti-Catholic protestants thus didn’t like him because they thought he was Catholic and the Catholics didn’t like him because he left the church to further his political career and marry a protestant woman. Byrne nonetheless won the race and became one of the most important figures in The New Deal that nobody has ever heard of.

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