The Hill on The Net
Electronic Update #25


One often reported aspect of online politics in the current ferment of Campaign 2000, is the story of the political squatter. Those gallant individuals who scoop up the likely domain names of candidates, usually to hold them hostage for a ransom, sometimes under the threat that a negative site will appear under the domain if the purchase price is not met. Many such individuals have seen their $70 investment turn into a payday worth thousands as candidates who want to bring their campaigns online pay the price for a lack of foresight. There isn't anything illegal about this (yet), squatters have every right to grab such domain names if they find them first. But it is a lowly business.

So I was both surprised and disappointed to read that a Republican counterpart of mine, James Smith, has stepped into this arena. James currently works for the House Republican Conference in their 'Communication Information Center' in which he oversees GOP conference chair Rep. J.C. Watts online offerings among other things. Previously James did similar work for House Majority Whip Tom DeLay. It seems that on his own time James has been registering domain names for Senate candidates, but not Republican names as you might expect. Delaware Democrat Thomas Carper will find that James has beat him to, net and org. Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders will likewise find and should he shop a domain name for his possible Senate run.

James told the Washington Post that he has nothing to hide. He's just 'a loyal Republican' exercising 'a form of political speech'. Yea, right. The term 'cheesy' comes to mind. Eventually, securing a domain name will become among the first thing any candidate for office does. But with the multiple variations for candidate domain names, and the head start of the squatters, for many election cycles to come canididates will find someone waiting for them when they go looking. Perhaps a parodist, more likely a greedy gouger, or worst of all, someone who shares James' sense of 'political speech'. 10/8/99 - Al Kamen's 'In the Loop'

Congressional offices are used to SPAM. They deal with tons of it day after day. But on recent message that went to thousands of House e-mail boxes was different. The message looked much like the type of SPAM that burdens the e-mail boxes of millions on the net each day. "IF YOU'RE LOOKING TO LOSE WEIGHT PERMANENTLY AND YOU DON'T HAVE TIME TO SEEE AN EXPERT HERE'S THE PERFECT OPPORTUNITY. MY FRIEND LOSS 40 LBS. READ THIS!" The difference with this message was that it originated from within the House, sent by an aide to Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings. Many angry replies were sent, most of which also went to thousands of House e-mail addresses. One aide used the opportunity to promote his boss' anti-spam legislation, generating still more messages from those who suspected it was all a setup to promote the bill. House e-mail servers buckled under the load, and extraordinary measures were required to help stop the avalanche of new messages and get people to stop replying 'to all'.

No word yet if anyone has lost any weight.

read the story as reported in WIRED

In July of 1998 I reported in Update #17 that Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell was the last member of the Senate without a web site. The 105th Congress came to an end that year with 99 out of 100 Senators maintaining a site on the web. The 106th Congress began with eight freshman Senators, and so there was some catching up to do. And now, once again, only one Senator is missing from the web. It's not Campbell anymore, he's finally joined his colleagues online. The distinction is now held by freshman Republican Senator Peter Fitzgerald of Illinois (to his credit, Senator Fitzgerald does have an e-mail address in place).

It's become slightly more difficult to spot a generic web page from a genuine one since I described the differences in my book. Generic pages have become much more rare, and now live at the same domain as a subsequent genuine page will be found. But a quick look at their familiar markings and lack of anything but the most basic information can help you separate the generic from the genuine quite quickly. The 106th Congress still has more than a year to go before it ends, so I'll predict that it will be the first fully wired Senate. So keep an eye out for Fitzgerald to join his 99 colleagues on the web.

Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell - genuine web

Senator Peter Fitzgerald - generic web

That's all for now!



Copyright 1999 by Chris Casey

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