July 21, 2005
Cybersquatting on City Council

City Council District C candidate Brian Cweren spent a little money on various domain names and bought himself a pile of publicity.

Cweren's twist directing people who type those addresses to his own site is more unusual, his campaign acknowledges .

Go to some sites containing all or part of the names of Cweren opponents Anne Clutterbuck, George Hittner, Ray Jones, Mark Lee or Herman Litt, and you'll get this message:

"I realize you were looking for someone else, but I would be honored if you would visit my website." It helpfully provides a link to Cweren's site.

Cweren's campaign purchased 29 sites including variations on his name or the others.

Clever enough, though honestly, in 2005, due diligence of relevant campaign domain names should be standard procedure. Not for everyone, apparently.

"It was a strategy designed by our Web designer. We thought, 'Why the hell not?' It's not anything malicious. I thought we were being smart," said Don Hooper, Cweren's political consultant. "It's perfectly legal to do, as long as you aren't using it for nefarious purposes. I don't know why she didn't register AnneClutterbuck.com."

Clutterbuck doesn't know either, saying she regrets it.

"I never imagined that this would be an issue," she said. "I don't even know how to research this. I'm trying to focus on running my campaign and not focus on those shenanigans."

Geez, Anne, what kind of campaign consultants do you have working for you? As the article notes, this is far from the first time this sort of thing has happened in Texas. My favorite was in 2002 when David Dewhurst lost out on his preferred choice due to backward thinking and slow reactions. He's the owner of DavidDewhurst.com now, but if you click it you'll note that it redirects to Dewhurst.org, the domain he was forced to use for that race.

I don't consider this sort of thing to be a dirty trick, whether you sit on the names, use them as attack sites, or simply redirect them to your place. It's a bit tacky, but it's well within the bounds, and again, it's not like it should come as a surprise to anyone any more. And I definitely have to tip my cap to Cweren, who will for sure get way more hits via this story than he ever would by redirecting anneclutterbuck.com. In this environment of no Mayoral race to drive coverage, you gotta do what you gotta do to get attention.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 21, 2005 to Election 2005 | TrackBack

The interesting thing about this article is that Cweren didn't have an active website until this week. Previously, he just had a placeholder that said "coming soon".

Posted by: Serena on July 22, 2005 10:46 AM

:^D :^D :^D :^D :^D :^D :^D :^D

Lookout, McCain and Fiengold will probably try to limit the number of URL's you can register under an opposing candidate's name!

New twists on this: register your opponents name as a URL to a porno site or a gay dating service!

Posted by: ttyler5 on July 23, 2005 2:31 AM

I think it was a cute and clever move on
Mr. Cweren's part.

His site is def worth checking out.

Obviously, he's running a techno-savvy
campaign. If his political skills and
intellect match, he would certainly
have my vote!!

Houston could probably use someone with
his creativity, guts, and advance planning
skills on the city council.

Posted by: eleven on July 26, 2005 12:47 AM

Typical for this crowd

Posted by: locutor on July 27, 2005 5:03 PM