Politics

Domain-gate Furor Spreads as Rivals Demand Return of 'Names' in CD 19

By: Kenric Ward | Posted: April 17, 2012 3:55 AM
Trey Radel, Gary Aubuchon, Paige Kreegel and Bryan Owens

Trey Radel, Rep. Gary Aubuchon, Rep. Paige Kreegel and Brian Owens

A cyber-squatting congressional candidate who controls nearly two-dozen Internet domain names of Republican rivals is under increasing pressure to release them, or face complaints with the Federal Election Commission.

Sunshine State News, which reported earlier this month that "Friends of Trey Radel" had purchased six website addresses of fellow candidate Chauncey Goss, on Monday obtained an expanded list of domain names owned by Radel's campaign.

The roster includes nine additional Web addresses for Goss, as well as multiple domain names for candidates Gary Aubuchon, Paige Kreegel and Brian Owens.

The Radel camp also landed an Internet address for Gary Price, a Naples city councilman who considered a congressional bid, but decided against it.

With more than a half-dozen Republicans jockeying to succeed Rep. Connie Mack, who is running for U.S. Senate, the CD 19 primary is hotly contested. Whoever emerges on top will likely win the general election as the district is roughly 70 percent Republican.

The purchase of rival candidates' names by the Friends of Trey Radel has raised the temperature of the GOP race.

"Obviously, there's still a lot of questions to be answered and we don't want to speculate on their intent until the full details emerge," said Josh Cooper, spokesman for the Aubuchon campaign.

But, Cooper said, "Creating fake websites to push misinformation is a dirty-trick smear tactic that doesn't belong anywhere near a Republican campaign for Congress."

Kreegel said, "Trey should come clean on his intentions for the websites he purchased. What other reason could a candidate have for such tactics if not to use the sites to attack his opponents?

"His campaign said they'd make use of technology in a way never before seen. Reserving the domain names of your opponents so that you can attack them or deny them the ability to get their message out must have been what they had in mind.

"I call on Trey Radel to rise above this sort of gutter tactic," Kreegel concluded.

Goss seconded that appeal, and said he's exploring legal action.

"If the Radel campaign doesn't intend to cause mischief, then give the names back. If they do intend to cause mischief, they're in violation of the law," Goss said.

Noting that there is no FEC accounting of the site purchases by the "Friends" in Radel's financial reports, Goss said a legal challenge could be mounted.

"My primary concern -- aside from someone buying my personal domain name -- is that Mr. Radel has supposedly purchased dozens of these domain names, yet I saw no accounting for that on his FEC report. He keeps saying he started his campaign in January, but these attached documents show that not to be the case."

Goss added, "We're looking at our [legal] options."

Brian Owens, who thought he had protected his name by purchasing "BryanOwensforCongress.org," was surprised to learn that Radel's crew had bought "BrianOwensforCongress.com."

"It's despicable," said Owens' campaign manager, Emily Jeanne Thoemke.

Owens spokesman Rockie Pennington went further.

"For someone to steal your name makes you feel violated. It's like something the Russian mob would do."

Pennington was especially peeved that several of the domain names were purchased nearly a year ago.

"At the time those names were taken, these people weren't even candidates. Connie Mack was still in the race. No one would have run against him," Pennington said.

Radel could not be reached, and spokesman Matt Pusateri declined to address questions about the Web purchases.

"Everything we have done is by the book," Pusateri said in an emailed statement.

"Our campaign is focused on jobs and the economy. On top of that, we are facing a $15 trillion debt and a Barack Obama administration that wants to destroy this country. Meantime, the candidates in our race are asking about domain names.

"Clearly, this is why we are ahead in fundraising, building a massive donor base and grassroots support. It's time we start talking about the issues," Pusateri said.

But Radel's rivals aren't about to let go.

They note, for example, that since SSN's first story appeared, ownership of the rival domain names was switched from the Friends of Trey Radel to "proxy."

"That makes Domain-gate like Watergate. There was the initial incident, then there was the botched attempt at a cover-up," said a local tea party activist who declined to be identified.

The Friends of Trey Radel are registered as a for-profit corporation.

By using rivals' domain names, an opponent can redirect Internet traffic to his own sites.

Price, who said he encouraged Radel's congressional run, said he was unaware his friend had bought the domain names "GaryPriceforCongress.com," "GaryPriceforCongress.net" and "GaryPriceforCongress.org."

"I'm not personally offended," said Price, noting that "lots has changed [about campaigning] since I first ran for City Council two terms ago."

"I'm more interested in a candidate's message," he said.



Contact Kenric Ward at kward@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 801-5341.




Comments (8)

William in Tampa
8:49AM APR 18TH 2012
Trey Radel is truly a SLIMEY CANDIDATE a proven by these actions - I don't care WHAT 'party' he THINKS he represents - this action simply proves that he is not worthy to hold ANY public office.

"Stealing" names through IP addresses? Really?

THIS GUY STINKS!
Cindi
2:29PM APR 17TH 2012
I think that I would have to think twice about voting for a candidate that did something like that to his or her opponents; it's same old, same old, dirty politics.
wawoo
10:28AM APR 17TH 2012
Trey Radel is clearly the paradigm of Republicanism. Be prepared-to lie, cheat, and steal your way to advantage. Lee Atwater, Karl Rove and Rojer Ailles are beaming with pride in their respective habitations at hearing this. Atwater did repent so maybe not in his case.
Debbie B.
9:59AM APR 17TH 2012
Wow! I thought we had jerks over here on the east coast!
Jim B.
8:12AM APR 17TH 2012
Excellent news report Mr. Ward. Voters have every right to know exactly who is behind the campaign smiles and the political slogans. I think this one sentence pretty much describes Mr. Radel and his spokesman Matt Pusateri.

"Radel could not be reached, and spokesman Matt Pusateri declined to address questions about the Web purchases."

This from a man who never met a TV camera or microphone he did not like could not be reached! Translation, he is in hiding! Matt Pusateri refusing to answer any questions speaks volumes. I believe in your previous report or in the comments someone mentioned that Mr. Pusateri's names were on the domain ownership as the contact person.

This is just a disgrace to Radel, Pusateri and the campaign.
BM
7:44AM APR 17TH 2012
This is a man that gets it. There are many good uses of the new media yet it appears that Radel has decided that sneaky underhanded uses of identity theft is the proper use of his time and resources. One can only imagine what he will do if he were to be elected. Could we possibly have the making of a west coast Alcee Hastings?

"His campaign said they'd make use of technology in a way never before seen. Reserving the domain names of your opponents so that you can attack them or deny them the ability to get their message out must have been what they had in mind.

"I call on Trey Radel to rise above this sort of gutter tactic," Kreegel concluded.
William B
7:27AM APR 17TH 2012
Doesn't Radel's wife work for a TV station down there? Maybe they should look into this. Seems like they had a good investigative reporter in John Rupolo at Fox 4 at one point, but then again, they probably have a real conflict of interest here. That is the problem when someone from the media runs for office. The rest of the media give them a pass. As ConservativeVoice points out, the Fox radio station Radel was on will either be fined or will have to provide one heck of a lot of equal time to the other candidates because it appears Radel was engaged in campaign activities while on the air. All that money he raised will now be going to his legal defense fund.
Conservative Voice
5:08AM APR 17TH 2012
"Our campaign is focused on jobs and the economy. On top of that, we are facing a $15 trillion debt and a Barack Obama administration that wants to destroy this country. Meantime, the candidates in our race are asking about domain names."

This apparently is not true since his campaign has been focused on stealing, I mean buying everyone's identity. I expect nothing less from a political insider such as Mr. Radel. If these candidates have saved the pages where Friends of Trey Radel was listed as the owner of the domains over a year ago then Mr. Radel has some serious issues. Not only does he have issues but his former employer may have issues as well. There is such a thing as equal time.

Personally, it appears to me that Mr. Radel is going to be spending a lot less time worrying about the $15 trillion dollar debt and more time worrying about how to keep from paying all the fines they may lay on him as a result of his despicable actions.

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