The Politico made much of an anti-Fred Thompson site yesterday, slamming the hosting company because the owner contributed $500 to the Romney campaign and has its headquarters in Utah. The article hinted that Romney or someone from his campaign was behind the smear site. Not necessarily.
While it pains me to defend a competitor, there are so few ethical hosting companies in the world, I doubt it will damage us overmuch. Bluehost has good prices, they also offer free domain names with one year signups. Much of this signup process is automated and it’s doubtful that anyone checked anything as long as the billing information was correct and the credit card passed a fraud review. The domain name registration is part of this automated process.
A simple whois from any number of sites providing such services would give the hosting company’s name, the IP address of the site plus other IP addresses assigned to the hosting company, abuse and technical contacts at the hosting company, but not necessarily the owner of the site’s name depending on what the site owner purchased and whether the ownership was made under private registration provisions at an extra charge.
When the site went public, The Poltico brought it to the attention of Bluehost, which was listed as the hosting company. Bluehost removed the site which was the ethical thing to do and also in their best interest. However, The Politico made much of Bluehost refusing to give them information of site ownership when to do so would have opened them to a lawsuit. That information is protected under law unless the owner him or her self makes it public. It is not at the discretion of the hosting company to divulge that sort of information without a legal document requesting such. I don’t think a writer at The Politico has that kind of power, regardless of what the writer may think. As a web hoster I can think of only two instances, at the moment, where I would divulge that kind of information, for a federal investigation or at the legal request of a lawyer for defamation proceedings.
For further information I would suggest visiting Ivan Hoffman’s site. He has numerous articles about internet liability, copyright laws, and other internet related matters.
Don’t be fooled by claims from so-called journalists who think they know more than they really do. Of course there was the usual pile-on from the posters to the writer’s blog.
No wonder nobody trusts the media anymore. If they can’t find a story, they make one out of nothing.
Update: This story has a little more meat. However, going after the hosting company is still just plain wrong. We’re just trying to make a living, folks, just like everyone else. Politically going after a hosting company over a $500 campaign contribution? Shades of the Salem Witch Trials from the “Progressive party”. Someone “progressive” said it, so it must be true.
Update number 2: The Boston Globe has more. It seems the site was taken down at the behest of a Thompson spokesman.
Late yesterday afternoon, a spokesman for Thompson called on Romney to fire Tompkins.
“There is no room in our party for this kind of smut. As the top executive of his own campaign, Governor Romney should take full responsibility for this type of high-tech gutter politics and issue an immediate apology,” said Thompson spokesman Todd Harris. “If this is true, Governor Romney should exercise some of his much-touted executive acumen and immediately terminate anyone related to this outrage.”
This is putting the blame where it belongs… the Romney campaign team. Now, Romney has a challenge. How he handles it will determine where his campaign goes from here. Unlike many, I won’t hold him personally responsible for the actions of another supposed adult. However, if he continues on with the political consulting firm of J. Warren Tompkins, that’s another story.
Update 3: While I was putting together the original blog post, I had also contacted The Politico writer arguing that Bluehost had acted ethically. The original post has been updated to reflect the other information in the earlier updates. Good for Mr. Martin. In addition, there has been posted more information about the exchanges between campaign camps about the issue. Captain’s Quarters also has a blog entry about it giving the Romney camp the benefit of the doubt.
To be honest, I’m not quite so sure myself, and not because I’m a Thompson supporter but because of the responses denying knowledge. First, that employee of the consulting firm wouldn’t be able to put up an addon site without someone’s permission and help to do so… unless he’s the webmaster with administrative control of the site. Second, this message indicates a message from the web hosting company rather than something from the site owner to which the questionable domain was attached:
“Domain phoneyfred.org is still attached to your politicalnetroots.com account as Addon,” the site states. “For security reasons, you must remove it BEFORE you can continue. After detaching phoneyfred.org from politicalnetroots.com, you should experience some brief downtime on phoneyfred.org while its DNS propagates to your new account.”
Now, I’m not trying and convicting anyone on the basis of these two things but they do raise questions in my mind. In all honesty, despite the fact that I’m a FredHead I’d be disappointed if Romney continues with that consulting firm. Not everyone else is a FredHead. We may well end up with Romney or Guiliani as our Republican candidate for the general election and something like this could make me very uncomfortable voting for Romney at that point. We’ve had too many elections where the choice has been between the lesser of evils rather than a clear good choice. Bush is okay, I guess, but the immigration issue always bothered me and it seems I was right to be bothered.