Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Orange PACs whacked

The political scandal in Orange County, Virginia has finally been resolved. While this might be old news for some county residents, here's the wrap up for our readers around the world (and we got 'em -- just check our StatCounter map).

As you may recall, in the hotly contested Board of Supervisors race, two websites popped up. The URLS, teelgoodwinforsupervisor.com, and thomasgravesforsupervisor.com lead one to think these sites were supporting those candidates -- the opposite was true. Although both sites have been expunged from the Internet (you can't even find them at Archive.org), I did manage to save cached versions from Google of both the Teel Goodwin and Thomas Graves site (text only, I'm afraid).

The sites were amateurishly done, and it's not clear how much they affected the election. Nevertheless, when the dust settled, and the state police completed their investigation, the origin of both sites was traced back to two political action groups run by Supervisor-elect Zak Burkett and his wife, Marcia Landau.


In May Burkett tried to spin things. He called the charges "bogus and even a little silly," and demanded the Commonwealth's Attorney bring the Board (which he's on) the results of the investigation before going public (which, as the CA politely pointed out, was illegal). Could he feel the hounds closing in?

The investigation probably wasn't very challenging. I'm sure the offending parties just plunked down a credit card to buy the URLs. The amateurish nature of the sites suggests they figured since the content was anonymous, that there would be no way to trace them back to the source.

So the two PACs have been fined for their misdeeds and their ham-handed attempts at misdirection.

Personally, I don't think the $8,800 fine was enough. I think there should have been an additional $1,000 fine for painfully poor website design, and a mandatory $500 fine for attempting to operate on the Internet while under the influence of ignorance.

- Ralph

Day 59 of the WJMA Web Watch.

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