The folly of speculative domain squatting

Anytime there's a new name in the news, speculators rush in and try to grab relevant domain names - in hopes of the big bucks. From the NY Times blog:

Last December, Mr. Fruedenberg and two friends spent $975 to buy up up 100 political domain names including 16 variations of Barack Obama and Joe Biden, the eventual Democratic ticket. When the Delaware senator was tapped by Senator Obama, Mr. Freudenberg and his friends – McCain supporters — celebrated. Then they waited and, when the Obama camp didn’t call, they put the names up on eBay with a starting bid of $100,000.

They got 10,000 views for the offering but not a single bid. More recently, they lowered the price to $1,000. Still, no takers.

But here's the thing -- the Obama campaign has already made a massive investment in Why would they shift gears? Why would they buy an obscure domain (say, from a speculator - and abandon all their google rank, their branding, etc.? Not to mention the need to pay to reprint a bunch of materials.

Same for the guy who gambled on Sarah Palin:

Way, way back in February [Paul Pilger] had done some amateur political analysis and decided that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was a good fit for the then-Republican nominee-in-waiting.

So he hopped online and registered Also, he snapped up and as well as the dot-org, dot-net and dot-info versions of all three constructions.

After the Aug. 29 announcement, Mr. Pilger assumed he had something the McCain campaign would want.

“I’m actually surprised that nobody from the campaign has contacted me or even a third-party person,” said Mr. Pilger, 41, a McCain supporter who works for a software manufacturer.

The only domain variation that's an obvious pick-up with high value is the plain-vanilla firstname-lastname combo of the candidate. From the NY Times blog, featuring yours truly:

Still, Mr. Chisholm was surprised that it appears GovernorPalin does not own her own name, If she did, he reasoned, going to would bounce visitors to, much as now redirects to Instead, visitors find a blank page with an error message.

“It’s very surprising and it doesn’t say good things about the competence of her staff,” Mr. Chisholm said. “You should always have the domain that is your own name no matter how low a public official you are because that’s the best one, the most recognizable. And you should grab all variations. I’m working with Jeff Merkley, who is running for Senate in Oregon. People consistently misspell his last name. We tried to capture all of them and redirect them back to the main site.”

The McCain campaign did not return calls seeking comment.

It is somewhat astonishing that Sarah Palin doesn't own That's a no-brainer. (But then, maybe she's been getting internet tutoring from her state's senior senator.)

Kari Chisholm | September 14, 2008
Permalink: The folly of speculative domain squatting
Category: marketing, news media, search engine strategy, strategic issues

Don't use fake quotes in draft emails. Especially if you're calling your opponent an asshole.

There are many good reasons why designers use the fake-greek text "lorem ipsum..." as placeholder text. Among them, because the alternatives are bound to lead you into trouble.

A few years back, a friend in higher education told me that her college had to reprint tens of thousands of dollars worth of those glossy viewbooks because they failed to swap out a fake promise of "millions in water polo scholarships."

And now, the Kansas campaign of Jim Slattery for U.S. Senate has been embarassed (and suspended a staffer) for accidentally sending a broadcast email with a placeholder quote:

John from Dodge City shared this,
"Pat Roberts... is an asshole"

Seriously, folks. Remember the first rule: Don't do anything that might get you fired. From the Topeka Capital-Journal:

A campaign aide for U.S. Senate candidate Jim Slattery was suspended today for sending to thousands of people an e-mail containing unflattering comments about Republican rival Pat Roberts.

And don't blame the technology. The technology didn't magically put those seven letters together. More from the C-J:

In the follow-up explanatory e-mail, Staples said "technical issues on the part of our software vendor" contributed to a "system malfunction" that automatically sent the draft document to e-mail accounts.

As the C-J editorialized:

As self-inflicted wounds go, the e-mail blunder by Jim Slattery's campaign staff was a doozy. ...

[T]he campaign stumbled in citing computer problems for the gaffe.


It's hard to believe a computer was at fault for someone typing an offensive word on a keyboard and saving the document.

What's harder to believe is that anyone in the public eye would still include such a term in a computer document, especially an e-mail. ...

It remains to be seen how much the issue will hurt Slattery's campaign, but it certainly didn't help. At worst, it makes the Slattery campaign — and, by reflection, Slattery himself — look amateurish and poorly organized.

'Nuff said.

Team Slattery, now that you've taken your lumps, get back to work. Just 70 days or so to beat Pat Roberts.

Kari Chisholm | September 1, 2008
Permalink: Don't use fake quotes in draft emails. Especially if you're calling your opponent an asshole.
Category: email strategy

Jim Inhofe campaign called out for spamming voters

In Oklahoma, it appears that the Jim Inhofe campaign did an email append against a voterfile -- and worse, they've made it impossible to unsubscribe.

As I've written many, many, many, many, many times before, this is a very bad idea.

One more time: Don't email-append voterfile lists. You're just sending email to people who don't want it. (Appending a donor/volunteer list is a little iffy, but at least you already have a "business" relationship with those people.)

And for the love of god, make it easy for people to unsubscribe. And respect the unsubscribe request.

OK, from Oklahoma:

For months I've been getting spam from the Oklahoma Republican party. Ryan Cassin has been told that I do not wish to receive spam from the Inhofe campaign, yet the spam continues. I've asked politely several times for all of my addresses to be removed from the Inhofe/Republican database(s) but my requests have been ignored. ...

Inhofe's campaign is spamming one email address that was only used to order pizza from Papa John's Pizza. When I ordered the pizza I do not remember seeing an optional checkbox to receive Inhofe spam next to the checkboxes for pepperoni, Italian sausage, onions and anchovies. There was no fine print that stated my email address would be signed up 'as a volunteer' for the Inhofe campaign. Nevertheless, I am getting spam after spam thanking me for 'being a volunteer' for the Inhofe campaign. Why? While I am a registered Republican, that status is soon to change. I cannot and will not be a member of a party that thinks spamming people is OK.

The Inhofe campaign is also spamming an email address that was only used to set up a web based email address at Nowhere on the web site does it say that I will be added to the Inhofe campaign 'as a volunteer'. Since I use coded email addresses every time I use an email address I know precisely when and where an email address was given out and for what purpose.

Read many more tales of woe at WebGuy's Blog.

Kari Chisholm | August 18, 2008
Permalink: Jim Inhofe campaign called out for spamming voters
Category: email strategy, GOPWatch

The disconnect between consultants and voters

I've said it many times before: Political campaigns are stunningly conservative when it comes to tactics. Until they've got nothing to lose, most managers and consultants won't deviate off their campaign strategy & budget template.

From MediaPost:

Almost two-thirds of American voters expect political candidates to use online ads (including rich media and search) as part of their campaign strategy, but only about 10% of campaign consultants believe such ads serve as a highly effective channel for reaching voters. Meanwhile, just 5% think online ads are one of the most effective channels for reaching their candidate's loyal voter base. ...

And while roughly 60% of voters surveyed said that they expected political candidates to try to reach them using Webcasts, online video and even blogs and podcasts, only 3-11% of campaign consultants said they believed those methods would be effective at reaching swing, independent and undecided voters. And even fewer (4-7%) of the consultants believed those channels would be effective for their candidates' loyal targets. ...

What makes the disconnect even more hard to fathom, according to E-Voter Institute President Karen Jagoda, is that these consultants are actually using many of these mediums on a daily basis. For example, nearly 70% of the consultants surveyed were members of a social network, and about 40% of them said they maintained their own blogs, and had uploaded video to the Web.

But the hurdles that online media companies face in trying to snag political dollars are akin to the challenges they faced a few years ago in their attempts to snag traditional media spend.

Kari Chisholm | August 14, 2008
Permalink: The disconnect between consultants and voters
Category: advertising

In Pennsylvania, an email broadcasting effort gone awry.

It's really pretty simple, actually. Don't use government funds to do political campaign work.


Over more than two years, as they toiled in the minority, Democrats in the state House allegedly purchased millions of e-mail addresses to send campaign-related propaganda to Pennsylvania voters who were stuck paying the political tab - $1.2 million.

And that's not including several hundred thousand more in public funds that went to a tech consultant - the son of a state representative - who allegedly made it all look like a legitimate legislative endeavor.

Details of the conspiracy were laid out recently in the 74-page grand-jury indictments against a dozen Harrisburg insiders in what has become known as Bonusgate.

As usual with these things, it started with the best of intentions:

Initially, according to the indictment and sources familiar with the effort, organizers hoped to obtain e-mail addresses from people logging on to House Web sites and signing up for electronic updates. Few people did, however.

So House Democrats started paying an outside vendor for e-mails collected by various means.

Between 2003 and 2005, House Democrats purchased millions of such addresses for their blast e-mail effort, costing taxpayers $1.2 million, the indictment alleges.

On its face, it seemed like wasteful spending, perhaps - but legal. But prosecutors say it was all a ruse.

It's less about email broadcasting, and more about a misuse of funds - though the fact that it was email made it easier to cover up.

The first test of the system came during a 2005 special election for a House seat in the Lehigh Valley.

Buxton testified that for that race, he rented a server from a company located in Michigan "to hide the fact that these campaign e-mails were being sent from the taxpayer-owned caucus computer system in the Capitol," according to the grand jury's findings.

Buxton also designed the campaign e-mails to state that they were being paid for by the House Democratic Campaign Committee "to disguise the fact that these were actually a product of taxpayer resources." ...

In 2006 alone - the year that Democrats won back control of the House - state-paid aides crafted more than 300 campaign e-mails from Democratic offices inside the Capitol, which Buxton then blasted to voters.

Even so, prosecutors said, Veon, Manzo and others weren't completely satisfied with the speed in which Buxton was cranking out the campaign product. So, as the general election in November 2006 approached, they brought in another consultant. That firm was paid $82,550 in taxpayer funds, and, again, it was for campaign work, prosecutors said.


Kari Chisholm | July 28, 2008
Permalink: In Pennsylvania, an email broadcasting effort gone awry.
Category: email strategy, legal stuff

Cornyn staffer caught trolling Burnt Orange Report

It's happened again. Another GOP staffer has been caught red-handed trolling anonymously on a progressive blog.

From Burnt Orange Report:

Many of you have become familiar with user Buck Smith's abusive comments that troll the site, attack and personally insult users and writers, and impugn the integrity of our community, our Democratic candidates and our Democratic values.

We have a policy that our commenters have helped enforce that requires us to disclose our jobs and who pays us. Our commenters have done the same. When political consultants or staffers post on this site, we know who they are and where they are coming from, ensuring that no false representation is being had. ...

In 2007, user Buck Smith began posting on this and other sites, mainly on threads involving Lt. Col. Rick Noriega or Sen. John Cornyn. He attacked diarists and commenters and provided pro-Cornyn spin on many items. In the interest of full disclosure, and in order to keep everything fair, and since Buck Smith has not disclosed who he is, we thought we would clue you in that he is David Beckwith, John Cornyn's senior staffer.

We found out his identity because Mr. Beckwith's email on file with the site is the same email listed on the webpage for his high school reunion class. (We also have a screenshot in case the site is removed soon.)

Will these people ever learn?

Kari Chisholm | July 1, 2008
Permalink: Cornyn staffer caught trolling Burnt Orange Report
Category: GOPWatch

2008 Presidential Punditology: Super Tuesday Winners

Well, it's taken us a full week after Super Tuesday to sort through all the results (and sit around waiting to find out what happened in Missouri and New Mexico.)

Like everyone else, we've been sorting through the state-by-state numbers just trying to figure out exited Super Tuesday with the most pledged delegates (Obama 887, Clinton 869, per CNN as reported on the Ultimate Delegate Tracker.)

First, a word about how we scored things:

On the Democratic side, we asked you to pick the winner - and tell us whether it'd be a big win or a small win. If you got the winner right, that's two points. If you also got the scale right, that's another bonus point.

On the Republican side, we asked you to pick the top two. If you got the winner right, that's two points. If you got the top two right, that's another bonus point.

The Top Punditologists

Once again, our top punditologist was Jonathan Singer - front-page blogger at and law student at Boalt Hall. He scored 108 points, and picked the winning Democrat in each state except Arizona, Delaware, Massachusetts, and Utah; and the winning Republican in each state except Minnesota and Oklahoma. (C'mon, Jonathan, let us in on your secret!)

Here's the top 10% of the punditologists:

Jonathan Singer, 108 points
Tim Crail, 106 points
Kyle Schoenfish, 106 points
Nathaniel Hake, 101 points
Alan Fleischman, 97 points
Maxwell Fritz, 97 points
Greg Packnett, 96 points
Steve Hauck, 96 points
Wayne Kinney, 96 points
Carl Fisher, 94 points
Drew Russo, 94 points
Corey Crowley-Hall, 93 points
David Gikow, 92 points
David Jarvis, 92 points
Kari Chisholm, 92 points
Steven Davis, 92 points
Katie Eukel, 91 points
Dave Porter, 91 points
Bill Ryan, 91 points
Shawn O'Neal, 91 points
David Riave, 90 points
Jake Oken-Berg, 90 points
Justin Schafer, 90 points

Given how much slower the primary season is, I think we're done for now. We'll be back in October with the big 2008 Punditology Challenge (and, for Oregonians, in May with the Oregon Primary Challenge.)

Kari Chisholm | February 13, 2008
Permalink: 2008 Presidential Punditology: Super Tuesday Winners
Category: punditology

2008 Presidential Punditology: January Winners

Here's the final results of the first round of the 2008 Presidential Punditology Challenge, which included all the primaries and caucuses in January.

Congratulations to our top punditologist, Jonathan Singer. Jonathan is a front-page blogger at and a law student at Boalt Hall. In 2006, he managed a legislative race in Oregon.

Jonathan scored 145 points, correctly picking the winners of every single primary and caucus. His only errors? Picking McCain 3rd in Iowa and Romney 2nd in South Carolina.

Second place goes to Jean Lloyd-Jones of Iowa City. Jean was the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate in Iowa in 1992 (losing a tough race to Chuck Grassley.) She scored 134 points, also correctly picking the winners of every single primary and caucus.

All hail Jonathan Singer and Jean Lloyd-Jones! They have the crystal balls that rule them all!

By way of honorable mentions, here are top 54 punditologists - the top 10% of participants:

#1. Jonathan Singer, 145 pts
#2. Jean Lloyd-Jones, 134 pts
#3. Jake Mathai, 131 pts
#4. Richard Luchette, 127 pts
#4. Dave McTeague, 127 pts
#6. Adam Bonin, 124 pts
#7. Alec Oyhenart, 123 pts
#8. Carol Imani, 122 pts
#8. Adam Sharp, 122 pts
#10. Robert Eisinger, 121 pts
#11. Katie Eukel, 120 pts
#11. Eric Adelstein, 120 pts
#11. Michael Adam, 120 pts
#11. Mike Yeomans, 120 pts
#15. Dan Anderson, 119 pts
#15. Bryan Bissell, 119 pts
#17. Jack Roberts, 118 pts
#17. Brain Coty, 118 pts
#17. Josh Revesz, 118 pts
#20. Brian Simmonds, 117 pts
#20. Matt Feldman, 117 pts
#20. Tim Crail, 117 pts
#23. Jake Oken-Berg, 116 pts
#23. Justin Schafer, 116 pts
#23. Nathan Currie, 116 pts
#26. John Turner, 115 pts
#27. Joseph P. Boyle, 114 pts
#28. David Nebel, 113 pts
#28. Tom Wolf, 113 pts
#28. Ben Cannon, 113 pts
#28. Ellen Lowe, 113 pts
#28. Bob Estabrook, 113 pts
#33. Dan Kully, 112 pts
#33. Bill Frick, 112 pts
#35. Jesse Kanson-Benanav, 111 pts
#35. Jay Mobley, 111 pts
#35. Samantha Gaddy, 111 pts
#38. Lori Lodes, 110 pts
#38. Gary A Nord, 110 pts
#40. Maren Giobbi, 109 pts
#41. Terry Webber, 108 pts
#42. Anne Martens, 107 pts
#42. Kenneth I. Wirfel, 107 pts
#42. Kylan Johnson, 107 pts
#42. Howard Park, 107 pts
#42. Adam McCall, 107 pts
#42. Alex Tischenko, 107 pts
#48. Adam Greenspan, 106 pts
#48. Crystal Merritt, 106 pts
#48. wade morris, 106 pts
#48. Jonathan Stein, 106 pts
#48. John Olszewski, Jr., 106 pts
#48. Benjamin Gann, 106 pts
#48. Jason Paul, 106 pts

We'll keep the names of the bottom 90% to ourselves. (If that's you, your secret is safe with us.)

A final word about our collective wisdom. Our collective picks scored 117 points - and were better than 96.2% of the individual punditologists.

Every single subgroup (bloggers, professors, journalists, activists, electeds, etc.) did worse -- except one: As a group, political consultants scored 123 points - and were better than 98.9% of us (and, by the way, better than all but two individual political consultants.)

So maybe there is something to this "wisdom of the crowd" business...

Kari Chisholm | February 3, 2008
Permalink: 2008 Presidential Punditology: January Winners
Category: punditology