One of the things that we frequently cover as the political water cooler blog for Colorado are the cutesey games that opposing political campaigns often play against one another online. Over the years and often the result of tips from readers, we’ve broken the stories of hilarious errors on candidate websites, candidate photo shoots gone horribly wrong, and the occasional outright spoofing of an opponent’s site.
The main “independent” group opposing the recall of conservative members of the Jefferson County school board is a group known as Jeffco Students First. Jeffco Students First recently pulled off a trick at the expense of the pro-recall group Support Jeffco Kids, who had registered their website’s domain name supportjeffcokids.org, but had neglected to also register supportjeffcokids.COM–the site people are most likely to type in from memory. Jeffco Students First snapped up the .com domain name and repointed it at their own website–which will both confuse voters looking for more information and hurt the real Support Jeffco Kids’ Google ranking.
But this apparently wasn’t the only example of Jeffco Students First playing domain name games. Several other seemingly pro-recall domain names were bought up, apparently some time ago: including recallwitt.org, recallnewkirk.org, and recallwilliams.org. These three domain names were all registered to the same domain registrar, Omnis Network. Recallwitt.org and recallwilliams.org were registered at 10:21PM on June 26 2014, recallnewkirk.org at 10:27PM on June 26 2014. As you can see, someone was thinking ahead.
But here’s the newsworthy part: the latter two are NOT registered in the name of Jeffco Students First. They are registered in the personal name of Jeffco board member John Newkirk. Here are the relevant portions of the identifying WHOIS records for these three domains:
It’s one thing for an “outside” activist group to pull a trick like this, but the evidence here points to one of the board members targeted by this recall having an active role in the “independent” group leading the opposition to said recall. Under normal circumstances, this would be a major violation of election law, since candidates are prohibited from coordinating with independent groups. But under Colorado law, recalls are technically “issue elections,” not candidate elections, so such longstanding election law principles may not apply in this case.
With that said, the questions this raises about Newkirk and Jeffco Students First are still pretty nasty politically. For one thing, a general claim of ignorance about how the internet works is key to the board majority’s defense of their bullying of a minor student by displaying her name on the boardroom’s overhead projector, while falsely accusing her of spreading “racist” material. Clearly, Newkirk knows his way around a keyboard, and knew the student in question had done nothing of the kind.
More importantly–why is a board member personally engaging in online dirty tricks? It seems to us that John Newkirk’s name may have been entered inadvertently, and Jeffco Students First should have been used to register all three. But the fact that his personal name was used to register two of these domains, with Jeffco Students First identified as the registrant of the third domain all within a few minutes of each other and with the same domain registrar, amounts to a smoking gun–clear evidence of a degree of coordination between Newkirk and this group that has never been reported by anyone.
Bottom line: it doesn’t have to be illegal to stink to high heaven, folks. Add this to the growing mountain of grievances Jefferson County voters will have freshly in mind when they mark their recall ballots.