Tektronix Color Printers
August 14, 1999

Look-Alike Web Site Mocks Giuliani's Senate Ambitions

Mayoral Aides Can't Unplug Parody Pages

At first click, it appears to be the official Web site of Rudolph W. Giuliani's Senate campaign.

The home page is headlined, "Rudy Giuliani: U.S. Senate," and it opens with spray of photographs of the Mayor, grinning and posing with children.

Related Articles
From Experts to Novices, Candidates Try Campaigning Online
(August 3, 1999)

Bush Shows How Not to Handle the Internet, Experts Say
(June 8, 1999)

A Different Kind of Demonstration Software
(March 18, 1999)

There is a sunny greeting from Giuliani, ending with a scribble of a signature. There is even a spot to pledge donations to Giuliani's presumed campaign against Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Indeed, it takes a few moments before it becomes clear that is, in fact, the latest -- and some experts said Friday, one of the most sophisticated -- example of an Internet attack on an established political candidate. Unlike Giuliani's real Web site, which is called, this one is the product of RTMark, a group of advocates who specialize in anticorporate pranks, and whose earlier Web hazing of Gov. George W. Bush so enraged Bush that his staff went to court and the Federal Elections Commission to try, so far unsuccessfully, to shut it down.

At a time when political campaigns across the nation are exploring new ways to turn the Internet to their political advantage -- both Mrs. Clinton and Giuliani had their Web sites up virtually before they had rented office space -- this latest incident suggests that this technology may have as many hazards as advantages for the world of politics. The anti-Giuliani Web site is a repository of criticisms and newspaper stories, created to remind readers of episodes in the Mayor's public life that he might otherwise not spotlight.

In appearance and language, the anti-Giuliani site is, at least initially, a near mirror image of the pro-Giuliani site. There are direct links from the anti-Giuliani site to Giuliani's official Web site, as well as to the anti-Clinton Web site Giuliani's organization has maintained.

The net product was described by Republicans and Democrats yesterday as particularly subversive, capable of confusing even the most observant browser.

For all the similarities, though -- the creators of the Web site said they literally lifted language and photographs from Giuliani's site -- it is entirely legal, in the view of election officials. And there is apparently nothing Giuliani can do about it.

"We've looked into it," said Bruce J. Teitelbaum, the director of Giuliani's political committee. "We spoke to lawyers who specialize in this kind of work. They said there is absolutely no resource we have."

One clear sign of the subtlety of the Web attack came when Howard Wolfson, the spokesman for Mrs. Clinton's campaign, was asked if the Clinton campaign had any involvement with the new anti-Giuliani Web site. "What do you mean?" Wolfson inquired, as he clicked to the site. "This is his Web site."

After a moment of silence, Wolfson broke out laughing. "Wow," he said. He said the First Lady's exploratory committee had no involvement in the Web site.

Giuliani's greeting on the home page appears identical to the one on the official Giuliani site -- until the remarks suddenly veer into the boast that New York "increasingly focuses the world's wealth in a few million white hands."

From there, the bogus Web site praises the human rights record of Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier, the deposed President of Haiti, with links noting that Mr. Giuliani, when serving as the No. 3 official in the Federal Justice Department, argued that there were no human rights abuses in Haiti.

On the official site, Giuliani offers this slogan under his signature: "Proven Leadership for the Future." On the parody site, that has been changed to "Extreme Leadership for the Future."

Precisely because of the threat of these kinds of occurrences, campaigns are now beginning to try to register every conceivable permutation of their candidate's name. Giuliani's exploratory campaign had, in fact, reserved the site among others. But, Teitelbaum said, the campaign decided not to pay the cost of holding all the names. It costs about $70 to register a Web site name.

It is debatable whether such attacks will change the minds of many voters. "They are irritants," said Benjamin Ginsberg, who is general counsel to Bush's campaign, and has been involved in the effort to close a similar attack on the Texas Governor. "I think at this stage, they are not swaying any votes."

Ray Thomas, a spokesman for RTMark, the loosely knit organization that posted the site, contended that the information might influence undecided voters who had strayed onto what they thought was the official Giuliani page.

"Then there are the pro-Giuliani people that we just want to upset," he said.

Michael Cornfield, a professor at George Washington University who is studying the Internet and campaigns this year, described this incident of Giuliani Web-hazing as particularly effective. He said, though, that Mr. Giuliani would be ill advised to try to fight it.

"This is in the tradition of Mad magazine and Mark Russell and Pat Paulsen," he said. "Americans love to lampoon the rich and powerful."

Related Sites
These sites are not part of The New York Times on the Web, and The Times has no control over their content or availability.

Tektronix Color Printers

Home | Site Index | Site Search | Forums | Archives | Marketplace

Quick News | Page One Plus | International | National/N.Y. | Business | Technology | Science | Sports | Weather | Editorial | Op-Ed | Arts | Automobiles | Books | Diversions | Job Market | Real Estate | Travel

Help/Feedback | Classifieds | Services | New York Today

Copyright 1999 The New York Times Company