August 14, 1999
Look-Alike Web Site Mocks Giuliani's Senate Ambitions
Mayoral Aides Can't Unplug Parody Pages
By ADAM NAGOURNEY
t 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
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
www.yesrudy.com 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 rudyyes.com, 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
yesrudy.com 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."
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