What’s worse, stealing campaign signs or stealing your opponent’s name?
The Angelique Ashby city council campaign got a big boost when incumbent Ray Tretheway’s campaign workers were caught on video pulling Ashby campaign signs out of the ground.
It was a boneheaded move. Not exactly rising to the level of a dirty trick, but certainly damaging to the Tretheway campaign.
But is the behavior of Ashby’s supporters any better?
The Sacramento Police Officers Association—which is supporting Ashby and has contributed heavily to her campaign—has recently purchased the domain name www.raytretheway.com.
So far, the site is blank. But union vice president Detective Mark Tyndale said the SPOA may use the domain to set up an anti-Tretheway site.
“It’s becoming more of a standard practice. In order to have effectiveness, this is one of the techniques people use,” Tyndale said.
In fact, Tyndale said that years ago, the police union bought a domain name associated with then-Sacramento Police Chief Art Venegas, when the chief, quite unpopular with the police union, was considering a run for state Assembly.
“We wanted to make sure that if people were going to do searches on him that they knew the damage we believed he was responsible for,” Tyndale explained to SN&R.
As an added twist, according to www.whois.com searches, the Tretheway domain name was first purchased by a guy named Keith Sharward. He was the Ashby supporter who caught video of Tretheway pollster Corin Choppin pulling an Ashby campaign sign out of the ground. Sharward later passed the domain name on to the SPOA, or sold it to them.
The reaction from everyone involved with the Ashby campaign is that—unlike the heinous act of removing a paper campaign sign from a public easement, where it really wasn’t allowed to be anyway—registering someone else’s name out from under them is perfectly legal and common and acceptable. But that doesn’t seem to square with at least one section of state law on the subject.
The “cyber privacy” section of California’s code says this: “It is unlawful for a person, with a bad faith intent to register, traffic in, or use a domain name, that is identical or confusingly similar to the personal name of another living person or deceased personality.”
The tricky part seems to be “bad faith,” which includes “the intent of a person alleged to be in violation of this article to mislead, deceive or defraud voters.”
Tretheway sent a letter last week to District Attorney Jan Scully, Police Chief Rick Braziel, City Attorney Eileen Teichert and the California Fair Political Practices Commission. In the letter, he says the registration was illegal and that “It’s my name, and I would like it back.” He also says that, since the SPOA is running an independent expenditure committee on Ashby’s behalf, that the whole domain-name handoff may have amounted to illegal collusion between the SPOA and the campaign.
If nothing else, it should at least raise an ethical question for Ashby. She told Bites she had nothing to do with hijacking the domain name, didn’t know about it and that it wasn’t directed by her campaign.
“I wouldn’t do it,” Ashby explained, but she stopped short of saying the fake domain-name maneuver was wrong. “I guess it depends on what they are going to do with it,” she said.
No, it really doesn’t depend. Ashby knows this sort of thing isn’t cool. If she wins in a couple of weeks, it will be partly because voters see the current council as too cynical. But Ashby’s already playing along with the kind of dirty tricks that everybody’s so sick of. Meet the new boss.