WASHINGTON – Robin Ficker may be best known as a political gadfly, basketball heckler and longtime candidate — but that didn’t stop someone from appropriating his name.
Ficker, a Republican running for Congress in the 8th District, learned Thursday that the Web address “robinficker.com” actually takes Web surfers to a site touting another GOP hopeful, Chuck Floyd.
The title bar on that site notes that, “This is not Robin Ficker for Congress” — but is otherwise identical to Floyd’s own campaign Web site, floydforcongress.com.
A spokesman for Floyd said late Friday that the campaign did not know anything about the site switch. But another campaign official noted that anyone could have appropriated Ficker’s name and redirected Web surfers to Floyd’s site — without Floyd’s permission.
Attempts to find the owner of the robinficker.com name were unsuccessful.
A check of register.com, an Internet registry, showed that robinficker.com is owned by the Arizona-based Domains By Proxy, which lets customers register domain names in secrecy. The company’s motto is, “Your identity is nobody’s business but ours.”
A customer representative for Domains By Proxy confirmed Friday that the name robinficker.com is owned by a customer of the company, which charges $12 a year to conceal the owner’s identity.
“Whoever registered this domain, in this particular case, did so through a service that is designed specifically to mask the identity of the owner,” said Jonah Seiger, an Internet strategist and visiting professor at the Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet at George Washington University.
Seiger said that while it is very popular for people to buy domain names and try to sell them back to their rightful owners, he has never heard of someone buying a candidate’s domain name and redirecting it to another candidate’s Web site.
“I’m not sure what it really accomplishes, tactically,” Seiger said. “It’s unlikely that a whole lot of voters are going to accidentally type in the name.com, and to the extent that they do, you would think it would be tactically smarter to put up a page on why you shouldn’t vote for them.”
Ficker, who has own site, robinficker2004.com, is taking the bait-and-switch in stride, saying he will leave it to voters to decide how to respond. The former state delegate — who made headlines by sitting behind the opponents’ bench at Washington Wizards basketball games and loudly heckling the players — is not going to raise his voice this time.
He could take legal action to get the name back.
“The WTO (World Trade Organization) has rules, and if Robin Ficker wanted it, he could get it,” Seiger said of the domain name.
But Ficker, an attorney, said that is not the point.
“Aside from what law there is, I think the court of political opinion seems to take a turn, because the average voter is trying to make an informed, intelligent decision as to who their representative of Congress should be, and here there is an active attempt to thwart that,” he said.
-30- CNS 02-06-04