Candidate blames opponent's campaign for bogus Web sites

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Spokesman for Rep. Jo Ann Emerson denies allegations of Democratic challenger.

Someone stole Veronica Hambacker's name, and she'd like it returned.

Hambacker, a Democrat from Salem, Mo., is running for Congress in Missouri's Eighth District. Recently, she discovered the online domain names for her full name with middle initial, her last name, and her first and last name have been purchased by a political foe.

The Web sites display a quote from Hambacker affirming "the rights of gays to marry and adopt children." The site also redirects viewers to the Web site of Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson who is labeled "a strong supporter of traditional marriage."

Emerson's camp strongly denies any association with the Web site. Officials say they have tried to locate those responsible for the Web site and were unsuccessful.

"We would appreciate whoever did this to take it down. We don't approve of it and it's not something we've done or would do," said Josh Haynes, special projects manager for Emerson. "This may be someone who is trying to help with the campaign, but this is not the way to do it."

Haynes said Emerson's technical staff attempted to block the link to the Web site, but were unable to do so without compromising other external links.

For her part, Hambacker, a former president of the Missouri State Teacher's Association, is not amused. "This is exactly what's wrong with American politics. The whole reason I'm running is to try to do away with this type of garbage and trash. It seems like every race becomes all about some dirty little detail instead of the large policy issues," she said.

She also stands by her statement on gay marriage.

"I have worked with kids as a teacher and I tried to treat all of them individually in a kind and loving way. All sorts of kids are struggling with problems that arise from the discovery that they're homosexual. They're kicked out of their homes and discriminated against everywhere else. So why are we in American politics about trashing people for being just the way God made them? I have no patience with any of this. I think it's just so small," said Hambacker.

She also asked that the Southeast Missourian not write this article contending it would reward the Web site's creators with ill-gotten attention. Haynes had similar concerns.

Tracking the parties who purchased the domain names and created the Web site is not simple. The registrant is listed as Proxy.com, a subsidiary of GoDaddy.com. The Web site has a picture of a lock and chain along with the slogan, "Your identity is nobody's business but ours."

Creators pay $8.95 per year to purchase a domain name and $4.99 per year for privacy protection, according to a Proxy.com spokesman. The company pledges to protect users' identities with the stipulation that the Web sites fall within certain decency restrictions. They cannot transmit spam e-mails or computer viruses, violate trademark or copyright laws, distribute child pornography, or conduct racist, defamatory or abusive activities, according to a disclaimer on the Web site.

Hambacker does not contest that on Feb. 22 she posted the quote in question on a Web site sponsored by supporters of gay adoption. She believes that Emerson or someone close to the campaign had a hand in creating the Web site. "It shows they're scared to death of me," she said.

Haynes said those charges are unfounded. He adds that whether Emerson faces Hambacker or one of the two other Democratic candidates competing for the nomination in the Aug. 8 primary, she will not likely make gay marriage or gay adoption an issue.

"I doubt we'll do anything focused on the opponent. We'll focus the campaign on Jo Ann's service to the community, moving forward in the positive direction we're headed and giving people accessible and affordable health care. We'll probably keep to those issues," said Haynes.

But Hambacker said she would welcome a debate on the issue. "It will allow me to state to everybody that I am in favor of every human in this country getting equal and fair treatment. Nobody should be discriminated against because of sexual preference, the color of their skin, religion or gender," she said.

tgreaney@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 245

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