Bond aide leaves after fracas over controversial Web site

Friday, October 3, 2003

WASHINGTON -- An aide to Missouri Republican Sen. Kit Bond left the senator's staff after it was discovered he had been running a political Web site named for the tail number of a plane that crashed in 2000, killing the Democratic Missouri governor.

The title of the site -- N8354N -- "is not random," a note on the Web site reads. "It marks an inflection point in current Missouri politics. On that day, the worm began to turn," the site reads.

Missouri Democrats found the Web site and made the connection to the senator's office on Wednesday.

Bond issued a statement Thursday morning saying the aide was no longer on staff. His staff would not say who the person was.

"The actions of a member of my staff in using official computers to make hurtful personal attacks on public servants were totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated," Bond said in the statement. "I had no knowledge of this until last night. I offer my sincere apologies, and those of my staff, to all those offended by these messages.

"There will be no place in my office, or in my campaign, for this type of attack. The person responsible will no longer be a member of my staff," Bond said.

By Thursday morning, content had been stripped from the site -- A similar site called "What Would Truman Do? -- -- was still online.

It's not against Senate rules to operate such a Web site, so long as Senate resources are not used. However, the aide also apparently used a Senate computer to post comments on a similar Web site, and that is against the rules. The Senate ethics manual states clearly: "Official resources may only be used for official purposes."

Democrats were angry at the aide's actions.

"This is not just a matter of rules," said Marc Farinella, a longtime adviser to Carnahan and his wife, Jean. "This is about personal decency. This is not political dialogue. This was meant to hurt people who are still grieving from that plane crash.

"This was something meaningful only to a very small group of people who had a close, personal relationship with Mel, Chris and Randy," Farinella said.

The crash on Oct. 16, 2000, killed Mel Carnahan, his eldest son, Randy, and a close aide, Chris Sifford. Missouri voters made history by electing Mel Carnahan posthumously over Republican Sen. John Ashcroft, now the U.S. attorney general.

Carnahan's widow, Jean, went to the Senate in his place.

Mrs. Carnahan campaigned last year to finish the rest of the term but narrowly lost to Republican Jim Talent.

The connection became clear because the same e-mail address was used by the person running the N8354N Web site and a person who sent comments to a similar site run by state Democratic operative Roy Temple, another longtime aide to both Carnahans.

Temple receives an Internet provider address with each e-mail sent to his site, and a check with U.S. Senate operations confirmed the address belongs to Bond's office.

The site itself has Republican-leaning commentary with links to political news and other Web sites.

Bond's chief of staff, Julie Dammann, said neither she nor the senator knew of the aide's activities.

"When I told him what had occurred, he said he was stunned and offended, particularly with the inappropriate naming of the Web site," Dammann said.

She added: "Senator Bond has a long history and tradition of not only meeting the letter of the law, but the tradition of the law," Dammann said. "Our policy is clear, and we expect our people to follow it."

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