Staking claim to political domain names ahead of the game

Last modified: 12/14/2014 1:15:38 AM
Attention all present and future politicians: Have you registered a website, Facebook account and Twitter handle under your own name yet? If not, chances are somebody else already has, and that can mean big problems.

Newly elected House Speaker Shawn Jasper emailed House members last week warning representatives that several fake social media accounts bearing his name – including at least one Facebook page and two Twitter accounts – had cropped up.

“Please be aware of this should you receive any communication from these social media,” Jasper said. Additionally, he flagged several websites using his name – shawnjasper.org, shawnjasper.net, shawnjasper.com – that are not, in fact, associated with him.

All three sites route to the conservative blog Granite Grok and a page of posts critical of Jasper, who recently defeated Republican nominee Rep. Bill O’Brien to become speaker.

Fellow Republican House member, Dunbarton Rep. JR Hoell, who backed O’Brien in the election, bought all three website domains back in June thinking it would be a worthwhile purchase. The sites have routed to Granite Grok since August, he said.

“I honestly see it as an investment, financially or politically. Everyone wants to have their own domain name when they run for higher office,” said Hoell, who bought his own name’s website over a decade ago. “It is staking out real estate in the social media space.”

The payoff can come in many forms.

In the age of the internet, when campaign ads are migrating into the digital sphere and politicians use Twitter to send daily alerts to constituents, websites and Facebook profiles are increasingly valuable political assets. Many – like Hoell – see the potential and have begun to buy them up, either to protect their own political identity, control another’s political message or to make some money.

Hoell estimates he now owns more than 100 domain names – representing politicians from both parties – in the two years he has been purchasing them for anywhere from 99 cents to $12.99. He declined to name all the sites he owns, but said in the future he may auction some off.

A quick search shows they range from several iterations of state Sen. Jeb Bradley (congressmanjebbradley.com, bradleyforsenate.com, senatorjebbradley.com) and former senator Scott Brown ( senatorscottbrown.org, notbrown.com and .org), to sites bearing the names of his former opponents, including Rep. Mary Beth Walz, a Bow Democrat (marybethwalz.com and .org). “Being tech savvy has value,” Hoell said.

Others are in it for the money. Jon Cohen, a 24-year-old student living in Baltimore, Md., owns kellyayotte2016.com. He started buying up domain names of Republican politicians who may have a chance of running in 2016 in the hopes of selling them off, he said in an email.

The control of a domain can frustrate a politician, like Jasper, worried about controlling a message. It’s clear the online tools are key to a modern day candidate, or business person, trying to craft a brand.

Unfortunately for me, alliemorris.com and allisonmorris.com are both taken. I’m not ready to fork over the big bucks, so any alternative ideas are greatly appreciated.

Legislative litmus test

Before Jasper swings the gavel in Representatives Hall at the start of the next legislative session on Jan. 7, members of the House have already been busy laying out their legislative wish list.

These potential pieces of legislation aren’t even bills yet, but they will be soon.

Formally known as Legislative Service Requests, or LSRs, they allow lawmakers to identify key issues they plan to introduce.

Usually about 1,000 of them are filed, and they range from the very specific, to the somewhat squishy.

For example, three legislators (Republican Reps.Dan McGuire of Epsom, John Reagan of Deerfield and Frank Kotowski of Hooksett) signed onto an LSR “relative to prescription refills,” and three others (Republican Reps. Lars Christiansen of Hudson, Richard Marple of Hooksett and Michael Brewster of Barnstead) signed onto one “relative to the accountability of public officials.” They sound valid, but also a little vague.

On the more specific side, Eric Eastman, a Nashua Republican, plans to file legislation to create a tax credit for “motion picture production” in New Hampshire,” and Jasper himself filed an LSR to repeal “the prohibition on the use of mobile electronic devices while driving.” Both are clear and to the point. (However, as speaker, Jasper will have to hand that off to another legislator.)

All of these LSRs have a long way to go before they become law and most will never make it that far, but they speak volumes about the priorities of the next Legislature.

The legislative pipe is already burning over medical marijuana with several proposals ranging from allowing qualified patients to grow their own marijuana to outright decriminalization.

At least a dozen LSRs deal with election law, including addressing the legal locations of political signs, to changing the governor’s elected term to four years instead of two.

Even more relate to health care, including proposals to establish a study committee on end of life issues and capping out of pocket expenses for health insurance plans.

Work will be done with labor-related laws, as both Right-to-Work and increasing the minimum wage will be on the docket.

And legislators will study several bills about education, including implementing new statewide assessment tests and allowing the Community College System on New Hampshire to grant bachelor’s degrees.

Several LSRs take aim at law enforcement, including ones allowing people to audio or video record police officers during traffic stops, forcing officers to wear body cameras, and requiring a police supervisor to arrest an officer who has violated the law.

No legislative session would be complete without a few unusual pieces of legislation trickling through the State House. Some examples in that category are “prohibiting driving while holding an animal in the driver’s seat,“ and calling for a closer examination of the rules on septic system inspectors.

Friends again?

One Republican election that actually seems to be uniting the party is that for state party chairwoman Jennifer Horn. She announced last week she will seek another two-year term and the endorsements began rolling in, from Republicans from Mont Vernon Rep. Bill O’Brien to state Senate President Chuck Morse of Salem.

“Jennifer and the dedicated staff she led were instrumental in securing the Republican gains made in our state Legislature,” Morse said in a statement. No other candidate has emerged yet. The election is Jan. 10.

Horn led the party through November elections, when Republicans won a majority in the New Hampshire House and bolstered their majority in the Senate. At the federal level, Republicans didn’t fare as well. U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta was the only Republican candidate to unseat the Democratic incumbent.

Horn said as party chair she hopes to maintain stability. In her announcement, she noted while the state Democratic Party has had only two chairs since 2001, Kathy Sullivan and Ray Buckley, the state Republican Party has seen high turnover. Since 2001, the party hasn’t had a chair hold the job for more than one term.

“Now more than ever we need consistency in leadership and uninterrupted progress as we continue to expand our base, improve our operations and prepare for the upcoming presidential primary,” she said.

Horn defeated challenger Andrew Hemingway in 2012 to win her first term as party chairwoman. She has previously run as a Republican candidate for Congress, first in 2008, losing to Democratic incumbent Paul Hodes. She ran again in 2010, losing in the Republican primary to Bass, a former congressman who went on to win the seat.

Buckley, New Hampshire Democratic Party chairman, said he expects to announce whether he will seek another term in a few weeks, for an election that will take place in March.



(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or at amorris@cmonitor.com. Jonathan Van Fleet contributed to this report.)




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