Alaskan Democrats condemn fake campaign Internet sites

Posted on 01 May 2008 at 6:12pm
By Steve Quinn – Associated Press

Sites purporting to be official campaign pages for candidate try to link Berkowitz to gay culture, portray him as a California liberal

Former Alaska state House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz is shown during a legislative session in 2004 at the state Capitol in Juneau. Berkowitz, now running for Congress, has been the target of fake "campaign" Web sites trying to link him to San Francisco’s gay culture and paint him as a California liberal. – SEANNA O’SULLIVAN/Associated Press



JUNEAU, Alaska — Congressional candidate Ethan Berkowitz on Monday, April 28 denounced several Web pages that purport to be his official sites, which link users to pages associated with gay culture in San Francisco and attempt to portray him as a privileged, California liberal.

"This state has got a lot of troubles with faith in political process," Berkowitz, a Democrat, said. "This kind of mud linging just aggravates the problem."

It wasn’t immediately known who was behind the deceptive Web pages, but Democrats alluded it came from within their party, and no one mentioned the Republicans.

Alaska Democratic Party Chairwoman Patti Higgins put the party on notice that the behavior is unacceptable, and asked the person responsible to "come out of the shadows and clear the air."

"Everyone is denying to me that they have anything to do with it," Higgins said. "At this point, I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt."

Berkowitz said if it did come from another candidate, it indicates bad judgment and a lack of integrity. "And it shows that person is not fit to serve in office," Berkowitz said.

The two other Democrats in the race — Diane Benson and Jake Metcalfe — also quickly admonished those behind the fake Web campaign.

"I hope there are no connections to another campaign," Benson said in a prepared statement. "If there is, the candidate must take necessary actions and disassociate themselves from those individuals and publicly condemn their actions."

Metcalfe said he would make sure no one from his campaign had a hand in the sites bearing Berkowitz’ name.

"If anybody with my campaign had something to do with it, I’ll make sure it’s taken care of," Metcalfe said.

"This lowers the discussion when we should be focused on issues," he said. "It reminds me of 7th grade; it just has to stop."

The three Web sites and one blog site all bear some semblance of Berkowitz’ name, and are a variation of his official campaign site, www.Ethanberkowitz.com.

But once someone clicks a fake link, users are automatically directed to different Web sites, two of them associated with San Francisco’s gay culture.

The other goes to an Internet retail site featuring merchandise with the phrase, "Trust Fund Baby." The Web site on Monday posted a line saying it was not behind the link from the fake Berkowitz site, calling it "somebody’s idea of a joke or subtle political barb."

The blog is a flat-out parody of the official campaign site.

Berkowitz, who has San Francisco roots, said some of the content was "out of bounds" for bringing his family into the parody.

Berkowitz, who moved to Alaska in 1990 after completing law school, said he believed someone simply tried to portray him as "not Alaskan enough."

"There aren’t two classes of Alaskans," Berkowitz said. "People like myself who made the choice to come here should be insulted by it, and the people who greeted me should be insulted by it."

Among those vying for the GOP nod in the August primary are: state Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux of Kodiak, Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell, of Anchorage, and incumbent Rep. Don Young.


This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 2, 2008.

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