Beating Around the Bush
by Heidi Kriz

from: Wired News
11:10 a.m. 21.May.99.PDT

Presidential hopeful George W. Bush has seen the enemy -- and it isn't Al Gore.

Bush has asked the Federal Election Commission to crack down on a satirical Web site created by Zack Exley, a self-described "Christian who loathes hypocrisy," and the anti-establishment Web design group RTMark.

In a letter of complaint sent to the commission earlier this month, Bush's lawyers claimed the site is not about humor, but represents a "political committee" with an agenda to politically assassinate the Republican candidate.

Exley's site parodies Bush's official campaign page. The page features flag-waving colors and grinning portraits of Bush, along with Amnesty 2000, a satirical manifesto. That document features Bush, presently the governor of Texas, describing a plan to pardon people convicted of cocaine possession.

The document refers to Bush's refusal to directly answer the question of whether he himself ever used cocaine in his youth.

"Bush won't deny he has used cocaine, yet hundreds of thousands of people are serving very long sentences for equivalent ... crimes," said Exley, in a statement issued Thursday.

"Do we want our children to learn that crime is only a crime if you don't have power?"

Meanwhile, the Bush camp is fighting back. Hard.

A week after Exley's site went up on 5 April, the Bush campaign issued a cease-and-desist letter claiming the site violated copyright laws. Then they scrambled to register 60 more domain names, like bushbites.com and bushsux.org, to add to their previous collection of at least a couple hundred names that they had snapped up a year ago.

The latest salvo against the rogue site came in a 3 May letter to the Federal Elections Commission. The note claimed that the RTMark site was not satire, but amounted to a political committee, and as such required registration and regulation with the FEC.

"Humor is fine, but this isn't humor. It's a political campaign against George W. Bush," said campaign spokesman Dave Beckwith.

Exley, a Boston computer consultant, doesn't exactly disagree.

"It's parody and political satire," he said. "A big function of political satire has always been education. We're going to make it a great, intelligent satire focusing on the contradictions inherent in our whole political system."

Meanwhile, Exley has not been averse to trying to make some money off the situation. According to Beckwith, Exley's asking price was US$350,000 for gwbush.com.

But that was then. Exley says he wouldn't dream of selling it now.

"We're having too much fun with the site," he said.

http://www.wired.com/news/politics/









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