By Brendan Sasso - 08/29/11 12:00 AM EDT
The owner of the domain names Romney-Perry2012.com and Perry-Romney2012.com has put a price on the rights to the websites: $50,000 each.
The auction is a clear sign that the presidential race is heating up, as the cottage industry of presidential domain names gears up for profit.
It is far from certain, of course, whether Romney or Perry will win the GOP nomination. And the chances of them being on the same ticket are far less than 50-50.
No bids have been placed yet, but Jeffreys — who said in an email he lives in Thailand — is hoping to cash in later in the presidential cycle.
He has bought other domains in the past, but without much luck.
“I have lost a bundle actually, and they’re the worst investment I’ve ever gotten into,” Jeffreys said. But he said it is hard to resist the temptation to buy more addresses for the chance to score a big payout.
The practice is “essentially gambling,” he said.
Jeffreys picked Romney and Perry because he thinks either one can give “[President] Obama a serious run for his money.”
Perry and Romney aren’t the only two GOP politicians that cybersquatters are speculating might appear on the Republican ticket next year.
The domain names RomneyMcDonnell.com, RomneyPortman.com, PerryBachmann.com, PerryRubio.com, BachmannChristie.com and BachmannPerry.com are all already claimed.
Someone even nabbed the less likely ticket of TrumpPalin.com.
Registering a domain name can cost as little as $10, but candidates running for office have paid cybersquatters thousands of dollars for prime Web addresses.
Scott Hoermann, who works for a financial services company in Florida, said he sees buying domain names as an investment.
He owns RomneyRubio.com and said he was offered $100 to sell the site. He turned it down because he suspects the domain could be worth at least 10 times that much if former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney wins the GOP nomination and picks Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) as his running mate.
Dale Kaufteil, who lives in New York and owns several domains including PerryBachmann.com, said he is not necessarily looking to sell his sites. He is a fan of both Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) and said he would not sell the site to any of their political opponents.
If the candidates appear together on the Republican ticket, he said he hopes to make the website an “open forum for people to discuss the politics of the day.”
Asked whether he would consider selling the domain to the campaign, Kauftiel said, “Never say never.”
Earlier this year, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) paid a cybersquatter $4,000 for the rights to ClaireMcCaskill.com. After a lengthy legal battle, former California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman (R) paid an undisclosed sum for several websites including WhitmanForGovernor.com and MegWhitman2010.com.
Josh Bourne, president of the Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse, said it is important for a candidate to claim a strong and predictable domain name for his campaign website. He said that while many people rely on search engines to find websites, some people guess by typing an intuitive name directly into their address bars.
“Consumers are so well programmed, they’ll type something in that’s like what other candidates have used in the past,” Bourne said.
He said that while many voters will eventually find the sites they are looking for, it can be damaging for a candidate if many voters end up at different websites first, especially if those sites are owned by political opponents. For example, during the 2010 campaign, BradEllsworth.org led to a site that criticized then-Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.). Ellsworth lost his bid for the Senate last year.
Matthew Sanderson, a Washington-based political lawyer who worked on the 2008 presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), said there are few legal remedies for a candidate who wishes to control a website that someone else already owns.
Federal law allows companies to sue to get a domain if it infringes on a registered trademark. Additionally, a company can enter a dispute-resolution process to claim a domain.
But to claim a Web address, a candidate has to show he has a commercial right to his name, Sanderson said. That is possible if the candidate has written books or marketed himself commercially, but it is difficult, he said.
If the candidate cannot claim the address through the courts or dispute resolution, he has to negotiate with the site’s owner to buy the address.
Sanderson said Obama was in a good position in 2008 because he already owned barackobama.com. He kept that address for the general election, and it is currently the address for his 2012 reelection bid.
Sanderson suggested the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the nonprofit that manages the Web’s address system, should create a new “.pol” top-level domain (as the suffix of a Web address is known) that would be reserved for candidates.
He said a new top-level domain for campaigns would help to eliminate the problem of political cybersquatting.
— Margaret Rawson contributed to this article.