Cyber squatters sitting on valuable VP web addresses

Cyber squatters sitting on valuable VP web addresses
© Jeremy Peter Green

Many of the most intuitive internet addresses that Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpOver 100 lawmakers consistently voted against chemical safeguards: study CNN's Anderson Cooper unloads on Trump Jr. for spreading 'idiotic' conspiracy theories about him Cohn: Jamie Dimon would be 'phenomenal' president MORE or Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump to declassify controversial text messages, documents related to Russia probe Hypocrisy in Kavanaugh case enough to set off alarms in DC Clinton: Hard to ignore 'racial subtext of virtually everything Trump says' MORE might want to use to help unveil their vice presidential picks were snatched up months or even years ago.

The most obvious dot-com addresses with the last name of the presumptive nominees alongside their most likely running mates redirect to a mishmash of blank pages, domain auction sites, high offers to sell, and, in one case, Clinton-"Harry Potter" fan fiction.

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Trump is slated to unveil his VP choice on Friday, and the Republican's most likely picks in betting markets include Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, former Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.), Gov. Chris Christie (N.J.) and Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe Hill’s 12:30 Report — Kavanaugh accuser willing to testify | Kavanaugh denies allegations, says he’s willing to testify | 50 days from the midterms Ken Starr backs Mueller, says president 'must be held accountable' The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh confirmation in sudden turmoil MORE (Ala.).

Owners, both named and anonymous, have been squatting on addresses associated with those names for a while now. 

As of Thursday morning, the website TrumpPence.com redirects to a page that is under construction, TrumpChristie.com directs to a blank page, TrumpGingrich.com is a scaled down site with a host of related political search terms, and TrumpSessions.com has a months-old announcement that the site is "coming soon."

Each of the domain names was claimed in the last year, going back to June 2015. The registry information for both the Gingrich and the Pence sites has been updated as recently as this month.

The Christie page was bought up the earliest, last June, by a Pennsylvania man named David Banas, and the Pence domain was created most recently, in February of this year, by a person's whose identity is disguised by a proxy in public databases.

The tactic of buying up potentially valuable web addresses early has become increasingly common.

Numerous stories were written this election cycle about the TedCruz.com address that redirected to a page supporting comprehensive immigration reform, which now declares Clinton will be the next president, and about the decision by Rand Paul's campaign to pay $100,000 to the person who owned RandPaul.com.

The tactic is even easier now that thousands of other top-level domains have been released beyond the well-known dot-coms, dot-nets and dot-orgs.

Never Trump supporter Patrick Ruffini pointed out that, as of Wednesday, the addresses TrumpGingrich.gop, TrumpPence.gop and TrumpChristie.gop all display a petition to prevent Trump from being the GOP nominee.

The stories make for amusing headlines, but it remains unclear just how valuable those addresses are when many people primarily use search engines or social media to find candidate websites. 

Nonetheless, some of the domain squatters are using the addresses to promote their own work or to try to make some money.

For example, Jeremy Peter Green, the owner of ClintonKaine.com, is using the address for "Harry Potter" fan fiction, which includes a drawing of Clinton on a broom above the words "Hillary Potter" with a few paragraphs about Clinton's pick for vice president heavily laced with references to the novels.

He has bought up a number of other domains, including ClintonBooker.com and ClintonBiden.com.

"I have not received any offers for these Clinton domains, yet," he said. "The only political domains I've sold in this cycle so far are Cruz2016.com for $1,500 and BidenWarren.com, also for $1,500."

Aside from Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Cuomo wins and Manafort plea deal Virginia reps urge Trump to declare federal emergency ahead of Hurricane Florence More Dems come out in public opposition to Kavanaugh MORE (Va.), other reported VP options for the presumptive Democratic nominee include Labor Secretary Tom Perez, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenAnother recession could hit US in 2019, says credit union association chief Warren says vote should be delayed, asks what Kavanaugh is hiding Kavanaugh hires attorney amid sexual assault allegations: report MORE (Mass.), Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownDark money group targets Brown over previous domestic violence claim Biz groups fracture after Dodd-Frank rollback Five biggest surprises in midterm fight MORE (Ohio), Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.) or Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro.

Most addresses associated with Clinton were claimed years ago.

ClintonWarren.com and ClintonPerez.com were created in 2012 and 2013, respectively. And  both are available for auction.

Separately, Google search ads in D.C. for Clinton’s site pop up when searching for "Clinton Perez" or "Clinton Booker."

One of the few functional websites is ClintonBrown.com, which directs to the page of a financial services professional in California by that name.

The address ClintonCastro.com was created the day that Castro gave his keynote address at the Democratic National Convention four years ago. The person who bought it, Jonathan Walczak, has said he will sell the address for nearly $80,000 — the cost of his student loans.

"Call me a cybersquatter if you will. But in my opinion, it's no different than investing in stocks or real estate; it's actually a much more democratic investment — anyone with foresight and a few bucks can do it," he says on the site.