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 TrumpKinzinger says Trump 'winning' because so many Republicans 'have remained silent' Our remote warfare counterterrorism strategy is more risk than reward Far-right rally draws small crowd, large police presence at Capitol MORE or Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonClinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' Attorney charged in Durham investigation pleads not guilty Attorney indicted on charge of lying to FBI as part of Durham investigation 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 SessionsOvernight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability Stanford professors ask DOJ to stop looking for Chinese spies at universities in US Overnight Energy & Environment — Democrats detail clean electricity program 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 KaineOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Emissions heading toward pre-pandemic levels The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - What do Manchin and Sinema want? Warren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack MORE (Va.), other reported VP options for the presumptive Democratic nominee include Labor Secretary Tom Perez, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenFederal Reserve officials' stock trading sparks ethics review Manchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants Warren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack MORE (Mass.), Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownAdvocates call on top Democrats for 0B in housing investments Democratic senators request probe into Amazon's treatment of pregnant employees Wyden releases new tax proposals as Democrats work on .5T bill 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.