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Bass staffer in D.C. poses as blogger
Bogus posts aimed at his political opponent


September 26. 2006 8:00AM

R
epublican Congressman Charlie Bass acknowledged yesterday that one of his paid staff members had been posing as a liberal blogger on several political websites. The site's administrators say the messages, which included statements expressing doubts about the chances of Bass's Democratic opponent in this year's election, were sent from a computer in Bass's Washington, D.C., office.

Using the name "IndieNH" or "IndyNH," the blogger has for months been posting discouraging messages about Paul Hodes, Bass's challenger, on websites geared to New Hampshire Democrats. In one recent post, IndieNH suggests Democrats shouldn't waste their time or money on Hodes, because he can't beat Bass.

"We only need 15 House seats and 6 Senate seats - not all of them," the message reads. It says Democrats should instead focus their efforts on competitive races in New York or Connecticut. "Anyone interested in pooling NH efforts for some of those races? Maybe we could even go help out for a few days in buses or something in November?"

Bass's office has admitted responsibility for the messages but has not identified the staff member. Bass spokesman John Billings said the person will be disciplined for violating office policies, as well as possibly U.S. House rules.

Bass "firmly believes that such an act is not acceptable," Billings said. "It definitely represents a serious lapse of judgment on the part of that person."

IndieNH has been blogging since early August, ostensibly as a liberal, posting regularly on matters relating to Bass and Hodes. To Laura Clawson and Michael Caulfield, who run the Blue Granite and NH-02 Progressive blogs, respectively, IndieNH stuck out right away.

"You see this all the time on political blogs, some elaborate act where someone says, 'Now, I hate to say something against a Democrat, but . . . '" Clawson said, who blogs under the name "Miss Laura.""So you develop an eye for it. And this poster definitely tripped all the wires."

Caulfield, too, was suspicious of IndieNH from the start. His statements seemed naive yet knowledgeable, Caulfield said. He knew how to check on votes Bass had taken, for instance, but pretended not to know that certain provisions had been attached to those votes. So Caulfield traced the poster's internet provider address - and found that it led to the U.S. House of Representatives.

"At first I didn't believe it, or I thought it must have been a mistake," said Caulfield, who is known as "Keener" online. "It just sounds crazy. It sounds absolutely crazy."

But when IndieNH popped up on Clawson's site, too, her search also led to Congress. She and Caulfield also saw internet searches IndieNH did, including "Hodes and gay marriage" and "Hodes and taxes."

Both bloggers were fairly certain only one office in the House of Representatives would even know who Paul Hodes was. So they both watched IndieNH's postings and often responded.

"We were curious," said Clawson, who is a Hodes supporter. "We wanted to see what would happen next."

In a post from July, IndieNH noted in a discussion that Bass had voted in favor of increasing the minimum wage. "Looks like our voices had an impact," IndieNH wrote.

Clawson and Caulfield decided to reveal IndieNH's link to Bass last week, after hearing of a scandal in a New Jersey Senate race in which a campaign spokeswoman was caught making bogus posts to an opponent's website. Clawson posted news of the IndieNH-Bass connection on the internet last week, and the Washington newspaper Roll Call reported the story yesterday.

The New Hampshire Democratic Party issued a statement yesterday denouncing the blogging as "dirty tricks and deceit" and demanding that Bass identify the staff member.

Reid Cherlin, Hodes's campaign spokesman, said the situation suggests that Bass's staff is worried about the challenge from Hodes in November's election.

"This shows off clearly that they're feeling the heat, and it shows we're close to them," he said.

Clawson said she didn't understand what IndieNH had hoped to accomplish by targeting websites with such narrow audiences.

"Mostly I think it's just sort of pathetic and lame," Clawson said. "That they would spend so much time on a few people's personal blogs with not heavy numbers of readers."

------ End of article

By ALLISON STEELE

Monitor staff

Related articles:
Bass aide admits deceptive blogging, resigns


 



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