David A Cox on 5 Nov 2000 22:49:22 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] Corporate vote-buying OK, satire not OK

November 5, 2000

RTMark.com reveals its role, offers cash to the first person who can
redirect the domain of a major candidate's website to

   Voteauction: mailto:pr@[]
   Bill Jones: (916) 653-7244
   ICANN: mailto:icann@icann.org
   Andy Mueller-Maguhn: mailto:andy@ccc.de
   Domain Bank: mailto:shemphill@domainbank.net
   Network Solutions: mailto:cregan@netsol.com
   RTMark: mailto:voteauction@rtmark.com

Voteauction, the satirical website which bills itself as "the only
election platform channelling 'soft money' directly to the democracy
consumer," has fallen victim to a heavy-handed and sometimes illegal
campaign against free speech by two corporations and several public

On November 1, Network Solutions (the private for-profit corporation in
charge of all .com, .net, and .org domains) shut down Vote-auction.com
without warning or explanation, shortly after public attacks by the
California Secretary of State, and after the Chicago Board of Elections
filed an election fraud lawsuit against the domain. Neither the owners nor
the service providers received any notification or warning of the
shutdown, and Network Solutions has refused to comment on the issue. (See
http://rtmark.com/etoynsi.html for an earlier example of illegal and still
unexplained acts by the company.)

California Secretary of State Bill Jones seems to have set the stage for
this blatant disregard of Constitutional free speech protections by
stating last week on CNN that corporate financing of elections is one
subject that cannot be discussed: "whether this is a parody... makes
absolutely no difference whatsoever in California... because you are
talking about the corruption of the voting process."

RTMark sponsored Voteauction.com in June (project VOTE, listed at
http://rtmark.com/featured.html#VOTE) precisely because the satirical site
helps highlight the ways corporations already effectively purchase votes.
As law professor Jamin Raskin said about Voteauction, "...we have now 
evolved a system in which it's OK for money to buy elections, and yet we 
somehow cling to the fantasy that there's something deeply immoral about 
the purchase of an individual vote." 

RTMark and many others believe that if U.S. authorities such as Bill Jones 
wish to purge the election process of corruption, they should start by 
preventing corporations from spending unlimited sums on electing particular
candidates, not by stopping a satire that highlights the problem. As one 
commentator wrote, "few would disagree that the problem with money in 
politics today is the hundreds of millions of dollars at the top, not a 
few dollars at the bottom. Which is why the short-lived vote sale should be 
seen less as a serious act of sabotage and more as guerrilla theater."

Network Solutions' illegal deletion of the Vote-auction.com domain is just
the latest blow in a series of actions that have closed the satirical
website three times since it opened in August.

1: In August, Voteauction.com founder James Baumgartner, a graduate
student, was told by New York State Board of Elections officials that they
would press charges against him; they even implied that he could be guilty 
of treason, which is punishable by execution. Baumgartner, faced with what 
amounted to an official state-sponsored death threat, had little choice but 
to close the site on August 18, at which point RTMark helped transfer the 
domain to its current Austrian owner, Hans Bernhard, who immediately 
re-opened Voteauction.com with new features.

2. On October 21, Domain Bank, the U.S. company with which Voteauction.com
had been registered, illegally froze the domain. Bernhard responded by
registering Vote-auction.com (with an added hyphen) with a company located
outside U.S. jurisdiction.

3: On November 1, to circumvent this approach, Network Solutions, without
warning and in clear violation of international law, removed
Vote-auction.com from its root servers (the computers that provide domain
information to all others). It is unknown who requested this action, and
under what authority Network Solutions feels justified in performing it.
Andy Mueller-Maguhn, a newly-elected director of ICANN, the non-profit
corporation responsible for all internet domains, agreed this was an
illegal move and said "I guess we will have to do something about this."

In response to Network Solution's attack, the Voteauction team has begun
gathering Vote-auction and Voteauction domains around the world and is
calling on other domain owners to point their domains or sub-domains to, the Voteauction IP (IP addresses are not dependent on
domain name registrars or on Internic). If you have a domain or sub-domain
that you can point to, please do so and forward the
information to mailto:pr@[] to be added to a list of

In addition, RTMark has secured a $500 investment, of which $300 will be
offered to the first person who can redirect the domain of a major US
political candidate (for federal or state office) to
The remaining $200 will be offered to the first person to re-route the
domain of a major media outlet covering the elections to the Voteauction

RTMark's primary goal is to publicize corporate subversion of the
democratic process. To this end it acts as a clearinghouse for
anti-corporate projects.

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