The office of the vice president was busy fielding calls this morning after an item in the Drudge Report indicated that the vice president may have violated campaign finance rules by his possible association with a fund-raising Web site. According to the story, the site, dedicated to fund-raising efforts for Gore's nascent presidential campaign, was registered using a White House phone number and email address as contact information.
Under Federal Elections Committee regulations, any political fund-raising activity carried out on government property or using government resources is illegal.
The InterNIC domain name look-up service lists the "gore2000.org" administrative contact as Michael Gill, a former secretary for the vice president. Adding to the confusion, Gill listed a phone number on the registry that reaches the vice president's office and an email address with a ".gov" domain name as additional contact information.
Gill, who left the vice president's office in 1996, was told more than once to change the contact information to make sure the site reflected no government affiliation, according to Ginny Terzano, a spokesperson for the vice president.
Gill set up the site for a friend, Terzano said. The site was "entirely on his own initiative, without using any official resources. We asked Gill in 1997 to remove the White House phone number, and again two months ago."
Terzano said Gill has now been told to change the information by a White House counsel. "Gore2000.org" is registered to "The Friends of Al Gore" in Denver.
Part of the confusion may stem from the fact that the Network Solutions contact information is somewhat difficult to update and was never intended to be an infallible database of Web site information.
A request to change contact information must originate from the administrative contact's original email address, said Christopher Clough, a spokesman for Network Solutions. In this case, because the administrative contact's email address would have changed when Gill left the vice president's office, the request must be faxed on the letterhead of the organization that originally registered the Web site.
"The safeguards were put in because you wouldn't want someone who is unauthorized to change the records," Clough said. "It's pretty clear off of recent cases that Network Solutions is a registrant, and our liability is limited."
Clough noted that Web site administration information was originally intended to allow technical contacts to reach each other in the event of some type of glitch.
Network Solutions' contract for its domain name registry runs out in September, and at least one group, Internet Council of Registrars Policy Oversight Committee, has announced that it will begin testing its own domain system.
The Gore2000 Web site confusion was originally reported by the Knoxville News Sentinel. Matt Drudge, who published his version this morning, is no more a stranger to controversy than his subjects.
Drudge and America Online, which publishes his Internet gossip column, were sued on charges of libel last August by White House adviser Sydney Blumenthal after Drudge reported that Blumenthal was rumored to have a history of spousal abuse.