Dem PAC buys newtgingrich.com, wallops him with it

Episode shows peril that come with not controlling your brand online

Gingrich

The campaign of Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich has seen the domain name newtgingrich.com fall into enemy hands: a Democratic political action committee called American Bridge 21st Century.

The results are either amusing or not, depending on your politics and opinion of Gingrich. But in either case they are a cautionary tale about the importance of controlling your brand online, a task that's about to get more difficult for everyone thanks to the impending expansion of generic top-level domains.

As first reported by Talking Points Memo, newtgingrich.com now redirects visitors to a rotating gallery of anti-Gingrich destinations, including scandal reminders such as Tiffany and Freddie Mac, a video of Gingrich with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and headlines such as "Gingrich 'Inadvertently' Names Porn Company 'Entrepreneur of The Year' For Stimulating The Economy," and "Gingrich Presidential Campaign Implodes."

Newtgingrich.com is not Gingrich's official Web site; that would be www.newt.org.

american

American Bridge -- a Democratic Super PAC -- bought newtgingrich.com "about a month ago, six weeks at the most," spokesman Chris Harris tells me in an email. "We simply saw it was for sale and purchased it." Neither the Gingrich campaign nor anyone associated with it was the previous owner, Harris says, adding that he did not know the identity of that party.

It was only today that the monkey business began.

The Gingrich campaign has yet to respond to my email seeking comment.

American Bridge says it would rather not retain ownership of newtgingrich.com for long and has put it up for sale in a cheeky post on its own Web site:

With the holiday season rapidly upon us, what do you get for the Republican primary candidate who has everything? American Bridge 21st Century has the perfect gift:

NewtGingrich.com

As the people who brought you RomneyForSenate.com, it's not that we didn't have our own ideas about what to do with the site. But, in true holiday spirit, we figured it might go to someone with greater need than us. Maybe someone trying to get that added edge going into 2012, or perhaps someone who may have been too busy earlier in the year to secure it on their own.

When I asked if some might see their stunt as a dirty trick, or even "extortion," Harris replied: "We're just having some fun before the holidays."

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