Despite the official-sounding URL and the even more official-looking website layout www.congressmanadamsmith.com is not run by Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) or anyone in his office. It's unclear who runs the site, as the administrator won't say who he or she is or who funds it or the glossy mailers they sent out. What is clear is that whoever runs the site really doesn't like Rep. Smith and really does like Nazi imagery.
It was the URL in the corner with Smith peeking out behind it that stood out more than the talk of Chinese oil interests, soldier rape, and "toxic terrorism" (we've heard those before).
The site--emblazoned with the official Washington State Seal and the seal of the U.S. House of Representatives--deals with several topics from "War & Military" and "Healthcare Reform" to "Environment" and "The Economy." It's made to look like Smith's own site, but instead of boasting the normal political blabber about proud accomplishments and current legislation, it offers "The Truth."
"The Truth" is, according to the site, that Smith supports things like forcing children to say the Pledge of Allegiance, keeping "colored people" from getting visas, and potentially going to war with China.
"Adam Smith is my local 'representative' (and I use the term 'representative' quite loosely). I do know him, I know his staff; the website is not far off the mark," writes the site's administrator to Seattle Weekly. "He is the very essence of the war machine, indifferent to his constituents, more tolerant of rasism [sic] by his own staff than I would like, and has mastered the art of disavowing responsibility for anything."
Here's a gem from the site's explanation on Smith's supposed Pledge of Allegiance stance.
A domain registry search shows that the website is owned by a "Private Registrant" and hosted through DreamHost Web Hosting in Brea, Calif.
But whoever is behind it, one thing is certain: They have both know-how and money. The site is as professional as any official campaign website, and the mailers sent out on glossy cardstock aren't cheap to make or mail.
Smith spokesperson Libby Denkmann (who was unaware of the site until informed by Seattle Weekly) refused to comment on the site's substance other than to say: "The creators of this site have the right to express their opinion, I just hope no one looking for help from Congressman Smith would be confused by the official-looking nature of this imitation."
And in fact, according to Washington Assistant Secretary of State Steve Excell (and Washington law), the site's use of the Washington State Seal is definitely illegal.
"It's definitely a no-no," Excell tells us. "The state seal can never be used for political purposes. State statutes reserve use of the seal for state agencies."
Excell, who wasn't aware of the site either prior to us pointing it out, says he'll now be sending a letter to the site's administrators asking them to take down the seal. And if they refuse, he'll forward the case to Attorney General Rob McKenna's office for possible prosecution.
The site's host, meanwhile, maintains that using the seal is perfectly legal.
"The use of these in this context is legal, according to the law firm that reviewed the website," he writes to us.
What's most interesting about the site perhaps is that the attacks against Smith appear to be coming from the Left and not the Right. All the issues raised on the site are common causes of liberals (ending war, enhancing civil rights, improving immigration policies, eliminating the PATRIOT Act, ending racism, etc.).
But Smith, a moderate Democrat from a moderate district, has typically only faced challenges from Republicans. And to our knowledge, no major effort by liberals has taken place to unseat him.
Pierce County Democrats Vice Chairman Jonathan Johnson says that his party is very satisfied with Smith's performance and, if anything, the site is likely being run by Republicans masquerading as liberals.
"There is no move afoot to replace Congressman Smith," he says. "Although professionally done, we're dealing with people who would post any misinformation in order to prove a point. It's probably being bankrolled by some of the same people that are taking our whole economy down the toilet."
Apparently Smith wants us to be more like Nazi Germany.
Besides the unfortunate use of Nazi pictures and sensationalized doomsday predictions, the site manages to raise important topics--the Hanford Site cleanup, the wars in the Middle East, and immigration reform among them.
And it's disappointing that Smith's office doesn't feel it necessary to clarify his position on those important issues.
But when an anonymous group with anonymous funding maintains a website and sends out material that's mocking at best and illegally deceptive at worst, it's tough to take them at their word.