- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What site?

The 2009 races aren’t over yet, but intra-Republican battles have been joined for 2010. Case in point: the Florida U.S. Senate race.

RedState founder Erick Erickson — a backer of former Florida state House Speaker Marco Rubio — last week unmasked the relationship between the campaign of Gov. Charlie Crist and a site attacking Mr. Rubio, the governor’s Republican primary rival in the Senate race.

The site — www.truthaboutrubio.com — went live Oct. 27, but RedState did some computer sleuthing and found information tying Crist consultant Rich Heffley to the site (for the computerphiles, it was an image-source code that identified the user as “rheffley”).

“Mr. Heffley played a key role in getting Charlie Crist elected Governor in 2006. More importantly, Mr. Heffley is now Charlie Crist’s top advisor in his Florida Senate race,” Mr. Erickson wrote, going on to note that Mr. Heffley shares a business address with the Florida Republican Party and is on its payroll.

Then the plot thickened.

“I tried to call Mr. Heffley for comment and he would not call me back. A St. Petersburg Times reporter did get Mr. Heffley to answer. Mr. Heffley refused to answer questions about the website and within minutes of that phone call the website was taken down. About an hour later, the website came back up and the source code identifying Mr. Heffley had disappeared,” Mr. Erickson wrote.

Mr. Erickson also noted some of Mr. Crist’s words, saying they implied greater knowledge about the site than would seem likely for a day-old site and raised concerns about election law.

“Charlie Crist denied any involvement with this website, but knew enough to know that the one day old website contained press clippings ‘all in the public domain,’” the RedState founder wrote, linking to a St. Petersburg Times post quoting the governor.

A couple of days later, Mr. Erickson reported that “Rich Heffley admits it was all him,” linking to a report at the Fort Myers News-Press. “This was me going off half-cocked and I’ll never do it again,” the paper quoted Mr. Heffley as saying.

However, Mr. Erickson wrote, “notice how he waits until a Friday night” to change his story and admit the anti-Rubio site was his doing.

The Rubio campaign, meanwhile, said it doubted Mr. Heffley would have set up the site independently of the Crist campaign and the state party.

“Certainly this doesn’t pass the smell test,” spokesman Alex Burgos told the Fort Myers paper.

The site is still active.

‘A uniter …’

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