George W. Bush, meet the masters of your domain names.
Now that that pesky gubernatorial election is over, let the real race begin—the race, that is, to make a buck off of George W. Bush’s presidential prospects. Never mind that way back in May 1997 the governor’s political Svengali, Karl Rove, registered bush2000.com in the event his client decided to run for the White House. All across the country, enterprising souls are snapping up other Bush-related domain names with visions of Net gains dancing in their head.
There’s a precedent here. It has always been legal for any individual to register any unregistered domain name. For a $70 fee, you could be the owner of, say, austinamericanstatesman.com; if the editors of the Austin American-Statesman wanted it for themselves, they’d have to pay whatever price you set—and it could be substantial. Last year, after Compaq acquired the AltaVista Internet search engine, it paid Jack Marshall of San Jose, California, $3.35 million for altavista.com, which Marshall had registered in January 1994 as the domain name for his company, Alta Vista Technology.
Of course, no one knows how much Bush-related domain names would sell for—but a guy can dream, can’t he? Herewith, a guide to the cyberscalpers.
Domain: bush2000.org Registered by: Dikran Yacoubian, college student, Memphis When: September 1997 Why: This is what he does; he also owns gephardt2000.org and bradley2000.org. Asking price: He’d give Bush a “break.”
Domain: georgebushforpresident.com Registered by: David Booth, systems administrator, Antrim, New Hampshire When: November 1998 Why: “Imagine if Howard Stern got a hold of this.” Asking price: $70 for Bush, a minimum of $150,000 for anyone else.
Domain: georgebush.org Registered by: Edward Taussig, computer programmer, New York City When: March 1998 Why: “To keep it out of the opposition’s hands.” Asking price: “If they want it, they can have it. It would be nice if they offered something.”
Domain: georgewbush.org Registered by: Philip Cordek, director of sales for thewebpeople.com, an Internet developer, Columbus, Ohio When: August 1998 Why: “I’m a die-hard Republican, and I’d like to do a Web site for him if he runs for president.” Asking price: “Breakfast or lunch with George.”
Domain: bush2000.net Registered by: Brian (doesn’t want his last name used), computer consultant, Palm Harbor, Florida When: April 1998 Why: “I thought it would be a good investment.” Asking price: “I’m not going to give it to him for free.”
Domains: PresidentBush.com, VoteBush.com, VoteForBush.com Registered by: domain name broker David W. Chowins When: Summer 1998 Why: “We wanted a forum to voice our opinions; listing these domain names for sale was more of an afterthought.” Asking price: $22,000, $10,500, and $10,500, respectively.
Domain: georgebushjr.org Registered by: Reed Paget, documentary filmmaker, Chicago When: May 1998 Why: “I have a general interest in the upcoming election.” Asking price: “If somebody offered me a knighthood in England . . .” Are you aware that his name isn’t George Bush, Jr.? “Uhhhh, apparently not.”
“It’s a certainty,” says Bush spokeswoman Karen Hughes, “that we won’t be paying good money for that one.”