In April, GOP congressional candidate Henry “Trey” Radel III landed in a cyberscandal dubbed “Domain-gate” when it was discovered that his campaign committee had purchased web addresses related to his GOP rivals and created sites slamming them. Radel’s outraged opponents accused him of everything from cybersquatting to dirty tricks to possible Federal Election Commission violations. Radel—a tea party favorite who has received the endorsement of Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-Fla.) to fill the seat he’s vacating—defended the move, saying he’d bought the domains because his “campaign believes in things like strategy, planning, and capitalism.” And he explained: “I, as a business guy, as an entrepreneur, have bought all sorts of domain names.”
And some of those names are not so family friendly.
Domain-gate was just the tip of the web-address-registering iceberg for Radel, a conservative talk show host and onetime Florida newspaper publisher and media relations entrepreneur. Starting in 2005, his now-defunct company, Trey Enterprises, registered a number of sexually charged web addresses, many of them in Spanish, according to historical domain name ownership records. Among them is www.cojible.com, a slang term defined by Urban Dictionary as “a woman who doesn’t look good, but is good enough to sleep with.” There was also www.casadelasputas.com (whorehouse), www.mamadita.com (little blow job *), www.chicasderio.com (girls of Rio). And in English: www.sexguideonline.com.
The risqué domains have all since expired, and it’s unclear whether the web addresses ever included any content. Many of them forwarded to another site claimed by Trey Enterprises, www.buscaque.com (which translates to “what you’re looking for”). It’s possible the domains were registered as part of a domain parking scheme, where placeholder sites are populated with ads and links, for which the domain owner receives a small fee based on click-through rates.
Trey Enterprises was dissolved in 2010. Neither Radel nor anyone from his campaign responded to repeated requests for comment.
Radel is a top contender in the GOP primary for Florida’s 19th District. Mack, who’s running for Senate, has called him “the perfect person to represent southwest Florida in Washington.” (Mack did not respond to a call for comment.) Radel also snagged a high-profile endorsement from former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. According to the latest campaign finance reports, released in March, Radel had outraised all of his Republican rivals in the primary, banking more than $300,000.
With 11 candidates, the GOP primary field is crowded. Radel’s strongest competitor may be Chauncey Goss, the son of former CIA director and congressman Porter Goss. Chauncey Goss has been endorsed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), though his fundraising has lagged behind that of Florida state Rep. Gary Aubuchon, who is competitive with Radel. The winner of the GOP primary will face Democrat Jim Roach. The district leans Republican, giving the GOP candidate a good shot of claiming the seat.
The domain name issue doesn’t seem likely to faze Radel’s most loyal supporters, many of them tea partiers who brushed aside Domain-gate. Radel supporter George Miller, the president of the Cape 9/12 group, a conservative tea-party-type organization inspired by Glenn Beck, says that he doesn’t believe Radel would register raunchy web sites to begin with. “I stand by him 100 percent,” he says. “He’s an honest guy. He’s a family guy. He’s the kind of guy I want representing me.”
Update 6/18/12: On Thursday, Radel finally responded to the issues in this story. In an email to supporters, he attacked Mother Jones as an “ultra-liberal San Francisco rag” whose “attack” on him he wore like a “badget of honor.” But he admitted to buying the domain names. Read more here.
*Originally, this story had translated “mamadita” as “hot babe.” While this is the literal translation, our astute commenters have pointed out that, in fact, mamadita is more commonly used as a slang term for oral sex.