Fact Check: Candidates battle on the Web

December 21, 2007 12:00:00 AM PST
The Hillary Clinton campaign is going after her chief rival with a couple of Web sites. ABC News reports the sites will launch serious criticisms of Barack Obama.

The Clinton Web sites aren't up and running yet, but ABC News reports the Clinton campaign has registered two domain names -- votingpresent.com and votingpresent.org, and that they intend to use the Web sites to paint Barack Obama as cowardly.

The story about Barack Obama's voting record came out in a piece in The New York Times concerning Obama's voting record during the eight years he was a state senator. The Times reported that on 130 occasions, State Senator Obama voted 'present' instead of voting 'yes' or 'no.' The Clinton campaign says Obama was trying to duck controversial legislation.

Former California Senator Tom Campbell tells me voting 'present' in California would be very rare.

"The only time you'd vote 'present' would beif you had a conflict of interest and a pretty sincere, clear financial personal conflict of interest," says State Sen. Campbell.

Campbell added the situation could be quite different in the Illinois Senate.

Senator Obama explained his votes on Good Morning America saying, "this was a standard practice in Illinois. You often times would vote strategically vote 'present' because you were still negotiating a bill or because there was some element in the bill that was unconstitutional."

Fact Check: It is a common practice according to sources inside the Illinois senate president's office. Obama told GMA he made over 4,000 votes in his eight years. The senate president's office tells me voting 'present' 130 times out of 4,000 votes, is a very low percentage, not a high one.

Does the Clinton campaign intend to use the Web sites to paint Obama as cowardly? A spokesman for the Clinton campaign wouldn't confirm or deny it.

The Barack Obama campaign has launched a Web site called hillaryattacksbarackobama.com and the campaign has posted a video in which Clinton says, "I have been for months on the receiving end of rather consistent attacks. Well, now the fun part starts."

Obama accused Senator Clinton of attacking her opponents for the fun of it.

Fact Check: What Senator Clinton said was that the fun part would be in drawing distinctions in herself and her rivals because as she said, she wanted every Iowan to have accurate information when they made their decisions.

Campbell says there's a reason that these sniping attacks are being played out on the Web, rather than in person.

"If any of these blow up, they'll be the world's greatest deniability -- 'I didn't approve that Web site.' Already we've seen people fired from campaigns because, 'Oh, I never would've approved that,'" says State Sen. Campbell.

Tom Campbell's advice is to hold the candidates responsible. That's why we do Fact Checks.

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