Jul 21, 2011
A lot of my job is tracking people down. I use all the obvious tools, public records phone books, etc. But I thought I would share one that is a little less obvious.
In 2008, then-candidate Toni Preckwinkle had her campaign website content replaced with a message from a group advocating for prayer in schools. The campaign staff had no idea how it got there and there was no contact information on the site at the time to track down the advocacy group.
Here’s where the Internet gets fun. All domains are registered. Using a WHOIS search, I tracked down the home phone number, address and name of one of the group’s leaders. My calls were not returned, but I use this all the time to track down sources. If they have a website — if they have almost any online footprint — I can find them.
The following is my unpublished story from August 2008.
Preckwinkle site taken over by prayer group
Ald. Toni Preckwinkle’s office confirmed that they are not associated with content on the website citizensforpreckwinkle.com.
The alderman’s staff said they noticed the site had been “hacked” several months ago and are looking into who is behind it.
The alderman’s campaign website was replaced with the content of Operation “Put it Back,” a group advocating for prayer in public schools.
It is unclear whether the group had any involvement. The Operation “Put it Back” website, operationputitback.org, was registered July 15 to Herstine Wright of the Sunflower Publishing Company of Dolton, Ill., which shares a post office box with Operation “Put it Back.” Calls to Wright were not returned by press time.
Information registered with the Domain Name System, a sort of “phone bank” for urls that lists administrator names, shows citizensforpreckwinkle.org is still registered to Citizens for Preckwinkle, 4646 S. Drexel Road. The registration was created on Nov. 14, 2002, updated on Dec. 10, 2006, and is not set to expire until Nov. 14.
The code of the sites revealed little of the content’s origin beyond that both were created using the popular web-authoring program Dreamweaver MX, citizensforpreckwinkle.org on July 14 and operationputitback.org on July 22.
Pam Cummings at the alderman’s office confirmed they had not authorized the content to be put on their site.