Cybersquatting in the 2016 Presidential Race

“I don’t intend to do anything nefarious with this.”

By Ben PhilpottMay 3, 2016 9:30 am,

From KUT

When Sen. Ted Cruz announced Carly Fiorina as his vice presidential candidate last week, the campaign was ready with signs, stickers and a fancy website to announce the new team. While most campaign websites use the last name of both candidates (,, this one was Why not

Matt Mackowiak, founder of Potomac Strategy Group in Washington D.C., has an idea.

“I guess they were worried that people couldn’t correctly spell Fiorina,” Mackowiak said. “Honestly, because people often mispronounce her last name, even though it’s not that difficult. So I guess they made a decision that that would be easier.”

But there’s another possible reason. The Cruz campaign doesn’t own Mackowiak does.


On Wednesday April 27, rumors started to spread that Sen. Cruz was going to name Fiorina as his vice presidential pick. Soon after, Mackowiak hit the internet.

“I just went to go see if the domain existed. Someone owned it, but it was essentially someone who is a broker,” Mackowiak said. “And he said, make me an offer. And so I did, and he said no. And I made him another offer, and he said yes. I was amazed.”

So Mackowiak took the site and put up his own web page highlighting his efforts to raise money for cancer research. The move brought him some national attention in the hours after the Cruz-Fiorina ticket was announced, including a mention on the Rachel Maddow show.

“I don’t intend to do anything nefarious with this. There is someone who owns that has done something nefarious with it and has refused to sell the site to Cruz’s campaign,” Mackowiak explained. “And that’s why his campaign web address is”

But, as he said earlier, he wasn’t the first person to think about buying He got it from a broker — someone who registered that address way back in Feb. 2015, before Cruz or Fiorina had even announced they were running for president.

Gambling on 2016

Mackowiak didn’t tell me who he bought it from, but it could have been someone like University of Georgia student Steven Grambergs. He got into the speculative domain market in early 2015.

“I remember last year, about January, I read an article, something about sold for like $8,800,” Grambergs said.

So he did what any college junior who needs some extra beer money would do: He figured out how to make some money.

“I pretty much made a big old spreadsheet with about 16 of the 17 candidates,” Grambergs said. “And I cross-examined who would be potential running mates. I poured in about 200-300 domain names.”

He ended up with about 130 names that weren’t already taken. And of those, he was pretty sure he had a few winners.

“Back when Rubio was still in, I thought Trump-Rubio was the ticket, because he kind of needed to balance out the Hispanic vote with all the things he said. And Florida is a battleground state,” Grambergs said. “I thought Trump-Rubio would be it for sure. In fact I’ve just gotten a few offers for it today.”

But what about the other 129 domains? Has this gamble been worth it? He spent between one and four dollars for each domain, and on some he’s made 2,000-percent return on the investment. Not big money, but a nice return.

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