An active volunteer for the advocacy group Capistrano Unified Children First appears to be behind at least some of the sneaky website addresses that led visitors to opposing candidates' websites, according to GoDaddy.com, which hosts the sites.
In a letter sent to attorney Wayne Tate by GoDaddy, which hosted at least six misleading URLS, Chris Korpi was identified as the person who bought www.juliecollier.com and www.parentsadvocateleague.com, which initially redirected visitors to school board President Gary Pritchard's campaign site and Children First's website, respectively.
Korpi denied registering the domain names, saying someone is impersonating him too.
“It’s all an attempt to point me in the direction of something I’m not involved in. I categorically deny it,” Korpi said.
In recent financial disclosures, Children First listed a $134.61 payment to GoDaddy. Children First Treasurer Gail Benda said the money covered fees for the group’s own website. Patch asked for a copy of the receipt but has not received it.
Other financial documents show Korpi provided “campaign management services” this year to school board Trustee John Alpay, who is also running for re-election in November. One of the misleading URLs went to Alpay's campaign site. He and Pritchard are both endorsed by Children First.
Alpay said, "It would be inaccurate to refer to him [Korpi] as my campaign manager."
Korpi blamed the misleading web addresses on political opponents, noting he hasn’t run the business named in the GoDaddy email, Korpi Marketing Services, for eight years, and that all his contact information listed is publicly available for someone to steal his identity.
Korpi said the political tactic is more in the wheelhouse of Jennifer Beall, a longtime CUSD critic and wife of Rancho Santa Margarita Mayor Tony Beall, who took a front-and-center role in the 2010 elections.
“This is the type of dirty tricks they’ve been doing since 2010,” Korpi said, and mentioned Beall and Capo Unified candidate Jim Reardon by name.
Beall responded that Korpi’s allegations amount to defamation.
“He will be held accountable,” she said. “At no time in my life have I ever had anything to do with any websites with redirects.”
A GoDaddy representative said the company cannot confirm whether the person who supplied all the information to purchase the domain names was indeed Chris Korpi.
“Please note that the contact information [for the websites] was provided by the registrant of the domain names ... [so] Go Daddy cannot guarantee its accuracy,” said spokeswoman Stephanie Bracken.
Other targets of the deceptive websites include Collier’s group, which supports an education reform agenda at odds with Children First, and school board candidate Bill Perkins in Aliso Viejo, whose namesake URL redirected web surfers to opponent Pritchard’s site.
There were also fake URLs for Dawn Urbanek, an outspoken critic of Capistrano Unified, Hold CUSD Accountable, another group critical of the current regime and San Juan Capistrano Patch.
Only the bogus address for Hold CUSD Accountable, www.holdcusdaccountable.com, still redirects people to Children’s First website. The rest have been disabled and lead to a generic GoDaddy page.
Collier, whose organization does not endorse CUSD candidates, issued a statement saying:
It's incredibly disappointing to me that parents are a target of a person associated with a political organization that backs candidates making critical decisions for children and their futures. It is beyond my comprehension how tactics like this can be used by Mr. Korpi through his association with Children First, an organization that backs John Alpay and Gary Prtichard, which professes its candidates to have integrity, stability and leadership. This unethical behavior is unacceptable and every parent and voter should take this into consideration in November.
Anti-incumbent candidate Reardon said Korpi's actions were aimed at distracting voters from the real issues.
"Chris Korpi and Children First continue to mislead parents about the serious issues in CUSD, including a reduction in the school year, classroom overcrowding and the looming financial disaster," he said. "Instead of talking about education, Korpi leads a campaign of deception designed maintain preserve the teacher's-union domination of our school board."