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Is Gillibrand Astro-Turfing with Web Site?

4:18 PM, Aug 21, 2012 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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On an MSNBC program yesterday, Democratic senator Kirsten Gillbrand promoted her website OffTheSidelines.org as a bipartisan pro-women-in-politics campaign, even though the website looks to be nothing more than a front for her own reelection campaign in New York. This isn't the first time, however, that Gillibrand has represented the site as something innocuous and nonpartisan rather than a fundraising effort.

Last year, in fact, the Buffalo News first reported that OffTheSidelines "blended" women's rights activism with campaign cash. The News's description of the site in July of 2011 sounds very similar to how it currently appears:

And the New York Democrat has set up a website, OffTheSidelines.org, filled with tough words from the senator challenging women to get more involved in public life and giving them advice on how to do it.

Then there's the "contribute" button -- where every dollar women contribute goes not to any independent organization called OffTheSidelines.org, but to Gillibrand's 2012 re-election campaign.

That last fact leaves advocates of good government thinking that Gillibrand has taken what her supporters call a noble and necessary cause -- women's rights -- and converted it into yet another political fundraising opportunity.

A few days later, the News reported that Gillibrand was taking steps to be more transparent about the site's purpose, including "major changes" to the wording of the contribution pages (including "re-election," for instance.) Those changes remain in place, but Gillibrand appears to be not so careful when promoting OffTheSidelines on cable television.

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