Lisa Calderón’s 2019 Denver mayor campaign website is being held for ransom — and it’s messing with her 2023 race
“We have a beautiful new website. I love our website. But we can’t get people directed to it in a way that is going to really help push us forward, at least on the internet.”
Somebody has hijacked Denver mayoral candidate Lisa Calderón‘s 2019 mayoral campaign website and is holding it ransom for thousands of dollars that she refuses to pay.
And pay she shouldn’t.
After all, she’s a Fair Elections Fund candidate. She’s eligible to receive matching taxpayer dollars for donations. Why waste public money paying off a person trying to take advantage of her run for office and confusing the public? Why reward someone for essentially impersonating her?
We’re certainly not going to reward a cybersquatter’s bad behavior and link to the old website here (which is basically the new website’s URL with a 4 instead of a for). But we will link to Calderón’s current site: lisafordenver.com.
The old domain isn’t just lingering. It’s wreaking havoc on her run for office.
The person controlling the site has published an imprint of her 2019 site and is even advertising it on Google. The bad site is the first one that pops up in most Google searches when we look up her name.
News outlets consistently link to it — not knowing the full story — and further boost the site’s prominence.
Events on the old website’s calendar make it look like Calderón hasn’t started campaigning in earnest and doesn’t plan to until after the April 4 election. The old site makes her look like a very not serious candidate who doesn’t care about this race. For someone who came in third place in 2019 and has seen polling that suggests she’s a formidable candidate this round, that’s been frustrating.
While the old site can’t collect donations — for which she’s grateful — it does make her campaign look inept at raising money.
“The donations go nowhere, and they get an error message,” she said. “And those who are persistent, they reach out to our campaign and say, ‘Hey, something’s wrong with your website’. And then we have to tell them the story. But we don’t know of the people who just gave up or who just had a minute on their calendar to donate and now can’t do it. And we’ve lost that donation. So we have no way of tracking the traffic, which is incredibly frustrating.”
Trying to compete in a race that had more than 25 candidates at its peak will require funds and the ability to raise them — no matter how much name recognition a candidate had going into this election.
In a recent poll from Debbie Ortega’s campaign, 8% of 500 voters surveyed said Calderón was their first pick for mayor. She came in third place in the poll, behind Herod and leading candidate Ortega, who only had 16% of voters picking her first.
In 2019, 33,100 Denverites voted for Calderón. That was 18.5% of the electorate, more support than any candidate has received in 2023, according to Ortega’s polling.
But Calderón’s reported campaign contributions through Dec. 31 are lagging far behind other candidates. She’s raised $26,359.70, a pittance compared to the 10 leading fundraisers — at least one of which has written himself massive checks and another of which is no longer in the race.
Seven fundraising leaders have over $100,000 in the bank. The top three have raised even more: Andy Rougeot has $532,526, writing himself two $250,000 checks; Kelly Brough has $497,249; and Leslie Herod has $370,255.30.
Fundraising isn’t the only thing hurt by the hijacked website.
“It makes it look like we aren’t organized,” Calderón said. “And it’s to the contrary, you know? We have a beautiful new website. I love our website. But we can’t get people directed to it in a way that is going to really help push us forward, at least on the internet.”
She’s also struggled to get the press to view her as a major candidate, in a large part because there is so much confusion from the old campaign website and so little money coming in.
“I’m glad that people are underestimating me,” she said. “It’s good to be the underdog in this race, because we absolutely have done the research and the analysis, and we have a clear path to victory.”
Yet the campaign hasn’t found a way to resolve the website issue without paying and knows the 2019 site will continue to hurt Calderón’s race.
At first, even before she decided to run, Calderón was happy to see the website was up. She assumed she still owned it and that it would be easy to update.
When Calderón learned she no longer controlled the site, she then assumed it would be easy to solve. She reached out to a broker, and the owner refused to take the site down without receiving thousands in payment. The broker also wanted a couple of thousand dollars to secure the deal. She didn’t move forward with that.
The next step is sending the owner a cease and desist letter and perhaps suing.
“I’d like the Colorado Attorney General to look into this too, if nothing else, for future candidates to have recourse should this happen to them,” Calderón said. We reached out to the Colorado SOS’ office but didn’t immediately hear back.
“This is new territory,” she said. “We have no roadmap for how to resolve this issue.”
Other predatory companies have been trying to take advantage of Calderón’s campaign.
One cybersquatter wrote to Calderón this week, explaining that if she lived in Denver, she would vote for Calderón. She made a concise pitch about domain name strategy and how candidates should control the URL for their own name.
“I wanted to bring to your attention that most successful and winning politicians have a website whose domain name is ‘theirname.com,’ like joebiden.com, or andrewginther.com, or joehogsett.com,” the cybersquatter continued.
“And even those whose domain name is different, like the mayor of Chicago – lightfootforchicago.com, or the mayor of Cleveland – bibbforcle.com, still, when you enter ‘their name.com,’ like lorilightfoot.com or justinbibb.com, it obviously connects to their website,” the cybersquatter wrote.
And guess what? The cybersquatter had a fix for Calderón.
“I have the rights to the domain name lisacalderon.com and would be willing to give it to you for a fair price,” the cybersquatter wrote. “I think this is a worthwhile investment for you as you further your campaign for mayor.”
What a gift. How nice. What a supporter.
“Ugh, this domain industry,” Calderón said.