On September 30, 2013, at about 6:30 p.m., Democratic challenger Martha Robertson in the upstate NY-23 district, sent a fundraising email claiming that “GOP Ops” had been “caught” trying to take down her website, and urging people to fight back and donate to her campaign, providing a phone number for those who could not get through to the website.

That fundraising pitch appears to have been false.  The Robertson campaign has not provided any proof that GOP operatives attempted to hack her website and has backed off that claim, the website never was down, and the “hacking” claim may have been nothing more than routine server problems:

While it certainly would be possible that an SQL injection could stop all or part of a website from functioning, it is easy to detect and fix…. These attacks and similar attempts to hack into sites are routine. A review of the entire server log would find dozens of attempts to access the content….. This really appears to be an opportune use of a common server issue.

Robertson refuses to offer refunds to donors who contributed to her campaign in response to the fundraising email.

Now the Chair of the Tioga County Republican Party has requested a federal investigation, as reported by local station WETM, Local Republican Leader Asks for Federal Investigation into Robertson E-Mail (video added):

A Republican County Chairman is calling for a federal investigation into claims made by Congressional candidate Martha Robertson’s campaign saying her website was hacked in late September. This continues the back and forth between the campaigns regarding the e-mail at the end of a critical fundraising period.

The Chairman of the Tioga County (N.Y.) Republican Committee, Don Leonard, sent letters to the FBI in Buffalo and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Western New York asking them to investigate whether the e-mail claiming “GOP ops” hacked the Robertson campaign website violated a section of the U.S. Code pertaining to wire fraud.

That section, which is Title 18, Part I, Chapter 63, Section 1343, says in part, “Whoever, having devised or intending to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, transmits or causes to be transmitted by means of wire, radio, or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce, any writings, signs, signals, pictures, or sounds for the purpose of executing such scheme or artifice, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.”

In a statement following those letters being sent, Leonard said in part, “I join the list of people calling on Martha Robertson to explain why she is wrongly accusing Republicans of illegal acts and I am calling on law enforcement to ask her the same question.”

WETM 18 News has been shown proof from the Robertson campaign late last week that there were at least nine hacking attempts on their website early in the afternoon on September 30th. However, the campaign did say that they don’t know who tried to hack the site, aside from the face it was from a computer within the United States.

WETM has posted Letters to the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office, as well as a Statement.  The Letter to the FBI stated, in part:

It is important to note that September 30, 2013, by no coincidence, was the last day of the Federal Election Commission’s quarterly reporting period, and thus the final chance for Ms. Robertson’s campaign to collect contributions from donors for the quarter. To wit, notice that the email only wants recipients to call the campaign to report a website problem “until midnight” or the close of the reporting period. Ms. Robertson is strangely uninterested in hearing about a
website error if it is discovered after midnight, when the reporting period will have ended and the chance for a contribution has lapsed….

Ms. Robertson has been unable to point to the particular GOP ops responsible for this alleged website hacking because there were no GOP ops hacking her website. Rather, in an attempt to raise money for her campaign, Ms. Robertson lied to donors, claiming that Republican operatives were criminally attacking her website, intending that knowledge of such criminal activity would lead people to give money to Ms. Robertson. Undoubtedly, donors fell for her plot, and contributed money when they otherwise would not have done so.

I respectfully ask that the Federal Bureau oflnvestigation investigate this matter immediately, on behalf of donors that believed Ms. Robertson’s ill-conceived plan, and contributed money as a result. The actions of Ms. Robertson and her campaign are a clear violation of Federal law, and cannot be tolerated.

I reached out to both the Reed and Robertson campaigns for comment, but as of this writing have received no responses.

Update 10:10 a.m. – The Reed campaign responds as follows:

Clearly there are questions surrounding this email that the authorities need to investigate. Meanwhile, Martha Robertson needs to return the money she raised through this deceptive email. Her campaign raised over $30,000 on September 30. That money should be returned and she should apologize both to her supporters and to the voters.

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