When a politician employs the Park Brothers, one of their go-to plays is attempting to register the URLs of the other candidates in the race. Then the bogus websites are used to smear other candidates in the guise of providing information about them. A corollary to this is practice is registering fake sites for ballot measures. These practices are intended to smear candidates and/or mislead voters. They have been doing this for many years. Often the Just US Brothers are guns for hire employed by consultants to given them both more freedom to attack and also to give the candidate a degree of deniability. Most recently they set up a website to mimic the official site of Placer County elections.
Cybersquatting in Placer County
In Placer County, registrar Ryan Ronco realized he faced a serious problem when he was alerted to a website mimicking the appearance of the official county elections website, down to the same color scheme, identical photos and an official looking seal. Local officials asked for help from the Office of Election Cybersecurity and the federal Department of Homeland Security.
The Office of Election Cybersecurity emailed Facebook to alert it to the website and described it as cybersquatting, which is when a website is established to mimic another. The cybersquatting website was advertising on Facebook to promote itself and the state wanted Facebook to take action.
“It looked so close and mirrored a lot of the colors and style (of the official Placer County Elections website) and it was done intentionally,” Ronco said.
Aaron F. Park, president of the Placer County Good Government PAC, set up the site. The PAC bought ads on Facebook, which eventually removed three of the ads. Yet they received between 12,000 and 19,000 impressions before they were removed, according to Facebook’s Ad Library. Campaign finance documents show the Placer County Good Government PAC paid Facebook $4,546 for ads this election cycle, but Facebook’s Ad Library shows at most a $1,300 charge for ads.
One ad, which received the bulk of the impressions and was designed to be indistinguishable from the county’s official site, read: “Local Government Matters! They make decisions that affect you right where you live! Support law enforcement, security, schools and business. Click to see our picks for your community!”California tackled bad jokes, cybersquatting to protect election
Placer County responded to Aaron’s fake website by sending him a ceased-and-desist letter.
If you didn’t know it, Aaron has a special place in his heart for cease-and-desist letters. On his blog he claims to have received 29 of them. He publishes them in full on his blog and then ridicules the sender, and why not? Nobody has ever done anything to him as a result of such threats. It costs too much to enforce them and he knows it. Its not that he doesn’t step over the line but that he doesn’t do it in a way that will have meaningful negative consequences to him personally. Often his candidate and others in his circle are not so fortunate. Remember Clint Parish anyone?
While the Park Brothers are not a party in the legal document that I will introduce shortly, clearly their fingerprints are all over this; something they proudly proclaimed on camera in 2016.
Let’s go back to our blog post from 2016.
This year, Aaron has set his sights on Victor Bekhet. Bekhet—like many people in Placer County—is tired of the antics of Supervisor Uhler. Victor Bekhet however committed the unforgivable sin; he had the nerve to pull papers to run against Uhler. Kirk Uhler then decided to retain Park’s services of character assassination and dirty tricks to steamroll Mr. Bekhet.
Aaron created a fake website and assembled a bunch of nonsense to smear the character of Bekhet. Aaron’s antics got a feature story at KCRA TV.Kirk Uhler and The Just Us Brothers
Oh, lest you think I am sticking my neck out blaming Aaron Park for making this fake website, (VictorBekhet.com) here’s Park taking credit for the website and its content.
The website was created by RightOnDaily,com political blogger Aaron Park.
“There’s documentation backing every claim I made,” Park said. “I know better at this point in my life, doing different political stuff, than to make claims that I cannot prove. Because my God, if someone can sue you in the political world, they will.”
On the website, Park claims Bekhet, who is of Egyptian descent, used zoning loopholes for his own property and is not a registered financial advisor. He also links to Bekhet’s personal Facebook page — which includes posts written in Arabic.
On the website, Park said, “If you can understand any of that, please let us know what it says. We would really like to know who Victor Bekhet really is.”
Park is a friend of Uhler and was paid during his 2012 campaign for what Park describes as grunt work. He said the website was created of his own accord.KCRA TV 04/13/2016
Mr. Bekhet took offense to this action and sought to regain the rights to the URL bearing in his name. I don’t know exactly what it took for him to right this obvious wrong, but the determination went to binding arbitration earlier this year. Folks you have to wonder why Park would continue to hold the website after the election which happened almost five years ago. I’ve accused Aaron Park of being a bully many times and this is one reason why. He clearly enjoyed taunting Bekhet or why continue to squat on the URL?
Anyway, Bekhet got his day in court—Ok, binding arbitration anyway. Enter the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
The WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center is a neutral, international and non-profit dispute resolution provider that offers time- and cost-efficient alternative dispute resolution (ADR) options. WIPO mediation, arbitration, expedited arbitration, and expert determination enable private parties to efficiently settle their domestic or cross-border IP and technology disputes out of court. The WIPO Center is also the global leader in the provision of domain name dispute resolution services under the WIPO-designed UDRP.WIPO Arbitration
Here’s the decision of the arbitration parts of which I will quote below.
Complainant, a politician, asserts that the domain name was “used to impersonate me, deceiving voters into visiting the malicious website from flyers that purported to be circulated by me.” Complainant also asserts that the website to which the domain name resolves “continues to damage my business reputation and career aspirations through the hatred and prejudice targeted against me and my family,” contains libelous and defamatory material, and “tarnish[ed] my unique name and reputation […] causing me to lose economic opportunities.”
Respondent, Complainant’s political rival, asserts that he “used the domain [name] […] to publish a website informing voters of my district about Mr. Bekhet’s positions on the issues that voters in my district cared about.” Respondent further stated: “Since Mr. Bekhet decided to publically put his name on the attack ads against me, … I found it necessary to once again remind the voters of my district about Mr. Bekhet’s positions and public statements by using the domain name I had purchased years earlier.”
Please note that Park claimed all credit for this website in 2016 but Uhler claims all responsibility in 2021. Oh, and this aspect gets even more interesting. Uhler claims the website was an expense of his business and the web registration was done by an employee.
Complainant filed the Complaint against Respondent Kirk Uhler. The Registrar, in its verification, indicated that the registrant of the Disputed Domain Name was Brian Jagger, and that Mr. Jagger is associated with Rensa Group. Complainant thereafter amended the complaint to add Mr. Jagger as a Respondent, noting that Mr. Jagger is an employee of Rensa Group LLC, and that Mr. Uhler is the member of Rensa Group LLC. In response to the Complaint, Mr. Uhler filed a Response in which he acknowledged that he was responsible for the registration of the domain name and that he used the domain name to publish a website about Mr. Bekhet. The Panel therefore concludes that it is appropriate to treat both Messrs. Uhler and Jagger as the Respondent.
The cybersquatting question generally focuses on the domain name itself. As the WIPO Overview 3.0 makes clear, in assessing whether a registrant has a right or legitimate interest in a domain name used for a criticism website, it is critical to assess whether the domain name communicates that the website at issue is a criticism site (as <sermosucks.com> did), or whether the domain name instead impersonates Complainant and purports to be the Complainant’s own site (as the Disputed Domain Name does):
Here, there is no doubt that the Disputed Domain Name consists, in its entirety, of Complainant’s trademark, with no additional words added. As such, the Disputed Domain Name impersonates Complainant. That impersonation is exacerbated by the flyers that were distributed in the community that also impersonated Complainant and encouraged Internet visitors to visit Respondent’s website on the pretext that it was Complainant’s website. Although the record does not contain sufficient evidence from which the Panel can definitively determine whether Respondent was responsible for producing and distributing those flyers, given that Respondent did not refute any involvement with the flyers, it is a fair inference that Respondent was behind those flyers (which, after all, encouraged community members to visit the website that Respondent admits he created and posted).
Because of the confusion and deception created by Respondent’s use of the Disputed Domain Name, the Panel finds that Respondent does not have rights or legitimate interests in the Disputed Domain Name. In so finding, the Panel does not intend to prevent Respondent from creating a criticism site concerning Complainant, including in the event of any future political campaigns between the parties. Rather, this decision is only intended to prevent a stratagem that uses deception to trick Internet users into believing that the criticism site is somehow affiliated with Complainant. Such confusion is precisely what the UDRP is designed to guard against.
Respondent’s conduct in this case violates both the spirit and the letter of the Policy. It violates the spirit because Respondent has engaged in deceitful conduct in passing off his own website as Complainant’s. Respondent is free to engage in open and honest debate about the parties’ qualifications for political office, but Respondent should do so in a way that makes it clear that his domain name resolves to a website that is critical of Complainant rather than through a domain name that impersonates Complainant. The flyers Respondent appears to have distributed in the community exacerbated the confusion, and support the Panel’s view that Respondent registered and used the Disputed Domain Name in bad faith, to promote confusion as to the source of the website with Complainant.
Respondent’s conduct also violates the letter of the Policy.
First, Respondent essentially admits that he registered the Disputed Domain Name “to prevent the owner of the trademark or service mark from reflecting the mark in a corresponding domain name.” In particular, Respondent stated in his Response:“
Having learned that Mr. Bekhet was planning a run against me, I had researched the availability of domain names. . . . It never occurred to me that Mr. Bekhet would have been so foolish to file for public office without purchasing his own domain name, so you can imagine my surprise when my search revealed it was available. . . . I used the domain that I had legally acquired to publish a website informing voters of my district about Mr. Bekhet’s positions on the issues that voters in my district cared about.”
Never fear though, Aaron’s appearance on KCRA TV was noticed as part of the arbitration.
This statement is a plain acknowledgment that Respondent deliberately selected this Disputed Domain Name to prevent Complainant from launching his own campaign website reflecting his name and trademark. Although the Policy normal requires a pattern of such conduct (because such a pattern would be circumstantial evidence of the Respondent’s bad faith), when the bad faith is essentially admitted, the Panel finds that even a single incident of registering a domain name “to prevent the owner of the trademark or service mark from reflecting the mark in a corresponding domain name” can be sufficient to establish bad faith registration and use. In any event, there is some evidence that Respondent and his associates have engaged in a “pattern” here, as Respondent’s friend Adam Park (who also worked on Respondent’s 2012 election campaign) was accused by the Placer County counsel of improperly registering the domain name <placerelections.org> and using it for a website that impersonated the County’s official elections website, <placerelections.com>. Although Complainant did not name Mr. Park as a Respondent, Mr. Park did admit in published news reports that he created the website to which the Disputed Domain Name resolves. See Dana Griffin, “Website seemingly attacks Placer County supervisor candidate,” KCRA, April 13, 2016 (available at https://www.kcra.com/article/website-seemingly-attacks-placer-county-supervisor-candidate/6428098). Given that Mr. Park appears to have been acting in concert with Respondent, the Panel deems it appropriate to consider his conduct as well in assessing whether Respondent engaged in a pattern of registering domain names reflecting a third party’s mark.
Second, Respondent’s conduct also violates paragraph 4(b)(iii) of the Policy, which deems it bad faith if a respondent registers a “domain name primarily for the purpose of disrupting the business of a competitor.”
Complainant’s business is not the sale of commercial goods; rather, Complainant’s business (as reflected in his trademark registration) is the offering of political information and commentary. This business is separate from Complainant’s activity as an electoral candidate (as well as Complainant’s business as a financial advisor.) The Panel therefore needs to distinguish Respondent’s use of the website to campaign against Complainant as a political opponent from Respondent’s use of the website to disrupt Complainant’s political information and commentary business. Making this distinction is challenging given that Complainant’s business is so closely linked to his own political activity as an electoral candidate.
Here, though, Respondent’s conduct has made that distinction easier. That is because Respondent continued to use the website to impersonate Complainant even after Complainant ceased to be his electoral opponent. Specifically, after the 2016 election, Respondent continued to update the website to which the Disputed Domain Name resolves in order to criticize Complainant and respond to Complainant’s political commentary. Respondent’s post-election conduct thus demonstrates that Respondent was acting as a “competitor” with respect to the political information and commentary services provided by Complainant, and was using the website to disrupt Complainant’s offering of the registered services… That post-election conduct also supports an inference that, when Respondent first registered the Disputed Domain Name, he did so primarily to disrupt Complainant’s political information and commentary business. Accordingly, the Panel finds the Respondent registered and used the Disputed Domain Name in bad faith primarily for the purpose of disrupting Complainant’s business of providing political information and commentary.
For the foregoing reasons, in accordance with paragraphs 4(i) of the Policy and 15 of the Rules, the Panel orders that the Disputed Domain Name, <victorbekhet.com>, be transferred to Complainant.
It’s about time that someone finally busted the Just Us Brothers for doing this, but these guys are rarely mistaken for ethical guys. Its good that Aaron’s name did make it into the decision even if he was called “Adam Park.” Sadly, this typo will make future searches of Aaron’s deeds even more dependent on websites like this one.
In summary, the binding Arbitration action found the following to be true:
Uhler’s Rensa Group was the legal owner of the site not Aaron Park. Aaron and Uhler have both taken credit for the content of VictorBekhet.com. Their use of a website in Bekhet’s name is cybersquatting and impersonation of Bekhet. This was done to impersonate Bekhet and harm his reputation. This resulted in “confusion and deception”, something Uhler & Park had no right to do. Their conduct “violates both the spirit and the letter of the Policy” and terms of website registration. Uhler and Park “registered and used the Disputed Domain Name in bad faith”.
Again, are these really Uhler’s words or Parks?
“I had researched the availability of domain names. . . . It never occurred to me that Mr. Bekhet would have been so foolish to file for public office without purchasing his own domain name, so you can imagine my surprise when my search revealed it was available. . . . I used the domain that I had legally acquired to publish a website informing voters of my district about Mr. Bekhet’s positions on the issues that voters in my district cared about.”
Folks, I have heard Park say similar things about registering domain names prior to 2016.
The arbitration finding further states that Uhler and Adam (sic) [Aaron] Park have engaged in a pattern of working in concert to improperly register domain names. Even more disturbing is that Uhler continued to squat on the web name for many years after Bekhet was no longer a candidate. This continued cybersquatting was solely for the purpose of continuing to attack Bekhet and to harm his ability to earn a living.
My hope is to never post about the Just Us Brothers (George and Aaron Park) ever again. I know—Kirk Uhler is technically the third Just Us Brother—and sadly, I’m not done with him just yet. I have another topic to hit him on that I may get around to in the next week or so. Nevertheless, since the Park Brothers are living so close to hell that they can see Sparks, I would really like to leave them be. However, just like Karen England, the Parks think they can reside in another state and still influence the politics of California. Sorry guys but moving out of state cuts your claim and any meaningful ties to what happens here. In fairness, I will be subject to the same limitations in about two more years when I abandon the once golden state.
So why expend any energy on blogging about Uhler and the Brothers Park?
The short answer is two things:
- They won’t go away. Kirk Uhler is still clinging to Placer County politics even after his defeat as a Supervisor. Aaron Park is still doing his schtick as a political gun for hire. I suspect his brother George is hoping to pay the “Mouse Tax” sometime in the next few weeks.
- All three Just Us Brothers are literally doing what they do in God’s name. Uhler is in good with the gang at Bayside Church in Rocklin and last I heard; the Parks were likewise doing their church thing somewhere. The disconnect between their professed faith and their behavior; especially in politics, is breathtaking to behold.
Lastly, I doubt you’ll be reading about this anywhere else so as is my practice, I’ve posted long excerpts of the sources cited above so I can’t be accused of taking matters out of context.