Spin Cycle

News, views and commentary on Long Island, state and national politics.

In the last eight days, forces for and against NY-01 GOP candidate Randy Altschuler have been out in force seeking to shape the tone of the St. James millionaire's Wikipedia page. This sort of thing is not unusual for politicians during election season, but it is rare to see an editor using his (or her) real name as an editing handle.

In this case, the editor adding details that Altschuler would probably find inconvenient during an electoral run -- that he was "one of the pioneers of outsourcing in the Northeast," that he was a Green Party member, and that the premise of his company, OfficeTiger, was to outsource jobs to "low-wage nations like India and the Philippines" -- used the editing name Doug.smith.csa.

Douglas M. Smith, a student at St. Joseph's College in Patchogue, is the president of CSA:Next Generation, the Conservative Society for Action's youth outreach arm. Smith's email address begins with doug.smith.csa.

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We've called and e-mailed Smith to ask him about this and have yet to hear back.

The day after Doug.smith.csa's edits, an editor using an anonymous numerical handle began wiping from Altschuler's page and reference that would reflect poorly on the candidate. This user changed "one of the pioneers of outsourcing in the Northeast" to "a leading business pioneer," eliminated a reference to his one-time Green Party membership, and erased an entire paragraph about the Long Island Tea Party's unhappiness with Altschuler. The anonymous editor also eliminated any explanation of what OfficeTiger did or how it made money.

The week before the Doug.smith.csa edits, a user named Playsmarts made 61 edits to Altschuler's page, writing almost all of its current content. Most of Playsmarts's edits look favorably on Altschuler. Playsmarts also was active in editing the Wikipedia entry for the New York Jets.

For whatever it's worth, the Wikipedia page for Joseph Sigelman, the co-CEO of OfficeTiger with Altschuler, describes the company as "firm focused on the outsourcing of premedia, accounting, research and analytics. legal and actuarial services for large corporations, investment banks and law firms."

Altschuler, of course, is vying with Christopher Cox for the Republican line in the race against Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton). Altschuler won the Conservative Party line, but Cox has promised a write-in campaign for the line.

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Wikipedia spokesman Jay Walsh told us that there's no way to identify or even contact Wikipedia's editors, so we don't have the first idea about the identity of these other mysterious editors. But if you're out there, Playsmarts or 96.224.190.86, please do get in touch.

Update 8:50 a.m.

Two things: First, George Demos is also contesting for the GOP nod in this race. Second, Doug Smith responded to us with a long "open letter to Newsday" that sort of acknowledges his editing without any specifics. Due to its length, we won't excerpt the whole thing here, but it begins: 

I appreciate your interest in some of my recent web postings. As the president of CSA Next Generation, I take an open and active role in our community and encourage our members to do the same. I strongly support an educated electorate and work tirelessly to promote political and governmental transparency on Long Island and throughout New York State. The future of our nation is dependent upon honest government and I firmly believe the American people have a right to know where their representative and candidates for public office stand on the tough issues our country faces. Given all the information, it is up to the people to exercise their best judgment at the polls and elect men and women of integrity that share their values.