Sockpuppet John Huppenthal also trolled Wikipedia

Pets.comArizona’s most prolific Internet troll, Sockpuppet John Huppenthal, has been doing this for years. Blog for Arizona has had readers tip us off to his activity over the years (it is not clear how they learned of his identity, but we have independently verified it).

Huppenthal also trolled Wikipedia to embellish his entry and to edit the entries of his political opponents, a serious breach of ethics.

This lengthy Geo’s Precinct 134 investigative report by the Precinct134.blogspot.com from back in November 2006 laid out the research. Senator Huppenthal, you’re BUSTED!

In a recent meeting with Arizona State Senator John Huppenthal, he told me that he enjoyed reading this blog, “even though I beat the hell out of him.”

Well, we’re going to test that a bit more, tonight. Because I’m about to “open up a can” on the good Senator in this post!

Like many folks, I was amused at Stephen Colbert’s recent coining of the term “wikiality” to refer to the kind of reality that is created simply by the aggregate acceptance of a statement of facts presented in an entry on the open source encyclopedia Wikipedia. When Colbert demonstrated just how easy it was to edit Wikipedia, his account was banned for wreaking havoc.

In fact, many politicians have been tempted, and failing to resist the temptation, have been busted for editing their Wikipedia data to eliminate controversial information or to “polish” their credentials. Some even sabotage their opponents’ articles. WashPo has good article outlining some of the recent examples of this behavior.

It would appear that our own Arizona State Senator John Huppenthal is a Wikipedia aficionado, himself. And not necessarily in a good sense, either.

Huppenthal’s involvement in Wikipedia first came to my attention by way of some healthy suspicion on my part. Some months ago, I was reading his Wikipedia entry, here, and thought that it sounded like it had been written in unabashedly glowing terms either by a member of his staff or even by the good Senator, himself.

It was so blatant that the Wikignomes, quiet volunteers who continue to police the Wikipedia site and keep it clean and orderly, posted the following disclaimer on the page:

To meet Wikipedia’s quality standards and comply with Wikipedia’s neutral point of view policy, this article or section may require cleanup.
This article or section reads like an advertisement.
Please discuss this issue on the talk page. Editing help is available.
Blatant advertising can be marked for speedy deletion with {{db-spam}}.

Indeed, many of the passages in Huppenthal’s entry are straight out of Senator Huppenthal’s boilerplate campaign commentary. The entry speaks of a demigodlike politician in such unrepentantly egotistical terms that would make one’s own mother blush. There’s no “neutral point of view” anywhere in sight.

The main author of the entry even had the temerity to delete the reference to the Recall effort launched against Huppenthal last year. This passage had to be re-inserted by a gnome, who also had to tone down some of the worst point of view (POV) language that made the entry so egregiously biased. In doing so, the gnome posted the following comment:

revert removal of recall mention, its pretty notable, also removing POV language like “successful”, LOTS of fact tags., this still reads like an ad.

Yes, it still does read like a campaign ad, even with the language somewhat toned down. Yet, I still couldn’t prove that Senator Huppenthal actually wrote the entry. Perhaps it was an enthusiastic campaign staffer or a member of the family, expressing their adulation with the Senator. So I decided to let it lie.

However, a new and damning light was shed on this when I recently met with Senator Huppenthal in the Senate building downtown a week ago. In our meeting, as Senator Huppenthal was waxing eloquent about how much research he did, he also offered that he edited Wikipedia entries. “I’ve just recently been editing an entry on Merit Pay for Arizona,” he shared in passing.

I filed that piece of information away for later as there were other things he said in our meeting that I wanted to follow up on, too. Today, though, I went to the “Merit Pay” entry on Wikipedia and gave it a look.

Sure enough, a large section of the Merit Pay entry had been amended to include a treatment of Merit Pay specifically in Arizona. In those few paragraphs, Huppenthal’s name is mentioned eight times, in similarly glowing terms. Indeed, a major portion of what our Senator wrote is a blatant campaign ad in favor of Merit Pay and in favor of his own involvement in it.

But that’s something I’ll leave to the Wikignomes. I was more interested in actually making the connection between Senator Huppenthal and his editing of the specific content of Wikipedia. And how he may be using Wikipedia for a political purpose.

Fortunately, Wikipedia registers the IP, or computer address, of every user making edits to its entries. They do that to prevent abuse. Sometimes IPs can fluctuate, so it’s not foolproof. And since names aren’t connected with IPs, you can’t always know who is associated with a given edit.

However, in this case we’re in luck. We’re in luck because Senator Huppenthal specifically said he was editing the Merit Pay entry. And the IP logged with those edits, the one apparently belonging to Senator Huppenthal, is 24.251.57.26.

We’re also in luck, because Wikipedia also registers ALL edits made by a user at a given IP. So all we need to do is to click on the IP – Huppenthal’s IP – and we get a list of ALL of the Wikipedia edits Senator Huppenthal has evidently made:

* 23:55, 22 November 2006 (hist) (diff) Merit pay (top)
* 14:45, 22 November 2006 (hist) (diff) Merit pay
* 14:33, 22 November 2006 (hist) (diff) Merit pay (→Bonus for school district performance is critical for successful merit pay)
* 10:20, 22 November 2006 (hist) (diff) Merit pay (→Bonus for school district performance is critical for successful merit pay)
* 06:20, 22 November 2006 (hist) (diff) Merit pay
* 06:17, 22 November 2006 (hist) (diff) Merit pay
* 16:33, 21 November 2006 (hist) (diff) Standardized testing and public policy (top)
* 15:21, 18 November 2006 (hist) (diff) Merit pay (→Merit Pay in Arizona)
* 15:07, 18 November 2006 (hist) (diff) Merit pay (→Merit Pay in Arizona)
* 17:59, 16 November 2006 (hist) (diff) Merit pay (→Merit Pay in Arizona)
* 13:41, 16 November 2006 (hist) (diff) Merit pay (→Merit Pay in Arizona)
* 06:40, 15 November 2006 (hist) (diff) Merit pay
* 02:15, 15 November 2006 (hist) (diff) Merit pay
* 15:13, 13 November 2006 (hist) (diff) Merit pay
* 01:49, 29 September 2006 (hist) (diff) John Huppenthal (→Arizona State Senate (2005-Present))
* 10:26, 4 September 2006 (hist) (diff) John Huppenthal (→Arizona State Senate (2005-Present))
* 10:15, 4 September 2006 (hist) (diff) John Huppenthal (→Chandler City Council (1984-1992))
* 09:49, 4 September 2006 (hist) (diff) John Huppenthal (→Chandler City Council (1984-1992))
* 09:40, 4 September 2006 (hist) (diff) John Huppenthal (→Chandler City Council (1984-1992))
* 03:48, 26 June 2006 (hist) (diff) John Huppenthal
* 15:02, 3 June 2006 (hist) (diff) Ken Bennett
* 15:02, 3 June 2006 (hist) (diff) Ken Bennett
* 05:22, 12 May 2006 (hist) (diff) John Huppenthal
* 03:54, 4 May 2006 (hist) (diff) Slade Mead
* 01:05, 4 May 2006 (hist) (diff) Slade Mead
* 01:00, 4 May 2006 (hist) (diff) John Huppenthal
* 01:53, 1 May 2006 (hist) (diff) John Huppenthal
* 19:12, 28 April 2006 (hist) (diff) John Huppenthal

Take a look at that list for a minute.

First of all, it confirms that Senator John Huppenthal has been spending a lot of time polishing and re-polishing his own Wikipedia entry. An AWFUL LOT of time, in fact. The kind of time people spend on polishing up their own campaign web sites. Only, Wikipedia isn’t supposed to be used as a campaign web site.

A second observation: many of these edits appear to have taken place during office hours. That’s right, it appears that Senator Huppenthal was not only polishing his own hagiography on Wikipedia, but it’s possible that he’s been doing it on Senate time, using Senate office space and a Senate computer. That’s surely questionable. (Update: As one reader mentioned in comments, the IP address tracks back to Chandler, so it appears to be Senator Huppenthal’s home computer.)

What’s more, if we backtrack these edits to his Wikipedia entry, we also see that it was, apparently, him that specifically eliminated the reference in his own entry referring to the Recall initiative launched against him. That’s in very bad taste, at the very least.

And there we see several days he spent editing his self-congratulatory section in the “Merit Pay” entry.

We also see where Senator Huppenthal seems to have edited the entry on “Standardized Testing” to insert half a dozen paragraphs of text supporting “high stakes” testing which Huppenthal favors here in Arizona. He ends his section with a jab at Tennessee, whose approach he doesn’t like.

But look at that list of edits again, and you’ll see something even worse. Senator Huppenthal has evidently been editing his former opponent and recent candidate for Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Slade Mead’s entry, too.

Okay, so what did Huppenthal edit in Slade’s entry, then?

Slade’s previous entry said this:

In 2003, A fight ensued over the GOP’s proposed budget.This event resulted in Mead’s exile from the party, and in 2004 [[John Huppenthal]] was chosen by the Republican party to challenge him in the primary. After a bitterly fought campaign in which Huppenthal outspent Mead almost 2 – 1, Mead lost.

Huppenthal then edited it to say this:

In 2003, A fight ensued over the GOP’s proposed budget. Mead eventually sided with the Democrats, citing a lack of funding for Public education. This event resulted in Mead’s exile from the party, and in 2004 State Representative John Huppenthal challengee [sic] him in the primary. After a bitterly fought campaign, Mead lost.

Huppenthal edited out the reference to his spending twice as much as Slade Mead, as well as the reference to his being asked by the Republican Party to run against Slade in the primary. As for the latter point about being asked by the Republican Party to oust Mead, who knows? But that Huppenthal significantly outspent Slade to beat him in the primary is a stone cold fact. And suppressing that fact by deleting it is blatantly unethical.

So it would seem that Senator Huppenthal not only has a penchant for writing his own glowing Wikipedia entry (and deleting embarrassing details) as well as fluffing up issue entries to reflect well on him and support his political views, he also edits the entry of his opponent to suppress facts that reflect poorly on him.

Bad form, Senator. Extremely bad form.

But wait, it gets even worse.

Also on that list of edits Senator Huppenthal has made this past year are two on former Arizona State Senate President Ken Bennett’s entry. What did Senator Huppenthal’s avid editorial pen do to that entry?

Why, Huppenthal apparently completely deleted two whole sections discussing the controversies that had embroiled then-President of the Senate Bennett. The portions that Senator Huppenthal excised from the Wikipedia entry on Bennett are provided here:

==Controversies==
+ In 1989, several underground petroleum storage tanks owned by Bennett’s Oil Co. released petroleum into the environment. In the years following, Bennett’s undertook various remedies to decontaminate the area, paid for by its insurance company. Bennett’s and its insurer, Federated Mutual Insurance, both placed five separate applications to the state for reimbursement of the cleanup costs. The first four were approved, but the last was denied under a recently enacted act limiting reimbursement to costs not covered by insurance. Bennett’s appealed the denial in court, arguing that the law was intended only to prevent double recovery, not to limit the state to providing only secondary insurance. The court affirmed the state’s interpretation of the law and denied reimbursement. [http://www.superiorcourt.maricopa.gov/lca/pdf/adminAppeal/h/LC2003000690001DT.pdf ]
+
+ On January 23, 2006, Bennett’s 18-year-old son Clifton Bennett (the youngest of Bennett’s three children), was arrested and later charged with 18 counts of aggravated assault and 18 counts of kidnapping. Bennett admitted that while volunteering as a junior camp counsellor the previous summer, he and a friend had assaulted 18 boys at the camp ranging in age from 11 to 16 years with an activity he called “brooming.” He said that he intended to humiliate the boys by forcing them to line up and bend over, holding them against their will, and prodding their clothed anuses with broomsticks and flashlight handles. Clif Bennett also told the judge that serving jailtime for a felony would prevent his plans to serve as an LDS missionary overseas. Prosecutors considered filing charges of sexual assault but ultimately accepted a plea bargain of one felony count of aggravated assault, allowing him the possibility of avoiding imprisonment. Several parents of victims were unhappy with the deal, blaming its leniency on undue influence from his powerful father. [http://www.azstarnet.com/metro/123050.php]

Here again, a Wikignome had to come along and revert the entry to re-insert these portions that Huppenthal had deleted.

So let’s see:

1. Polishing his own Wikipedia article so that it reads like a campaign brochure/hagiography? Check.

2. Eliminating embarrassing facts from his own entry? Check.

3. Editing issue entries to support his political views as well as fluff himself up? Check.

4. Editing his political opponent’s entry to eliminate references to facts that would reflect poorly on himself? Check.

5. Editing an entry of a political friend to completely delete and suppress whole paragraphs detailing relevant political controversies? Check.

And you don’t even have to take my word for it – you can follow all the links for yourself.

Furthermore, these are only the edits we know about from being made from this one computer. If it is, indeed, Senator Huppenthal’s Senate Office computer, then it doesn’t include any edits he may have made from any other computer, such as one in a home office, for example. Or vice versa: if this IP is for his home computer, then we don’t know what other edits he may have made from his Senate office or elsewhere.

As has been observed by others when politicians have been caught doing it, this is unethical behavior for an elected official. It would be bad enough if a private citizen were so skewing the representation of facts (or in some cases completely suppressing them) for political advantage. But for a State Senator to be doing this is inexcusable.

Indeed, the Internet can be your enemy as well as your friend, if you try to abuse it and the people that rely on it. But my greater concern goes far beyond hacking Wikipedia entries, as tacky and unethical as that is.

Sure, Huppenthal is apparently skewing the availability of information to people on the Internet – and even suppressing it in some cases – so as to give a biased view of himself, his political friends and issues of concern to him and so forth. But if doing this raises no qualms of conscience with Senator Huppenthal, what else is he doing that we don’t know about?

What other means of skewing information and suppressing data might Huppenthal be engaging in, in forums which don’t so readily lend themselves to holding him accountable, and where the consequences to our community may be far, far graver?

* * *

[Update: Further developments, including a response from Senator Huppenthal and my analysis of his response.]

[Update 2: The saga continues as a Huppenthal partisan using a newly created account repeatedly vandalizes Wikipedia and is permanently blocked as a result.]

I have to believe that if media news sites searched their comments data base they would find many examples of this sockpuppet Internet troll posting comments about himself and/or his political opponents under aliases. The fact that the media has allowed Huppenthal to get away with this for years is disturbing. If so many others knew about this, then why hasn’t the mainstream media reported it?

2 responses to “Sockpuppet John Huppenthal also trolled Wikipedia

  1. Absolutely hilarious and somewhat pathetic.

  2. The Wizard of Oz said, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”