Chicago Political Hijinks Come to Wikipedia

Did someone from Alexi Giannoulias’ Senate campaign vandalize opponent David Hoffman’s Wikipedia entry? That’s what one veteran Wikipedia editor suggests after cleaning up the encyclopedia’s entry on Hoffman.

Hoffman officially announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for the Illinois seat of the U.S. Senate.  [See my caveat at the end of this post for my personal thoughts on this election.] Hoffman is an unknown quantity to most voters; no doubt many curious Illinoisans have migrated to his Wikipedia entry over the last few days. What they found for much of the week, until it was cleaned up this evening, is a page edited by the user “Deparvid” in a manner that contradicts Wikipedia’s NPOV policy and that suggests an intent to politically undermine Hoffman. “Deparvid” appears to be a new account, and Hoffman’s is the only page to which s/he has contributed. The information that Deparvid has added, on two occasions, emphasizes the votes and views of Sen. David Boren, for whom Hoffman worked, and the opinions issued by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, for whom he clerked. Among Deparvid’s contributions to the original entry on Hoffman:

As a clerk for Rehnquist, Hoffman would have contributed significantly to those opinions.
David Hoffman’s first job out of college was working for U.S. Senator [[David Boren]] (D-OK).  During Hoffman’s time with Boren, the Senator consistently voted against abortion rights, against gun control and voted to confirm Supreme Court Justice [[Clarence Thomas]].
  • “Hoffman also clerked for Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Rehnquist is credited for leading the Court to the right during his tenure. Rehnquist was ardently pro-life as one of only two dissenters in Roe v. Wade (1973) and dissenting in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992). Rehnquist opposed gun control measures, ruling the Gun Free School Zone Act of 1990 unconstitutional in United States v. Lopez (1995). In 1978, Rehnquist joined a majority opinion in maintaining that federal law does not permit a university’s consideration of race in admissions (University of California v. Bakke). Rehnquist also wrote a concurring opinion in Bush v. Gore (2000)..”
  • “During Hoffman’s time with Boren, the Senator consistently voted against abortion rights, against gun control and voted to confirm Supreme Court Justice [[Clarence Thomas]].”
  • “Hoffman served as a law clerk for Judge Dennis G. Jacobs, United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York City. In 2006 the New York Sun described him as “Widely recognized as one of the more conservative jurists on the 2nd Circuit.” In decisions he wrote in a sex-discrimination lawsuit against Vassar College and in a securities fraud case against Merrill Lynch, Judge Jacobs sets high hurdles for plaintiffs. Most recently, Jacobs led the fight to rehear a case of bias filed by white firefighters in New Haven (Ricci v DeStefano).”

These edits do not sound like those of a disinterested Wikipedian, and the facts they contain about Boren, Rehnquist and Jacobs are arguably irrelevant to Hoffman’s candidacy. (One could make the case, and I presume that as the campaign unfolds, Hoffman will, that the experience of engaging in intellectual discussions with ideological opposites like Jacobs and Rehnquist is just what we need  more of in the  Senate.), the aforementioned Wikipedian, says s/he “wouldn’t be surprised if the IP traces back to the Giannoulias campaign.” Without such a tracing, who knows? In the mean, we’ll just have to wonder if the Chicago Way has finally made it to Wikipedia.

(My caveat: I’ve avoided using this blog for overt political statements or endorsements, like Mark Bowden, I rarely find partisanship interesting. That said, I have met David Hoffman in the course of my day job and found him to be insightful and intellectually curious, and I respect the work he’s done for the City.  I’m excited at the prospect of voting for a candidate– in Illinois, no less– with the morals and abilities of David, and though I have a full fall ahead of me, hope to find time to support his campaign in other ways. I may still write a “Why I’m supporting David Hoffman” post, but wanted to append this to this here. Also, I’ll note that my friend Daniel X. O’Neil , who is advising the Hoffman campaign, first pointed me to the NPOV-deficient Wikipedia entry.)


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