Cook County Record

Friday, December 6, 2019

Challenger in Cook County Assessor's race asks court to unmask creators of sham campaign websites

By Jonathan Bilyk | Oct 18, 2017

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A Democrat running to unseat incumbent Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios has asked a court to help him unmask the people he claims are responsible for creating sham websites and social media pages for his campaign.

On Oct. 17, Frederick “Fritz” Kaegi, of Oak Park, filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court, asking a judge to order various digital media companies, including Facebook , Twitter and website domain registration company, to cough up the identities of those responsible for the acts.

The lawsuit does not level any accusations against any specific individuals.

According to the complaint, Kaegi declared his candidacy in mid-July. Shortly thereafter, the complaint said, Kaegi and his associates “discovered several websites – published without knowledge, consent or direction – which” purported to be from Kaegi’s campaign. The websites and social media pages allegedly “used the likeness of Fritz Kaegi and inferred association with his campaign” and asked for people to volunteer or donate to his campaign.

The lawsuit asserts the various pages were created beginning in May, when someone allegedly registered the domain name with GoDaddy through a company known as Domains By Proxy LLC, which allows websites to be registered anonymously, “and therefore avoid being listed as an owner of said websites in public records.”

The lawsuit says, at the same time, someone also surreptitiously created a fundraising website, purportedly on Kaegi’s behalf, as well as a Facebook page and Twitter account, again, allegedly representing Kaegi’s campaign.

The websites and social media accounts allegedly included photos of Kaegi.

Using his name and photographs of him in this manner violates Illinois’ Right to Publicity Act, which gives people the “right to control and to choose whether and how to use their identity for commercial purposes,” Kaegi’s complaint said.

The complaint said violation of this law could entitle Kaegi to pursue actual and punitive damages, plus attorney fees.

Kaegi is represented in the action by attorneys Colin Cameron and Scott Kane Stukel, both of Chicago.

Since declaring his candidacy, Kaegi has announced several endorsements of his campaign, including from Chicago aldermen John Arena, Joe Moreno and Michele Smith.

According to his actual campaign website, Kaegi said he is running to change practices at the county assessor’s office, including vowing “to take no donations from property tax lawyers” and to “restore fairness and accuracy to the system,” while making the system “transparent.”

The incumbent assessor, Berrios, has served in that office since 2010. He also serves as chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party.

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