Photo by Gage Skidmore
The presidential campaign of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie paid $20,000 to a company called Cascade Tree and Landscape, at an address that apparently belongs not to this business but to a home of a Christie supporter.
This payment was made on Aug. 8 to Cascade at the given address 44 Hillcrest Road in Warren, New Jersey, according to a recent report filed with the Federal Election Commission. The stated purpose: “Domain name.”
There does not appear to be a business named Cascade Tree and Landscape in Warren. A business with this name is listed on Facebook with an address in nearby Stirling, New Jersey. The person who answered the phone said the business has no connection to Warren.
The address 44 Hillcrest Road, property records show, is a residential home owned by Dan Gallic, listed on LinkedIn as chief operating officer of Arnouse Digital Devices Corp. He is also the managing member and founder of Gallic Development and Land Planning, which acquires and sells residential real estate.
In a 2009 op-ed published in Politicker NJ, Gallic backed Christie for governor and said New Jerseyans need someone “who will usher in a new era of open, honest government.” An online database, DomainBigData.com, lists Gallic as having registered several dozen domain names, although none seem applicable to the Christie campaign.
Christie communications director Samantha Smith said via email that the payment to Cascade Tree and Landscape was “to secure various domain names.” She did not respond to several requests to explain why Christie paid $20,000 for domain names or why the associated address was Gallic’s home. Gallic also did not respond to multiple emailed requests for comment.
According to the FEC filing, the Christie campaign also spent $50,445 on a “domain purchase” from Upstream Communications, a company based in Austin, Texas. (Despite their field, Upstream Communications did not respond to multiple communications.)
It is not unusual for a campaign to purchase multiple domain names. Campaigns often buy domain names they might need in the future (such as the candidate’s name and a possible running mate’s name) or unflattering names to keep others from using them in disparaging ways.
These two transactions are Christie’s only listed expenditures expressly related to domain names. No other presidential candidates reported spending significant amounts on domain names, although costs could have been included in other expenditures.
Why would the Christie campaign spend significant money to acquire domain names? One possibility is that someone else had the foresight to buy domain names that were either especially crucial or damaging, forcing the campaign to pay inflated prices to acquire them.
Theresa Geraghty, senior director of domains product marketing at GoDaddy, a popular domain name registrar, said initial registration of a domain name costs around $12 but previously registered names can sell for thousands or even millions dollars on the aftermarket if having them is vital to a brand or strategy. She said outlays as large as $70,000 are likely strategic.
“If someone’s just buying [domain names] and doesn’t know what they’re going to do with them, that’s probably not the best use of money,” she said. “But it could make sense if they’re hearing negative chatter and trying to squash something before it takes hold.”
During the CNBC Republican Debate, Christie gave a shout-out to landscapers, saying, “This is for the guy, you know, who owns a landscaping business out there . . . ”