DES MOINES, Iowa, Dec. 20, 2007 -- ABC News has learned that the campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., has registered the names of two Web sites with the express goal of attacking her chief rival, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.
It's the first time this election cycle a presidential campaign has launched a Web site with the express purpose of of launching serious criticisms on a rival.
Votingpresent.com and Votingpresent.org are domains hosted by the same IP address as official Clinton Web sites, such TheHillaryIKnow.com, which was launched with much fanfare this week.
The Clinton campaign intends to use these new Web sites to paint Obama as cowardly.
Clinton has attacked Obama for having occasionally voted "present" as an Illinois state legislator when it came to contentious legislation.
It was a legislative maneuver that was sometimes part of a plan by Democrats to give cover to vulnerable colleagues, though in some instances it appears that Obama voted present to avoid taking a position with some political risk -- such as with a bill that would have allowed children as young as 15 who committed crimes with firearms on or near school property to be prosecuted as adults.
The Obama campaign referred to the websites as "politically motivated attacks in the eleventh hour of a closely contested campaign" and defended Obama's "present" votes.
"Over more than a decade in public office, Barack Obama has successfully led the way on difficult issues from welfare reform, to the reform of a broken death penalty law in Illinois to a battle for long-overdue ethics reforms in Washington," said spokesman Bill Burton.
"Among the thousands of votes he cast in the Illinois Senate, he used the present vote on occasions when he believed bills were drafted in an unconstitutional manner. On other occasions, he voted present as part of legislative strategies, such as ones crafted by pro-choice forces in Illinois to thwart maneuvering by the opponents of a woman's right to choose."
Clinton has used these present votes to paint Obama as full of words but not action.
"I don't think people want a lot of talk about change," she told Iowans early this month. "I think they want someone with a real record -- a doer, not a talker. After eight years of incompetence, they don't want false hope, they want real results."
The Clinton campaign disputed the notion that its pending attack websites will be the first, noting that after it was revealed that Clinton had taken questions from supporters at events, Sen. John Edwards, D-NC, in November launched the short-lived website PlantsForHillary.com, purporting to be from various forms of flora supporting the New York senator, though that website was taken down after a day.
A Clinton campaign official argued that Obama's campaign has a website called HillaryAttacks.BarackObama.com, which catalogues criticisms Clinton has made about the Illinois senator. (Not to be confused with the anti-Clinton site HillaryAttacks.com, which is not affiliated with the Obama campaign.)
Clinton's campaign has also introduced, quietly, a Web site called Attacktimeline.com, which Clinton officials say chronicles the ways Obama and Edwards were criticizing her publicly long before she began returning fire.