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Friday, April 28, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Online postings changed; ex-Gregoire aide resigns

Seattle Times Olympia bureau

OLYMPIA — A political mini-scandal unfolding in Georgia has ties to Washington's raucous 2004 governor's election.

Morton Brilliant, Gov. Christine Gregoire's former campaign spokesman, resigned this week from his latest campaign job amid allegations that he changed an online Wikipedia biography of an opponent in Georgia's gubernatorial race.

An Internet address registered to Brilliant was also used to make changes last year to an online biography of Republican Dino Rossi, Gregoire's opponent in 2004. The address also was used to edit the biography of South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, another Republican Brilliant has campaigned against.

In each case, the alterations added links to newspaper stories that revealed negative or embarrassing information about the politicians.

Wikipedia is a popular online encyclopedia with more than 1 million articles. It is constantly evolving because anyone can go online and edit any item.

Brilliant, who is from South Carolina, had been working for more than a year as the campaign manager for Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox, a Democrat who is running for governor.

Early this week, the campaign for Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, Cox's opponent in the Democratic primary, revealed that a Cox campaign Internet address registered to Brilliant was used last fall to alter the Wikipedia profiles of Brilliant's past and present political foes.

The changes to Taylor's biography added information about his son's drunken-driving arrest. Taylor's son was charged last year after an accident that left his best friend dead.

Brilliant resigned Wednesday after an internal investigation confirmed the Wikipedia postings were made from within the Cox campaign. Cox apologized to Taylor in a written statement.

"From the very day I learned of the Taylor family tragedy, I laid down the law with my staff and supporters: This personal matter would have absolutely no place in my campaign," Cox said.

The Cox campaign said it couldn't confirm who did the Wikipedia edits. But Rick Dent, Taylor's campaign spokesman, said the evidence against Brilliant was pretty damning.

He said the only common denominator between the Wikipedia postings "was that Morton Brilliant worked against all three people."

Brilliant declined to comment Thursday.

The changes to all three of the Wikipedia profiles were made last November. In Rossi's case, the changes came more than a year after the election.

The most significant change was the inclusion of this paragraph:

"During the 2004 election, Rossi portrayed himself as moderate Republican. However, he was stung throughout the campaign by a Seattle Times exposé which implicated him in questionable business practices. He was also hurt when it was revealed that he had exaggerated his business credentials. Finally, a series of articles in different papers documented that many of his biographical claims were untrue."

The item remained in Rossi's biography for about 10 days before another user removed it.

Gregoire spokeswoman Holly Armstrong said Thursday the governor wasn't aware of the postings until this week.

"It's not something she condones," Armstrong said. "It's not illegal. Poor judgment, obviously."

Mary Lane, Rossi's spokeswoman, called the postings "pathetic" but said she wasn't surprised.

"During the election, they always seemed more interested in the cloak-and-dagger aspect of campaigning," Lane said.

Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.

Ralph Thomas: 360-943-9882 or rthomas@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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