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SF Mayor's aide fakes net postings

Jumps on online Astroturf craze

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A spokesman for the San Francisco mayor admitted he faked his identity when posting comments favorable to his boss on a blog covering local politics.

Spokesman Peter Ragone initially denied using spoofed and bogus names on the SFist, but came clean after being repeated dogged by a local TV station and other news outlets.

"There are times when I've done them myself," Ragone told the San Francisco Chronicle, referring to posts attributed to a friend who lives in the neighboring Marin county. Ragone said he didn't remember posting other comments under the name Byorn, but didn't dispute that the IP address used in making them came from his residence.

The revelations came as Mayor Gavin Newsom's re-election manager resigned after confronting his boss over an affair he had with the aide's wife, according to the Chronicle. The paper, citing unnamed people in City Hall, said the campaign manager's wife confessed to the tryst as part of a rehabilitation regimen she had been undergoing for substance abuse.

The affair occurred about 18 months ago, while Newsom was divorcing his then-wife, Fox TV news host Kimberly Guilfoyl.

The mayor downplayed his aide's fudging of posts, saying that while they demonstrated poor judgment, he wanted Ragone to remain in his post.

The spoofing of identities in public forums has grown increasingly common over the past few years. Officials with several national politicians - including Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa - have fessed up to editing Wikipedia entries to make their bosses appear more favorably.

Not to be outdone, Ragone attributed comments to his friend, John Nelson. One of them takes the SFist, which frequently lambastes the Mayor, to task. "This not a fun place if you are not here for an idealogy [sic] fix," one of the spoofed comment reads.

We imagine the same could be said about city hall's PR department. ®

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