ST. PETERSBURG — Max Linn's Web site boasted nearly a hundred names of supporters who joined his movement to change Congress.
They came from cities like Dripping Springs, Texas, and Eagan, Minn., with names like Gordon Schreckengost, Dexter Bashline and Brady Ironmonger.
But they weren't real.
Of 90 people listed with their hometowns next to the title "Americans Changing Congress," the St. Petersburg Times found only about 10 in public records.
The list was removed from the site after a reporter called Linn to ask about it. But it wasn't the only way the site could confuse visitors.
The site, www.mustchangecongress.org, implores viewers to join a national movement to oust Republican incumbents, but the fine print reveals that donations go to Linn's campaign alone. It floods visitors with videos, pictures and quotes from Sen. Barack Obama but doesn't mention that the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee has not endorsed Linn.
"I think it's a darn good comprehensive educational Web site," Linn said, noting that the official launch is next week. "It's going to be a forthright, up-front Web site to generate thought and interest in how important it is to focus on Congress nationally."
The site asks people to financially support Linn's movement to throw out Republican incumbents who might stand in the way of an Obama presidency. It's one of two sites connected to Max Linn's campaign for Congressional District 10, now represented by U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young. Linn faces two other Democrats, Bob Hackworth and Samm Simpson, in a primary to determine who takes on Young.
When asked to comment, an Obama spokeswoman said the campaign wasn't involved in Linn's use of Obama's images on the site. "Despite what the Web site may inaccurately suggest, Senator Obama does not and will not endorse a candidate in Florida's 10th Congressional District primary," Adora Andy wrote in an e-mail.
Linn, who said Obama suggested he run for office when they met at a Miami fundraiser in 2007, acknowledged Obama has not endorsed him. But he also said only Obama could confirm whether he's a supporter, not "one of his underlings who doesn't know me and doesn't even know Barack Obama."
Linn said he wasn't involved in the development of the list of supposed supporters on his Web site. When asked if he requested the list be taken down, he said he didn't. Then he said he couldn't remember.
Kenneth Gross, an elections lawyer with a firm in Washington, D.C., said the site appears to comply with federal law to include who paid for the site and to collect information from donors.
He added that candidates commonly latch onto a star like Obama to boost their own campaigns.
Hackworth, mayor of Dunedin and Linn's Democratic opponent, said he also appeals to voters who want to see change in Congress and Obama's presidency succeed.
"Obviously, that's my message too," Hackworth said. "I just have a problem with him appropriating that for himself. I think it is meant to be misleading to people."
Simpson, who ran against Young in 2006, pointed out in an e-mail that her campaign predates the Obama mania.
"This Web site is duplicitous," Simpson wrote. "All the donations go to Max, not to a national organization. The site embeds Obama videos to continue the 'myth' that Obama and Max are a 'team.' Max Linn, like Bob Hackworth, are opportunists riding the Obama gravy train."
Stephanie Garry can be reached at (727) 892-2374 or firstname.lastname@example.org.