Internet criticism of Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee's involvement in the pardon of a castrated rapist and his heavy use of a state airplane disappeared with a mouse click.
Such edits are common on Wikipedia, a collaborative Internet reference site where anyone can add, change or even delete entries. But the changes made to pages about the former governor, current Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe and others were made using state government computers, according to an analysis by The Associated Press of records from Wikipedia and the state.
The AP found that five computer addresses within the state government network were used while editing information about politicians. Other computer users within the state network changed pages ranging from the rock group AC/DC, Soviet Communist Party boss Yuri Andropov and the city of Batesville, Ark., to a profile of Charles Manson.
The Arkansas Department of Information Services acknowledges the Internet Protocol addresses are registered to the state. The agency refuses to say which offices are assigned to the numbers and twice rejected Freedom of Information Act requests by AP seeking further information.
Arkansas policy dictates that state resources not be used for political purposes. Ethics officials cautioned Beebe after a campaign worker in 2005 used a state computer to edit a Beebe political speech.
Wikipedia, a free encyclopedia with more than 1.9 million articles in English alone, tracks anonymous edits to its pages based on IP addresses.
The analysis found that on Nov. 2, 2005, someone using a state-owned computer added information about Huckabee's role in pardoning Wayne DuMond, who had been convicted in the rape of a Forrest City, Ark., teenager.
Huckabee later denied DuMond clemency the same day a state board granted him parole. Some board members said Huckabee visited with them privately to discuss the case. After his parole, DuMond was convicted of killing a woman near Kansas City, Mo., and later died of cancer.
The 2005 edit declared "Huckabee's only official action" was denying DuMond's clemency and that "critics continue to tie DuMond's release to Huckabee, even though records clearly reveal otherwise." The original DuMond material returned to Huckabee's page shortly after being edited out.
Huckabee's office did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.
On Jan. 14, 2006, a different state computer deleted five paragraphs about DuMond from Huckabee's page. The material later was reposted.
On Feb. 10, 2006, a different state computer eliminated material criticizing Huckabee for "his much-publicized purchase of a private jet that has been used for what many term as personal travel."
The state purchased a Beechcraft turboprop for $1.4 million in 1997. Records showed Huckabee or his wife Janet used the state police plane 80 times in 2005 and 55 times in 2006.
In April, someone on a state computer deleted references to Gov. Mike Beebe's personal life.
The current governor's spokesman, Matt DeCample, said Friday that no one in the governor's office had been instructed to edit or monitor Beebe's page on Wikipedia. He said correcting obviously wrong information would be appropriate.