While working on a story recently, I was browsing SpokaneWasteToEnergy.com, where one finds all manner of information about the area's waste and recycling systems. I had assumed the site was owned and operated by the city.
Then I noticed a link in a column on the left. Red. All caps. Underlined.
“SPOKANE'S NEW MAYOR?”
I clicked and was greeted by the face of Mike Noder, the “libertarian Constitutionalist” candidate who's trying to unseat Mayor David Condon.
The site, MikeNoder.com, is not part of his campaign. Quite the opposite.
The banner across the top reads: “KOOKS for NODER: It's about time that Spokane's bat-crap crazy conspiracy kooks were properly represented!”
A grainy picture of Noder's head, floating like a balloon, comprises an elegant motif across a spare black background. The text is simple, centered, bright green. Someone spent a whole 30 minutes putting this together.
But who? And more importantly, how did that link end up on SpokaneWasteToEnergy.com?
I emailed the administrator, a guy named Craig Sullivan. Then I called Noder.
“I have my own personal troll,” Noder said, explaining that he and Sullivan have known each other for nearly a decade. Seven or eight years ago, they were part of a small group that regularly met for beers and banter at local bars.
Noder, who sat on the Spokane County Solid Waste Advisory Committee, believed city and county officials were making large, fraudulent transfers of money among utilities departments. So he commissioned Sullivan, a web developer by profession, to build SpokaneWasteToEnergy.com, where they could provide the public with more “accurate” numbers.
“Noder would show up at our meetings, bloviating about how corrupt the City and the Regional System were, and how they should all be going to jail,” Sullivan wrote. “Unfortunately, I got caught-up in his conspiracy theories, and we agreed to set up a couple of Web sites to ‘expose’ the corruption.”
Sullivan said SpokaneWasteToEnergy.com is a parody site that mimicked the city’s SolidWaste.org, which has since been redesigned. They also built a “protest” site, SpokaneWasteOfEnergy.com, which is now defunct.
The two had a falling-out sometime around Noder's second bid for mayor in 2011. He also ran in 2007. Sullivan maintained ownership of SpokaneWasteToEnergy.com and kept it out of Noder's control. He bought the domain MikeNoder.com after Noder announced his third run for mayor.
“The first time Noder ran, I thought it was funny,” Sullivan wrote. “The second time he ran I thought it was stupid. Now I just think he is delusional.”
Noder said he briefly considered suing Sullivan for defamation, but it’s not worth the hassle.
“I probably have a claim there, but I don't want to bother with that,” Noder said. “I don't want to wrestle in the mud with the guy.”
He said Sullivan has the right to exercise his freedom of speech.
“If he doesn't want me to be mayor, he's entitled to say that.”
Noder's real campaign site, by the way, is MikeforSpokane.com.