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Joe Miller Clears the Cache. Oops.

BY Nancy Scola | Wednesday, October 27 2010

When we Clear the Cache each day here, we hope it's some amount of fun. But clearing the cache can, in fact, sometimes hurt -- something Alaska Republican and Senate candidate Joe Miller found out the hard way.

Miller, it turns out, was placed on administrative leave from his job as an attorney with the Fairbanks North Star Borough back in 2008 after his co-workers realized that someone had been on their computers and cleared out the cache of temporary files stored therein. One of Miller's colleagues, in filings released yesterday (pdf) by the borough as a result of court proceedings, says she confronted Miller after she opened up Westlaw on her machine and found no record of her search history. Miller eventually admitted, after much obfuscation, that he had used her and other colleagues' computers -- and their IP addresses -- to rack up some votes in an online poll he was running on his own political website, JoeMiller.us. "I explained to him I am not a political person," wrote the colleague in the released records, "and that I did not appreciate him injecting me into his mess by making it look like I voted in some poll to oust [Alaska Republican party chair Randy] Ruedrich." (Those filings, by the way, come courtesy of the Alaska Dispatch, which you might remember from its editor's recent private handcuffing at a Miller campaign event.)

Miller opponents have been trying to dig up the details of his job woes, and the court-ordered release of the documents this week is some fortunate timing for them.

According to hand-written notes from his then-employer's files, Miller responded, when confronted about logging onto others' computers, "I was beyond stupid." Miller, who is battling Democrat Scott McAdams and write-in Republican Lisa Murkowski in the Alaska Senate race, recieved administrative leave for both the dishonesty of his initial actions, and for first lying to his colleagues about it. In an email to his employer, Miller wrote that he now saw the error of his ways. "I did not clear the cache to cause harm to anyone and was not aware the impact that would cause my fellow employees," wrote a repentent Miller. "I now understand that clearing the cache also cleared out passwords and id's for various websites that people were using and was very hurtful (as was the simple fact that I was on their computers)."

And as to the poll Miller was attempting to tweak when he got into so much trouble, how weird was his behavior there? Slate's Farhad Manjoo deems Miller's multiple-voting rather idiotic, saying "Why didn't he just RIG HIS OWN poll?" Fair enough. But a lot of the polling tools out there don't offer a "rig this poll" option, and beside, Miller might not have been the one running the back-end of this own site. It's one thing to borrow the next desk's computer to click a few extra times. It's another to ask your vendor to commit online voter fraud. More than that, though, when it comes to online polling many of us probably make a moral distinction between gaming the thing and outright rigging it. It's par for the course, now, for people to rally their friends and allies to vote a bunch in a poll on, says, CNN.com. (Or at least it was back when people actually cared about those things.) There's a decent chance that in Miller's mind, voting from a few different computers was no big.

Now, clearing someone else's cache? That, as Miller now knows well, is something that you just don't do.