Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is "ineffective." And U.S. Rep. Martin Meehan never promised to surrender his seat in 2000.
Those assertions were inserted into the popular online encyclopedia Wikipedia by congressional House staffers, who executed at least 1,000 changes in the past six months to entries on an array of topics from biographical changes to facial dimples.
Wikipedia is a global reference that relies on its users anyone with an Internet connection to add credible information to entries on millions of topics.
In November and December, the Transcript has learned, users of the House address were temporarily blocked from changing content because of vandalism, violations described by the site as a "deliberate attempt to compromise the integrity of the encyclopedia."
Most House changes, it seems, were meant to enhance various encyclopedia entries.
Slurs against Cantor and Frist, which have been removed, is the first example of abuse that Wikipedia's founder, Jimmy Wales, has seen derive directly from the legislative branch of the U.S. government.
"That's definitely not cool. I was not aware of this," Wales said in an interview.
Wikipedia records every change to its site, and who made it. The encyclopedia prefers that editors log in with a user name. But it's not necessary, and
An IP address assigned to the House is connected to at least 1,000 changes since June, according to the encyclopedia and the nonprofit American Registry for Internet Numbers, a search engine that tracks IP addresses.
Jon Brandt, a spokesman for the Committee on House Administration, which oversees the House computer network, confirmed House ownership of the address.
For security reasons, he declined to say to whom the address is assigned, whether it's a central launching point for all 10,000 House employees or how many addresses the House has.
Not all changes disparaging and at least one supplanted unflatteringly information with laudatory content.
Matt Vogel, chief of staff for Meehan, a Lowell Democrat, said he authorized an intern last year to replace existing Wikipedia content with a staff-written biography of the lawmaker.
"It makes sense to me the biography we submit would be the biography we write," Vogel said.
The change, made by the intern last July, deleted a reference to Meehan's campaign promise to surrender his seat after serving eight years, a pledge Meehan later eschewed. It also deleted a reference to the size of his campaign account, the largest of any House member at $4.8 million, according to the latest data available from the Federal Election Commission.
"Meehan first ran for Congress in 1992 on a platform of reform," the pre-edited entry said. "As part of that platform Meehan made a pledge to not serve more than four terms, a central part of his campaign. ... This breaking of the pledge has been a controversial issue in the 5th Congressional District of Massachusetts."
The new entry read in part: "Meehan was elected to Congress in 1992 on a plan to eliminate the deficit. His fiscally responsible voting record since then has earned him praise from citizen watchdog groups. He was re-elected by a large margin in 2004."
The change doubled the length of the entry on Meehan, corrected errors and replaced "sloppy" writing, Vogel said.
"Let the outside world edit it," Vogel said. "It seemed right to start with greater depth than a paragraph with incorrect data from the '80s."
Mistakes were inserted into the Meehan entry at different points of its evolution, according to an examination of the edits. One editor erroneously said Meehan attended Harvard; another indicated it likely that Meehan would run for Sen. Edward Kennedy's seat.
But Wales said the deletion of factual information goes against the principles of Wikipedia, which promotes a "neutral point of view" policy.
"You don't delete it," Wales said. "If they wanted to put in their side of things, that would seem ethically relevant, rather than just omitting it."
Wikipedia reaches around the globe, with 3.1 million articles published in more than 200 languages.
On Thursday, Wikipedia was ranked the 19th busiest site on the Internet, according to alexa. com, a subsidiary of Amazon.com that tracks Web traffic. Over the last three months, Wikipedia was ranked the 31st busiest site.
Deleting factual information can alter the public's perception of a lawmaker and erode users' confidence in Wikipedia, said Geoffrey Bowker, director of the Center for Science, Technology and Society at Santa Clara (Calif.) University.
"The vandalism is just plain childish," Bowker said. "The term limit pledge (change by Meehan's staff) is a much more serious case. That's someone trying to alter the public record."
Bowker likened it to the recent controversy over news articles surreptitiously planted by the Pentagon in Iraqi newspapers.
A new reference to Meehan's term limit pledge was inserted in the Wikipedia entry in November by an identified editor. On Dec. 27, someone using the House IP address reduced the reference to a single sentence: "(Meehan) also supported term limits, pledging to serve no more than four terms."
Vogel said he did not authorize the change.
The changes by Meehan's staff is not as "reprehensible" as in-serting derogatory comments in someone else's entry, said Stephen Potts, the former director of the federal Office of Government Ethics, which establishes conduct standards for the executive branch.
But the sheer breadth of changes to Wikipedia content emanating from the House even if the edits comply with the encyclopedia's operating standards reflects an abuse of public time and equipment, said Potter, now chairman of the Ethics Resource Center.
"That kind of usage, plus the fact that they're changing one person's material, is certainly wrong and ought to be at a minimum the focus of some disciplinary action," he said.
A spokesman for the House ethics body declined to comment.
House-based editors embrace a diverse collection of topics. One editor added to a list of celebrities who stutter; another dabbled with Tom Selleck's sexual orientation; still another reflected on the place in pop culture of the "buttocks."
On Thursday, eight changes had been made by midday from House offices. On topics ranging from the phrase "over the hill" to a southern cola named Ale-8-One.
Members of Congress are generally free to establish rules of conduct within their offices. A member's handbook distributed by the Committee on House Administration allows "incidental" use of the Internet.
Staffers, therefore, are free to engage in personal e-mail, phone calls and other activity so long as it is "negligible in nature, frequency, time consumed, and expense," the handbook says.