September 22, 2008

The Jawa Report on the Biggest Winner Loser in the Blogosphere

"Astroturfing" by a huge PR firm—Winner & Associates, with ties to the Barack Obama campaign—might actually have been aided, financed, or encouraged by "The King of Astroturfing," Axlerod himself, who works for . . . um, who was that? Oh, yeah: Barack Obama.

The idea was to discredit McCain's VP pick with more than just her family's traumas.

At issue is a video clip about Sarah Palin that attempts to exaggerate her links to the Alaskan Independence Party, a week after the rumor that she'd been a member of that group had been debunked. (And, of course, there are still "grassroots" efforts to slime her on birth control/sex education, creationism, supposed ties to John Birchers and/or the Buchanan campaign, homophobia . . . her putative use of racial slurs—the list goes on and on . . .)

And here's the clip, going more viral than Winner & Associates necessarily intended:

See that clip of Sarah "welcoming" the AIP? She didn't attend as governor, but she instead sent them a good-will tape, telling them that "diaologue" is always good. (No: not all members of the AIP want to leave the Union. Yes: Todd Palin has been a member of the AIP.)

But here's Rusty for you:

Extensive research was conducted by the Jawa Report to determine the source of smears directed toward Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Those smears included false allegations that she belonged to a secessionist political party and that she has radical anti-American views.

Our research suggests that a subdivision of one of the largest public relations firms in the world most likely started and promulgated rumors about Sarah Palin that were known to be false. These rumors were spread in a surreptitious manner to avoid exposure.

It is also likely that the PR firm was paid by outside sources to run the smear campaign. While not conclusive, evidence suggests a link to the Barack Obama campaign. Namely:

• Evidence suggests that a YouTube video with false claims about Palin was uploaded and promoted by members of a professional PR firm.

• The family that runs the PR firm has extensive ties to the Democratic Party, the netroots, and are staunch Obama supporters.

• Evidence suggests that the firm engaged in a concerted effort to distribute the video in such a way that it would appear to have gone viral on its own. Yet this effort took place on company time.

• Evidence suggests that these distribution efforts included actions by at least one employee of the firm who is unconnected with the family running the company.

• The voice-over artist used in this supposedly amateur video is a professional.

• This same voice-over artist has worked extensively with David Axelrod's firm, which has a history of engaging in phony grassroots efforts, otherwise known as "astroturfing."

• David Axelrod is Barack Obama's chief media strategist.

• The same voice-over artist has worked directly for the Barack Obama campaign.

This suggests that false rumors and outright lies about Sarah Palin and John McCain being spread on the internet are being orchestrated by political partisans and are not an organic grassroots phenomenon led by the left wing fringe. Our findings follow.

At issue? Rusty again:

Our reading of FEC regulations suggests that political campaign and 527 groups, such as Moveon.org, are required to report money spent on advertising opposing a candidate for public office. We can find no exception for advertising intended for web only campaigns.

We assume that if some group paid for the production of the video, that it would be reported to the FEC. Not doing so, we believe, would constitute a breach of federal campaign law.

Ace adds:

I asked Rusty earlier, when I was teasing it, if they'd yanked the videos yet.

He scoffed at the idea they read this (or his) blog. I know for a fact they do.

Anyway, they're down now. Gee, that was fast.

Trouble is, boys, we got copies. Of everyfuckingthing.

You goddamned rats.

Tomorrow they will claim this was all inadvertent, etc. They'll say they did produce the ad, and sent it to Winner and Associates to, um, focus-group or something, then decided not to run it, but that dirty Winner family and its employees attempted to get it to go viral without their authorization.

Whatever.

If this is all so innocent, why are the videos being yanked even as we speak?

Silly. Because deleting You Tube vids they don't like any more is what the Winner family does on Sunday nights. The family that attempts to destroy evidence together . . . loses their livelihood together. I hope.

Implicated in what might turn out to be a plot odd series of coincidences surrounding the dissemination of untruths about Sarah Palin: The PR Firm Winner and Associates; multiple members of the Winner family (including Ethan S. Winner and his father, Charles "Chuck" N. Winner); at least one other empoyee of Winner & Associates; "A Group of Concerned Americans," which appears to be a proxy for W&A, as does You Tube user "gocamerica"; Publicis Groupe, which is one the world's top advertising/PR firms, and owns Winner & Associates; David Axelrod; and a few of his colleagues.

Rusty's account is an extensive post, but well worth reading as a case study in how the internet can be manipulated by corporate interests and sleazy campaigns.


Patterico, Jane Novak, Dan Riehl, and Ace of Spades have chipped in on this effort. (I also tried to help—along with another L.A.-area blogger with ties to the entertainment industry—but we were not able to contribute much, I'm afraid. The others did beautifully without us.)

Riehl on the Smear Story;
Ace's article (with a flaming skull, natch—and quoted above) on the Winner & Associates scandal.
Patterico (who assisted in the distillation of facts Rusty started with), calls the story "a potential bombshell."
Malkin is on the case.

[Bumped, so it'll stay at the top for another 12 hours after I originally wrote it; I got my post up by just after midnight, Pacific, because I was out during the evening.]

Posted by Attila Girl at September 22, 2008 12:20 PM | TrackBack
Comments

Heh. I was gonna sneak a comment in and tell you about it. Looks like you beat me to it, though.

I still cannot get over the sheer arrogance (or stupidity) of these people putting their real names and initials out there on youtube. I mean, if it was me, a regular nobody, sure, okay, but even I have seevral different names and email addys. Not that it makes much difference, really - the details I put it them are barely camouflaged.

But oh boy ohboyohboy do I wanna see how this all pans out. I also wonder what Rin has to say...

Posted by: Gregory at September 22, 2008 01:54 AM


Nothing will come of it. The party of the ends justify the means will approve a summer home for its loyal apparatchiks.
Palin smears were traced to websites paid for by the Obama campaign (e.g., the "sambo" lie") and no one batted an eye. Obama 'condemned it, you know. From one side of his mouth.

Might as well ponder the words of Sarah--ones you won't hear because the party of free speach for me, none for you intervened--In the speech which Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin was to have delivered at a Monday rally protesting the UN appearance of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza--

"I am honored to be with you and with leaders from across this great country - leaders from different faiths and political parties united in a single voice of outrage.

Tomorrow, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will come to New York - to the heart of what he calls the Great Satan - and speak freely in this, a country whose demise he has called for.

Ahmadinejad may choose his words carefully, but underneath all of the rhetoric is an agenda that threatens all who seek a safer and freer world. We gather here today to highlight the Iranian dictator's intentions and to call for action to thwart him.
He must be stopped.

The world must awake to the threat this man poses to all of us. Ahmadinejad denies that the Holocaust ever took place. He dreams of being an agent in a "Final Solution" - the elimination of the Jewish people. He has called Israel a "stinking corpse" that is "on its way to annihilation."

Such talk cannot be dismissed as the ravings of a madman -not when Iran just this summer tested long-range Shahab-3 missiles capable of striking Tel Aviv, not when the Iranian nuclear program is nearing completion, and not when Iran sponsors terrorists that threaten and kill innocent people around the world.

The Iranian government wants nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency reports that Iran is running at least 3,800 centrifuges and that its uranium enrichment capacity is rapidly improving. According to news reports, U.S. intelligence agencies believe the Iranians may have enough nuclear material to produce a bomb within a year.

The world has condemned these activities. The United Nations Security Council has demanded that Iran suspend its illegal nuclear enrichment activities. It has levied three rounds of sanctions. How has Ahmadinejad responded? With the declaration that the "Iranian nation would not retreat one iota" from its nuclear program.

So, what should we do about this growing threat? First, we must succeed in Iraq. If we fail there, it will jeopardize the democracy the Iraqis have worked so hard to build, and empower the extremists in neighboring Iran. Iran has armed and trained terrorists who have killed our soldiers in Iraq, and it is Iran that would benefit from an American defeat in Iraq.

If we retreat without leaving a stable Iraq, Iran's nuclear ambitions will be bolstered. If Iran acquires nuclear weapons ? they could share them tomorrow with the terrorists they finance, arm, and train today. Iranian nuclear weapons would set off a dangerous regional nuclear arms race that would make all of us less safe.

But Iran is not only a regional threat; it threatens the entire world. It is the no. 1 state sponsor of terrorism. It sponsors the world's most vicious terrorist groups, Hamas and Hezbollah. Together, Iran and its terrorists are responsible for the deaths of Americans in Lebanon in the 1980s, in Saudi Arabia in the 1990s, and in Iraq today. They have murdered Iraqis, Lebanese, Palestinians, and other Muslims who have resisted Iran's desire to dominate the region. They have persecuted countless people simply because they are Jewish.

Iran is responsible for attacks not only on Israelis, but on Jews living as far away as Argentina. Anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial are part of Iran's official ideology and murder is part of its official policy. Not even Iranian citizens are safe from their government's threat to those who want to live, work, and worship in peace. Politically-motivated abductions, torture, death by stoning, flogging, and amputations are just some of its state-sanctioned punishments.

It is said that the measure of a country is the treatment of its most vulnerable citizens. By that standard, the Iranian government is both oppressive and barbaric. Under Ahmadinejad's rule, Iranian women are some of the most vulnerable citizens.

If an Iranian woman shows too much hair in public, she risks being beaten or killed. If she walks down a public street in clothing that violates the state dress code, she could be arrested.

But in the face of this harsh regime, the Iranian women have shown courage. Despite threats to their lives and their families, Iranian women have sought better treatment through the "One Million Signatures Campaign Demanding Changes to Discriminatory Laws." The authorities have reacted with predictable barbarism. Last year, women's rights activist Delaram Ali was sentenced to 20 lashes and 10 months in prison for committing the crime of "propaganda against the system." After international protests, the judiciary reduced her sentence to "only" 10 lashes and 36 months in prison and then temporarily suspended her sentence. She still faces the threat of imprisonment.

Earlier this year, Senator Clinton said that "Iran is seeking nuclear weapons, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps is in the forefront of that" effort. Senator Clinton argued that part of our response must include stronger sanctions, including the designation of the IRGC as a terrorist organization. John McCain and I could not agree more.

Senator Clinton understands the nature of this threat and what we must do to confront it. This is an issue that should unite all Americans. Iran should not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. Period. And in a single voice, we must be loud enough for the whole world to hear: Stop Iran!
Only by working together, across national, religious, and political differences, can we alter this regime's dangerous behavior. Iran has many vulnerabilities, including a regime weakened by sanctions and a population eager to embrace opportunities with the West. We must increase economic pressure to change Iran's behavior.

Tomorrow, Ahmadinejad will come to New York. On our soil, he will exercise the right of freedom of speech - a right he denies his own people. He will share his hateful agenda with the world. Our task is to focus the world on what can be done to stop him.

We must rally the world to press for truly tough sanctions at the U.N. or with our allies if Iran's allies continue to block action in the U.N. We must start with restrictions on Iran's refined petroleum imports. We must reduce our dependency on foreign oil to weaken Iran's economic influence.
We must target the regime's assets abroad; bank accounts, investments, and trading partners.

President Ahmadinejad should be held accountable for inciting genocide, a crime under international law.

We must sanction Iran's Central Bank and the Revolutionary Guard Corps -which no one should doubt is a terrorist organization. Together, we can stop Iran's nuclear program.

Senator McCain has made a solemn commitment that I strongly endorse: Never again will we risk another Holocaust. And this is not a wish, a request, or a plea to Israel's enemies. This is a promise that the United States and Israel will honor, against any enemy who cares to test us. It is John McCain's promise and it is my promise.

Thank you. "



Posted by: Darrell at September 22, 2008 10:10 AM




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