Monday, September 22, 2008

Orchestrated Palin Smear Campaign by Professional PR Firm

Over at the Jawa Report there is a long (and I do mean long) post up about apparent grassroots videos smearing Sarah Palin that appear to in fact be produced by professional PR firms. The piece is so long that is almost impossible to quote.

The quick summary is as follows. Video content is produced with no factual evidence to back it up--complete and outright fabrication. This video is then released via YouTube and political blogs. The goal is to make the transmission of the video appear to be viral. Viewers of the video aren't suppose to think "Obama's team created this ad"; instead they are suppose to think they've stumbled on real (and damning) information collected by some average Joe citizen. Additionally, releasing the video in this manner also distances the creators from the content in case of lawsuits over the false claims.

The approach used is highly questionable and potentially illegal. Monies spent on federal campaigns must be well documented and declared to the FEC. The Jawa Report notes:
We also can't help but wonder if maybe those who produced the ad believed that the lack of disclaimer constituted an FEC violation? Which would be an alternative explanation for why they did not wish to be connected to it.

Beyond the disclaimer, though, our reading of FEC regulations suggests that political campaign and 527 groups, such as, 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.
So far, there has been no official confirmation of what the Jawa Report has found or of their claims of its illegality. So definitely caution should be taken. But they end with this update:
Within an hour of this post going up, YouTube videos implicating Ethan Winner were yanked, sockpuppet accounts deleted, and more importantly, the Wikipedia entry on David Axelrod began to edit out mentions of his well know astroturfing campaigns. Hmmm, it sounds to me like we're on to something.

We have backups of all the deleted websites, and will update as soon as we can.
Their findings are certainly getting a lot of coverage on the (conservative) blog scene. You can read more about this at Instapundit, Wizbangblog, Hot Air, and Gateway Pundit.

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