The smear sleuth

Many of you are familiar with the recent smear-videos targeting Sarah Palin which have been circulating around YOUTube in recent weeks. A well known example is the one that inaccurately claims she was once a member of a secessionist political party in Alaska (she has in fact been a registered Republican since 1982). If you thought these vids were baseless and lacking in taste, you were right.

And if you thought they seemed a little polished for an amateur grassroots effort, you’re not alone.

Rusty Shackleford of The Jawa Report has engaged in a thorough and impressive research mission to trace just who is behind the creation of these ads. The results are eye-opening.

Here is what he found:

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.

The PR firm in question is called Winner & Associates (which not surprisingly is headed by staunch Obama supporters). And they don’t come cheap. As The Jawa Report explains:

These people are professional guns for hire. Looking at their portfolio makes that clear. And they only work for big clients. The kind of clients that pay big bucks. The kind of people hired by Exxon to convince people that the effects of the Valdez spill were over. The kind of people hired to help push through oil fields in Chad and Cameroon or help companies respond to boycott threats over the Beijing Olympics.

The kind of people who would have an in-house attorney to handle PR for Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame. And get them a movie deal.

Also the kind of people hired by the European Union to help sell the new EU treaty. Who was the lead in that effort? Ethan S. Winner.

Apparently these videos were distributed by Ethan and members of his family as well as other employees at the firm on company time. The technique they employed is called “astroturfing” — named so because it is essentially a phony grassroots campaign. In this case videos were planted in various spots on the internet under different names and made to look as if they were creations of left-wing political sites such as Democratic Underground or Daily Kos. The videos were also emailed to moderators at those very sites so that they could begin spreading the joy themselves.

If the term “astroturfing” sounds familiar, it’s probably because it is a favorite tactic of Barack Obama’s chief strategist David Axelrod. He is notorious for using this technique to disseminate “unofficial” campaign messages using the internet.

So this leads us to the million dollar question: Did Axelrod pay Winner & Associates to produce these misleading videos? The paper trail is not yet clear enough to answer that question but the similarities in strategy are certainly there. Rest-assured The Jawa Report is still on the case.

Shackleford and other bloggers have also been looking into the identity of the professional voice over artist used in the ads. They believe they have located her. Why is this significant? Because the woman in question has been used extensively by David Axelrod’s firm over the years… and because she’s the same woman who narrates Obama’s official campaign ads.

What we do believe we have found is that David Axelrod’s firm has worked with the voice over artist in the “eswinner” Palin smear video. In fact, each and every political ad showcased on Axelrod’s website that has a female voice over seems to be the same voice from the Palin smear ad. That Axelrod used her over and over again in his videos going back several years.

We also believe that Axelrod has used her in several official Obama campaign videos.

I’ll emphasise here that they haven’t yet linked these ads conclusively to Obama. Nevertheless the pattern that has emerged so smacks of David Axelrod… and that’s what makes the story so intriguing. It will be interesting to see what The Jawa Report comes up with.

At the very least they have proven beyond a doubt that this smear campaign is a much more organized effort that it was being made to appear. Somebody’s money went into this… we just need to find out who.

There are many more details to this story so I’ll leave you the link to the Jawa Report expose’ and let you come to your own conclusions. It’s a fascinating read and is being updated frequently as new info is procured.

This is one of those times when I really thank God for bloggers. Excellent work, Rusty!


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