President Obama’s Astroturf Campaign Identical to Ted Strickland’s
Sabrina Eaton, a Plain Dealer reporter who is hardly a member of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, broke a fascinating story that was picked up by the Drudge Report and has spread throughout the blogosphere. Apparently, one person, supposedly named “Ellie Light”, has written letters to the editor in dozens of newspapers across the country, using different addresses.
Here is a list of the 65 newspapers which published the letter, which includes the Chillicothe Gazette, Mansfield News Journal, Hudson Hub-Times, and Gateway News of Streetsboro. The letters have even reached as far as India and Thailand!
Apparently, Ellie Light is a real person, but she refuses to explain the discrepancies in her address:
A well-traveled letter writer who has used dozens of different addresses to publish a pro-Obama letter-to-the-editor in at least 40 newspapers around the country in recent weeks denies allegations that she’s secretly a White House official or is part of an organized propaganda campaign.[...]
And, by Sunday, after it was publicized through outlets like the Drudge Report, the article about Light had more than 500,000 page views, making it the most-read story ever on cleveland.com.[...]
Light, who e-mailed an identical missive to The Plain Dealer on Jan. 16 without listing a hometown, would not answer e-mailed questions about the address discrepancies in newspapers that ran her letter, or her identity. She did say she wasn’t a former co-worker of this reporter with a similar name.
In a Sunday morning e-mail to The Plain Dealer, Light denied speculation that she’s actually President Obama, his wife, Michelle, or National Security Council member Samantha Power.
“I’m flattered, and I must give the Tea Partiers credit for even knowing who [Power] is,” Light’s e-mail said. “But what I want to point out is that, if I were a person trying to imply this huge groundswell of support for our beleaguered president, then I would have signed the letter with different names. However, as you may have noticed, my main point is that absence of support for the president.
Regardless is this is a clever David Axelrod / David Plouffe astroturf job or not, it is clear that President Obama’s Organizing for America actively encourages supporters to send boilerplate template letters to the editor from their website.
And this is nothing new. The same website firm that runs the Organizing for America also built Ted Strickland’s campaign website in 2005, which used the same letter to the editor astroturfing technology. Notice how the form uses the exact same wording: ie, “To get started, enter your zip code below and click ‘Participate.” And because Strickland supporters don’t really know why they support him, next page consisted of general campaign talking points with a direct submission to editors- At the time, this was mocked by statehouse reporters such as Dan Williamson, which is why Ted Strickland’s new website doesn’t include the service anymore.
While it will be fascinating to finally learn all the details behind Ms. Light’s letters, Barack Obama and Ted Strickland are politicians who embrace astroturf politics. Finally, they are being exposed.
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