Last week I explained the propaganda tool called astroturfing, spreading stories through paid or coordinated sources to make it appear it is a spontaneous, volunteer effort when it is anything but.
Today, the Jawa Report observes -- in a lengthy, well-documented article -- that at least one of the viral videos carrying a proven false rumor about Palin (that she belonged to an Alaskan separatist movement) was professionally prepared by a p.r. firm linked to the Obama campaign,
...the ad, while professionally produced, was put on YouTube and then spread in such a way as to make it seem like amateurs had made it and spread it. We can't help but wonder if the missing disclaimer on the video was an intentional exploitation of a loophole meant to distance the people behind the ad from its outright lies?
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 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.
Not only does it seem that a professional P.R. firm linked to Obama prepared the ad, but the site details persuasive evidence that key members of that same firm, posing as members of the public used sock puppets (made up online personae, to spread the video far and wide (make it go "viral").
Rusty also has evidence, which he details, that the firm used its facilities to produce the video and that a voice over artist used before by David Axelrod, Obama's campaign adviser and a professional specializing in astroturfing, was involved in the production of the video.