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Bloggers Sniff Out Anti-Palin Astroturf Campaign-- and the Cover-Up Begins Updated with Ethan Winner Response
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Scroll down for updates…Response from Ethan Winner

Follow the disappearing YouTube account…

The blogosphere is doing the job the MSM thinks no one else can do.

A collaborative investigative effort by our friends at The Jawa Report to expose an apparently astroturfed, anti-Sarah Palin smear campaign seems to have caused late-night panic in Barack Obama-linked p.r. circles. The bloggers digging into the provenance of anti-Sarah Palin smears on the web got results last night/early this morning while most elite journalists were still in their pajamas sleeping.

First, read this. Read the whole thing. Rusty Shackleford — with help from Jane of Armies of Liberation, Stable Hand, the Jawa team, Dan Riehl, Ace of Spades, and Patterico — traced a Palin-bashing YouTube video to a Democrat public relations firm, Winner and Associates, and one of its employees, Ethan S. Winner. They believe the voiceover for the ad — which spreads the lie that Sarah Palin belonged to a fringe third party, the Alaska Independence Party — was done by a professional whose voice they believe was also featured in several Obama ads and other spots produced by Obama top strategist and astroturfer extraordinaire David Axelrod’s firm.

The Jawa Report’s bottom line:

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.

Now, here’s the juicy part. Within an hour of publication of the Jawa Report’s investigation, “eswinner” deleted the smear video that he had uploaded several times on September 11. Here’s a screenshot of the cached copy:

Let me underline that: At some point between approx. 12 midnight – 2am Eastern, “eswinner” logged into his account and tried to erase all traces of the deceitful, Palin-bashing ad.

And at 4:26am Eastern, here’s the message that appeared when attempting to view “eswinner’s” previously accessible account:

That was fast.

“Eswinner” didn’t just delete the Palin/AIP smear ad and his entire account. A related YouTube account, “Gocamerica,” that was spreading the lie has now also tried covering its tracks and has been closed. Ace and Dan Riehl are tracking the cover-up.

The Jawas, who have been at the vanguard of smoking out jihadis on the web, of course saved the video and all relevant websites.

Rusty wonders:

“If ‘eswinner’ isn’t Ethan Winner of the Publicis Groupe, then why did “eswinner” yank the video so quickly? Or if this was just an innocent homemade ad, then what does he have to hide? You’d think he’d want more attention for it.”

Indeed. Here it is, captured by a quick-thinking watchdog and reposted on YouTube.

I highly doubt “eswinner” will dare to send a takedown notice and reveal himself — and the lawyers and money behind him.

But it’s only a matter of time before the truth comes out.

Stay tuned.


Update: Patterico on the cover-up…

In the criminal law business, we call evidence like that “consciousness of guilt.”

There needs to be follow-up to this story. The connection to the Winners and their PR firm is solid. The evidence tying in Axelrod and Obama is circumstantial but suggestive. The lightning-quick cover-up goes a long way towards convincing me. Now the baton needs to be passed to a media organization that can demand answers from the parties involved, who are unlikely to respond to a bunch of bloggers.

Update: Ethan Winner has responded.

September 22, 2008

1:30 pm PDT

Statement of Ethan Winner

The following is in response to questions I have received regarding the post on the Jawa Report website.

I produced and posted on the Internet the video entitled “Sarah Palin: A Heartbeat Away.”

The idea for the video was mine. No one paid me to produce it. The only out-of-pocket cost will be the fee for the voice-over narrator, which I will pay personally when I receive an invoice. Contrary to the allegation in the Jawa Report, the voice-over artist has never done any work for the Obama campaign. I retained her through a talent agency based solely on the quality of her voice.

Neither the Obama campaign nor any independent political action committee has had a connection with the making and/or posting of this video. Just like the thousands of Americans who have posted videos on the Internet regarding the current Presidential campaign, I produced this video as an expression of my right to free speech, which is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.


I believe the American people have a right and a need to know information about candidates for political office and their views. I made this video because I think it is important for the public to be aware of the association between Sarah and Todd Palin and the Alaskan Independence Party. The New York Times has reported that the Alaskan Independence Party website describes the party as seeking, in the words of the party, “a range of solutions to the conflicts between federal and local authority,” including “advocacy for state’s rights, through a return to territorial status, all the way to complete independence and nationhood status for Alaska.”

While a number of media outlets have said that reports that Sarah Palin was a member of the Alaskan Independence Party may have been erroneous, her attendance at the party’s 1994 convention, her video speech to the 2008 convention and her husband’s membership in the Alaskan Independence Party have not been called into question.

Some people have asked why I have pulled the video from the Internet. The reason is simple. Following the posting of personal information about me by the Jawa Report, my family began to receive threatening and abusive phone calls and emails.

Rusty Shackleford’s response:

Do I find his response hard to believe. Yes I do. I would especially note the carefully crafted future tense usage for when he will pay the voice over artist.

It’s almost …. Clintonesque.

So, he produces the video. He pays for the video production — out of his own pocket. He then posts it to YouTube using multiple phony identities.

Then he gets his friends at one of the largest PR firms in the world to post it on the internet, to suggest to others that they pass it on, and spend company time defending the outright lies in the video — all for free?

And the multimillionaire who is President of the firm also spends his free time defending the lies on his “homemade” — yet professionally voiced over — video?

Hey Ethan, with that business savvy no wonder you were forced to rent out the family yacht! Maybe it’s time to also get rid of those courtside seats.

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Blogosphere, Sarah Palin