The Ohio "kosola" connection
Grab a cup of coffee, sit back and relax while I tell you a long story about the Jerome Armstrong/kos connection in Ohio.
The story in the extended for those that are interested
It started in 2005 when Sherrod Brown hired Jerome Armstrong to build a community website called "Grow Ohio". Shortly afterwards Tim Tagaris was hired to blog on it. Through that summer Tim and Grow Ohio blogged about the OH-2 special election and Paul Hackett. Paul of course missed out narrowly, but Grow Ohio continued. Ohio bloggers were informed by Tagaris one night to stand by for an important announcement from Sherrod Brown. Much speculation had swirled that he would run for Senate, especially since Congressman Tim Ryan had earlier declined. Most people expected Brown to announce. Instead, hours later he shocked everyone by reasoning he was not going to run.
The weeks that followed were a swirl of activity both in Ohio and DC to recruit Paul Hackett - Hackett being Hackett, accepted the challenge. The game was on. I began blogging at the Buckeye Senate Blog, eager to help Hackett defeat DeWine.
Then to everyone's amazement, Brown changed his mind and announced he would run after all. On October 4th 2005 kos had this to say about Brown's decision
OH-Sen: contested primary in the cards?
Tue Oct 04, 2005 at 01:39:38 AM EST
So this is weird.
So the Ohio Senate picture has gone from no Democrats to challenge the increasingly vulnerable Sen. DeWine, to a potential primary battle between Hackett and Brown.
And with all apologies to Brown, who is one of the greats in the House, but this isn't cool. He bows out, waits for Hackett to gear up, and then floats a trial balloon about getting back in? Brown must've known about Hackett's decision to run, hence this trial balloon is sabotage.
I'm not even sure who is the best candidate, the bullshit "who's most electable" question. That Zogby poll earlier today had Hackett kicking DeWine's ass. I assume Brown would do roughly as well. But in a primary, Brown has the instiutional state party apparatus (no matter how pathetic Ohio Dems might be). Hackett is an outsider. Me, give me an Iraq vet over a career politician, even one with Brown's excellent pedigree
Not out of character for kos who had up until this point shown a liking to fighting Democrats.
Armstrong of course had different ideas, drawing a significant paycheck from Brown for his consulting work
Tue Oct 4th, 2005 at 09:55:07 AM EDT
Sherrod Brown should run for the US Senate, he's our best shot at taking back the Senate seat, and will do the most for Democrats to grow organization in the state to win there in 2008.
What about Paul Hackett? Hackett can win, but let's not kid here. Putting aside Zogby's internet polling numbers, it's a longshot. He's not going to win on organization, but on the luck of television ads to be funded later. Dewine has $7M and a script of Hackett calling Bush a "son of a bitch." Heck, even a nimrod could turn that into a serious definitional problem for Hackett right off the bat. Would I support Hackett for the Senate? Heck yea; better him than about anyone else. But if Sherrod Brown decides to run, there is no question that he is the choice for a statewide run.
Brown has the money ($3 million in the bank). Al Gore was just in Cleveland raising $500K for Brown asking him to run. Hackett next to zero money, and few connections in Ohio to raise money either. He will be totally dependent upon the netroots and the DSCC for money, which means that they will control the consultants that work his race. Brown has the organization connections, having won statewide, and traveled in the state; he's been working it the whole year. Hackett didn't go around and see what Ohio Democrats said about him running, he went to DC to ask. Hackett will be owned by the DSCC consultants, which will make it tougher for him to win.
That was just 8 hours after kos's initial post. Approximately 48 hours later kos changes his mind
Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 11:49:05 AM EST
So we go from having no candidate, to a competitive primary? Normally, I don't mind primaries. Republicans rode their contested primaries in 2004 to greater name recognition and free media (winning their primaries automatically made them "winners" in the eyes of voters and gave them huge boosts in the post-primary polls).
But in this case, it might be a good idea for Hackett to stand down.
What occurred for kos to change his mind in such a short period of time ? I guess he only likes primaries in CT! This is the first real unanswered question in this "scandal". It won't be the last.
Shortly after that Brown, who's internet strategy was being directed by Armstrong bought a massive blog ad buy. The ads themselves were especially deceptive, picturing both Brown and Hackett's face on them and initially directing people to Browns fundraising site, until later changed to an actblue general election fund page - after many people complained about it. It was all a mistake was the claim.
In an email exchange with kos, he played down the ad buy claiming that Hackett was going to be running ads in 2 weeks - there was no conspiracy. Hackett never did run any blogads. Did kos lie ? In the same email he also claimed that I had not neutralized Armstrong (I was pounding Brown in diaries i was writing at kos) and that Armstrong was "the best in the business", and was "now free to be even more aggressive".
On October 24th, Paul Hackett put a diary up on dkos - Jerome Armstrong peppered it with insults and vitriol
real class there Paul (1.27 / 29)
I'm motivated to fix what these clowns have let become broken. If you're happy with the status quo, you can have Sherrod Brown.
I'm sure you'll find that Karl will enjoy this type of destructive campaigning; does Sarah even know where Ohio is?
by Jerome Armstrong on Mon Oct 24, 2005 at 02:47:38 PM PDT
[ Parent ]
Sarah was a staffer heading for Ohio to join the Hackett campaign, and was someone just a day earlier had spent with Armstrong and others in DC having a going away party. Now hours later Armstrong was slamming her and Hackett while working for Sherrod Brown - on kos's website.
Two days later Armstrong announced he was quitting blogging to concentrate on consulting, most notably with Warner. My sources in multiple DC organizations told me that Armstrong's decision to quit blogging was forced on him by his clients, Warner the name mentioned most, after his explosion in the Hackett diary.
Things quietened down in Ohio for a short while until the Ohio Democratic Party Christmas function. Bloggers including myself and Tim Russo reported on Sherrod Brown's strange angry behavior at that event and soon after hordes of anonymous commenters appeared on our blogs, issuing threats. This was the "aggressive Armstrong" tactic, not at all dissimilar to that he employed on the Raging Bull message boards against detractors. After some investigative work these anonymous posters were tracked back to the Brown campaign via IP addresses. Subsequent sources confirmed the events, including the now Campaign manager of Sherrod Brown, John Ryan.
I'm going to veer off to a tangent for a second now. Shortly before Brown announced his candidacy for Senate, the Hackett campaign were issuing request for quotes for a campaign web platform. My sources tell me that these requests were going through Armstrong andkos for vetting and Media Mezcla LLC was selected. Whether kos or Armstrong were paid for this I do not know, and suspect they were not, but clearly kos was acting as more than a pure blogger if he was giving advice on whose platform a campaign should use. After Brown entered the race and Hackett's contract with Media Mezcla LLC was over they switched to a different platform provider, in part because they were concerned about the security of their site given that Armstrong had steered them that way.
By February Sherrod Brown's netroots campaign in Ohio had collapsed completely with no in state netroots support and a lot of animosity. Tim Tagaris had left the Brown campaign to head to the DNC and other staffers followed. The ire of the campaign focused on myself and Russo - dating back to the Christmas party and subsequent critisism. Opposition research was shopped around on myself (there was nothing) and Russo who had a conviction for importuning, but no outlet picked it up. It was however seen in a few comments on blogs, until Feb 17th where kos strangely front paged it in an open thread
For those of you who think former Ohio blogger Tim Russo was a victim of something, read this. If you don't know or care who Tim Russo is, then skip this item.
How strange is that, and what would be the motivation ? To assist with a troublesome Ohio blogger who was damaging a client of Armstrong's is the only conclusion I can come to. Russo's record was recently brought back up again on the front pages of the Plain Dealer, and has subsequently quit blogging and taken down his blog (hence no links).
In April Brown finally pulled the plug on the lifeless Groan Ohio as it had become known (hence no links) and has barely set foot on any blog since - some blog guru Armstrong turned out to be. Best in the biz ? Hardly.
I tried to contact the Brown campaign today to confirm that Armstrong is no longer on the payroll, but they declined to return my calls - not unsurprisingly. The soon to be released FEC reports should finish off the story.
So what do I make of all of this ? First that Armstrong is a liability to a campaign and that both he and kos underestimated how much Ohio bloggers cared about Ohio as opposed to the "netroots". We weren't prepared to stand idly by and watch these two people who know nothing about Ohio come into the state and screw it all up without a fight. Ultimately Hackett was forced out of the race and questions remain about Brown - they can be answered in November. Questions about Armstrong and kos though could be answered now.
Why did kos change his position on the senate race within a 48 hour period ? In a recent Salon article he claimed it was a case of his head and his heart. I don't buy it - not when it's a different story each time he tries to answer.
Does Armstrong sell his consulting prowess and include his close association with kos as a side benefit ? The Brown debacle and recent questions surrounding the Warner campaign raise suspicion.
Has Armstrong transfered his "stock touting" tactics to political races online ? His initial post on Brown seems to indicate he has. He claimed Brown has $3 million on hand. He didn't he had $2 million. He claimed Brown had a large statewide organization. He didn't - as subsequent event pictures show. He claimed he had high name ID due to his previous runs for statewide office - he didn't as current polling show. Armstrong clearly inflated the initial appeal of Brown to his readers at MyDD, as he is alleged to have inflated the prospects of stocks he was touting on raging bull.
What of kos ? Does money change hands or is he just supportive of his friend ? I suspect the latter absent any evidence to suggest otherwise - in which case it demonstrates a lack of judgement from kos to become entangled in such a mess. Perception is reality and kos has acted with enough suspicion for people to draw conclusions. His messages on the Townhouse google group only add to this perception of wanting to cover up - replete with poor excuses for Armstrong. I found it amusing that he would criticize Kerry for not attacking the SWBF, yet when faced with his own crisis chose the same path - again poor judgement.
Does kos have influence over other bloggers ? Of course ! He may not have direct financial influence over them, at best those claims are tendentious - but some other bloggers feel intimidated, as Mike Stark indicated in a Townhouse message
I might be digging my grave here, but before I put my credibility on the line ofr anyone, I want to know I'm standing on solid ground.
Why would he think he was digging his grave by being contrary to kos if there wasn't some air of intimidation, real or perceived ? People want to be in the kool kids klub - it's human nature.
To date kos has failed to directly address the central issues. Does Armstrong barter his services with clients to include the editorial influence of kos, if so is kos party to this ? Instead he has diverted attention from this question by attacking those asking these questions.
kos at the end of the day I think has poor judgement and is naive - Hackett flip flop, the DLC attack that never came, Warner and Yearlykos- all leave many wondering. While Armstrong and kos have a symbiotic relationship, and some business ties (in the past, and with their recent book) I don't believe there is any transfer of money for editorial influence - I think Jerome simply gets some of that for free, that at least is my impression.
I personally don't care how this story turns out, the netroots in the Ohio Senate race are now poisoned beyond recovery thanks to these bozo's - I just hope I don't have to witness them screw up any more races in the state I live.