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Title: Russian meddling in U.S. elections may go back to the Tea Party ‘revolution’ of 2008 (helped Ron Paul?)
Source: archive.is
URL Source: http://archive.is/T9uAU
Published: Aug 28, 2017
Author: Louis Anslow
Post Date: 2018-01-16 00:57:57 by Hondo68
Keywords: Ron Paul Revolution, Tea Party 2008, McCain, Ukrainian botnuts
Views: 174
Comments: 1

Ukrainian botnets and an inner circle with questionable associations

Ron Paul shakes hands with supporters after speaking during his Rally for the Republic in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 2008. The protest convention was held on day two of the Republican National Convention, which took place in nearby St. Paul. (Keith Bedford/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

In October of 2007, the race for the White House was heating up, and a debate among Republican candidates had just taken place. Shortly after, 162 million unsolicited emails were sent out promoting one candidate: Ron Paul. The subject lines included such lauding pronouncements as “Ron Paul wins GOP Debate!” and “Ron Paul Stops Iraq War!” The messages were made to look as if they had been sent from real people, but they were actually sent from a botnet based in Ukraine. With troubling links now emerging between Ukrainian hackers and Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, the web-driven “Ron Paul Revolution” deserves a second look.

The spam in the Ron Paul case caught people’s attention, and when security researchers discovered the real source several weeks later, it made headlines. Some pointed the finger at the Paul campaign, accusing them of “dirty tricks.” Jesse Benton, Ron Paul’s spokesman and grandson-in-law, brushed off the incident as either the work of an overzealous supporter or a political rival looking to discredit the campaign. At the time, these were the only three thinkable scenarios. But after the 2016 election, the rise of Trump, and revelations of foreign meddling, another possible perpetrator comes to mind: Russia. It was unthinkable in 2008, but at least plausible in retrospect.

Ron Paul has been called the “intellectual godfather” of the Tea Party, and the storied populist surge of his 2008 campaign began — or at least accelerated — that movement, and the rightward drift of the Republican party in general. That drift culminated with Donald Trump’s 2016 victory. Since November, it has become clear that Russian-backed actors were actively meddling with the election, including using an “army of trolls” to help Trump. Now, a Ukrainian hacker is being implicated in the cyberattacks. He is in custody, and the case is being called “the first known instance of a living witness emerging from the arid mass of technical detail.”

But could it be that 2016 wasn’t the first time Russia used the internet to meddle in a U.S. election? Did those operations start the very moment the old media gatekeepers lost control over what U.S. voters saw and heard?

The 2008 political cycle came at a moment when the internet had reached critical mass, becoming a significant factor in an election. During the 2000 election, only 52 percent of U.S. adults were online, connections were dial-up, and YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook didn’t exist. Eight years later, though, that number had risen to 74 percent, and the newly democratized means of broadcast was now commonplace. The election that year was the first opportunity for Russia to easily and cheaply wage an information war within the United States, to sway an election, without ever having to deploy any state-backed actors. They didn’t need to erect high-powered radio towers in Cuba to influence Florida voters like they did in the 1980s, they just needed an internet connection.

Paul’s 2008 presidential run also coincided with Russia’s ramped-up public web presence. Just two weeks after Paul announced his presidential bid, Russia Today (RT) launched its YouTube channel. (Paul was the first U.S. presidential candidate they interviewed, incidentally.)

When Jesse Benton gave his statement brushing off the botnet spam, he was in a car with Paul, on the way to a taping of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, an appearance Paul had bagged on the heels of his online grassroots surge. But even then, it was clear his momentum had been bolstered by the botnet spam operation, which brought support for him into question. As one Wired article began, “If Texas congressman Ron Paul is elected president in 2008, he may be the first leader of the free world put into power with the help of a global network of hacked PCs spewing spam.”

There were also bots manipulating online polls. One CNBC editor at the time even went so far as to take a poll down, realizing it was being skewed. Nevertheless, other polls that had Paul winning by a landslide were taken as signs of a nationwide movement. Offline surveys never reflected that popularity, with scientific telephone polls putting Paul “in the low single digits,” but these faux cyber results generated real, mainstream press attention. And Paul was well aware of this dynamic. “The media generally is pretty lazy,” he said in an interview. “So, if there is something significant that keeps popping up on the the internet, you know, lo and behold, they may be influenced as well.”

At the same time, Ron Paul-related submissions were being pushed to the front page of Reddit and Digg by bots, while anti-Paul posts were being pushed off. The millions of spam emails also promoted YouTube, Digg, and Meetup events — all platforms where metrics supposedly showed Paul’s grassroots momentum. He was popular on MySpace as well. Between July 1, 2007 and January 3, 2008, Paul’s MySpace friend count went from 38,345 to 108,005. He would go on to win the first MySpace “presidential primary” among Republicans.

Eastern European botnets aside, there was still a large, devoted groundswell of Paul support, and doubts about the authenticity of the “Ron Paul Revolution” were quelled significantly when he did record-breaking online fundraising “money bombs.” The donation amounts made it harder to deny the movement was legitimate. However, I discovered pro-Paul spam sent out two weeks after the first set. These emails explicitly promoted Paul’s online fundraiser. A forum post from the time shows that even real-world Paul supporters seemed baffled by, and suspicious of, these emails. The seemingly computer-generated address 3223x9053r@gmail.com and random string of letters and numbers at the end of the emails, a common tactic to avoid spam filters, were red flags. In any case, the money bomb raised $6 million — at the time, the largest one-day online fundraising push in election history.

As Ron Paul himself said in a 2013 online chat, “The Tea Party was actually started during the Ron Paul presidential campaign in 2007 when there was a spontaneous moneybomb that was done on the anniversary of the original tea party.”

Support for presidential hopeful Sen. Ron Paul is shown on an automobile in Lawrence, Kansas, in February, 2008. (AP/Chuck France)

But why would Russia help Paul, an uncompromising, anti-authoritarian, Constitutionalist?

To begin with, it is widely acknowledged that Russia’s covert strategies are often outwardly confusing and geared toward scattershot destabilization of the U.S. As retired KGB General Oleg Kalugin described it, the goal is “to drive wedges in the Western community alliances of all sorts, particularly NATO, to sow discord among allies, to weaken the United States in the eyes of the people in Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America, and thus to prepare ground in case the war really occurs.”

But it also turns out that despite the seeming contradiction, Paul is a consistent and vocal defender of Russia. In recent years, he has called into question whether Kremlin-backed separatists shot down flight MH17, justified Russia’s invasion of Crimea, and called the chemical attacks ordered by Syria’s Russia-supported President Bashar al-Assad a false-flag operation. In 2008, he also opposed a House resolution condemning Moscow for the death of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian intelligence agent who died of radiation poisoning in London in 2006. “The real purpose,” Paul said, “is to attack the Russian government by suggesting that Russia is involved in the murder. There is little evidence of this beyond the feverish accusations of interested parties.” (The Ron Paul Institute did not respond to requests for comment on this piece.)

Paul is also fiercely anti-United Nations — an organization with which Russia has had a tense relationship, to say the least. Back in 1998, Paul was even featured in an anti-U.N. film produced by the John Birch Society to specifically promote his “American Sovereignty Restoration Act,” which called for U.S. withdrawal from the U.N.

Paul has no love for NATO, either. In one “Ron Paul Report” video, he argued, “NATO has nothing to do with American security. If we had not been involved in NATO, the United Nations, these alliances, the last 25 years would have been quite different….For those individuals who say we have to build this up because we want to prevent Russian aggression against us, I mean, that is nonsense.”

Even if Paul’s positions are sincere, and he has no connections to Russia and its affiliates, those close to him and to the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity do. In the years since the 2008 presidential campaign, several people in that circle have shown a willingness to associate with and advocate for Russia to a degree that is exceptional in American political circles.

A year before announcing his run, Paul was hosted by Václav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic. Klaus was described by The Economist as one of the Kremlin’s “warmest admirers abroad.” While Paul was on the 2007 campaign trail, Klaus was awarded the Medal of Pushkin, one of Russia’s highest cultural honors.

Days before the first pro-Paul spam operation, Paul’s communication director Jesse Benton appeared on InfoWars, a notably pro-Russia outlet that is now being investigated in the 2016 election hacking inquiry. In Febuary of 2008, Ivan Eland joined Paul’s foreign policy team; just two years later, he would be working for RT, which The New Yorker recently called “a Russian state news network that serves the Kremlin’s propaganda interests.”

Daniel McAdams, executive director of the Ron Paul Institute and RT columnist, has also appeared on RT to deny 2016 Russian election meddling. McAdams, who has been advising Paul since the early 2000s, was introduced to Paul by a mutual friend named John Laughland. Both McAdams and Laughland — who The Guardian called “PR man to Europe’s nastiest regimes” — worked at the now-defunct British Helsinki Human Rights Group. The BHHRG monitored elections in Eastern Europe and seemed to find the West at fault, and Russia innocent, rather often. As The Economist put it, “In Ukraine, they found numerous violations by supporters of the western-backed Viktor Yushchenko, but no significant ones by the other side.” In addition, Laughland is the director of studies at the Institute of Democracy and Cooperation — a think tank the Russian newspaper Gazeta characterized as “created with the support of the Kremlin as a Russian instrument of influence in the West” — and another regular RT contributor. He also now sits on the board of the Ron Paul Institute.

And then there’s Jerry Collette, a paralegal and former Libertarian Party official. To coincide with the “money bomb” mentioned above, a Ron Paul blimp was launched. Set up by Collette, it was funded through dubious campaign-finance loopholes and facilitated largely unregulated donations for the airborne advertising. Collette would go on, just months later, to lobby the Russian government to recognize the sovereignty of the “Republic of Lakotah,” a Native American organization that had declared itself independent from America. The co-founder of this new nation, Russell Means, announced to the media he expected Russia to recognize its sovereignty. Though it did not, Russia has been accused of encouraging at least one other secessionist movement in the U.S.

Another airborne pro-Paul effort was the Ron Paul Air Corps, a squadron of planes towing Paul banners over electoral battleground areas, which was set up by Ted Anderson, the owner of Genesis Communications Network. Genesis syndicates Alex Jones’s notorious fringe-right radio show InfoWars. By his own admission, Jones communicated with the future head of RT America around the time of Paul’s 2008 run — at the same time his show was pushing for Paul and Anderson was flying Paul banners in the sky. More recently, Jones was interviewed on Russian TV by Alexander Dugin, a political analyst with close ties to the Kremlin. InfoWars is also currently under investigation by the FBI in the 2016 Russian election meddling case.

Which brings us to Adam Kokesh, a Paul supporter whose online show was syndicated by RT for four months in 2011. Kokesh spoke at Paul rallies in 2007 and 2008, and Paul in turn endorsed Kokesh when he ran as a Republican candidate for Congress in New Mexico.

Kokesh’s RT show was cancelled after legal action. The problem? The Foreign Agents Registration Act. Kokesh had used his show to promote fundraising efforts for Paul’s 2012 election campaign. When confronted later on camera, he dissembled, saying, “It’s something that the American government does all over the world, subverting other governments.”

The case was dismissed, however, because the owner of U.S.-based RT America, Alex Yazlovsky — the man Alex Jones bragged about communicating with during the 2008 election cycle — is an American citizen and RT America is a U.S. corporation. The Russian state obviously controls it, but it is set up in a way that it can promote Russian interests without violating foreign-influence laws. Post-2016 election, there are calls for RT America to be registered as a foreign agent.

By December of 2015, Alex Jones had turned his InfoWars support toward Donald Trump, doing an extensive phone interview with the candidate.

Of course, none of this is a smoking gun, and the extent of Russian entanglements in U.S. politics is only starting to be explored and exposed. But knowing what we know about the dark web arts coming out of Ukraine and other places, Ron Paul’s 2008 run and the early days of the Tea Party bear re-examining.

Poster Comment:

Did Senator Juan McCain write this?

(4 images)

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#1. To: hondo68 (#0)

Communist have been messing with elections all around the world since the first neo progressive era or as we know it the early 1900's. The lure of free stuff and slogans of "its everyone else's fault but yours" has been their vehicle to harm the world.

Yes this was written by someone in the demoncrap party.

Justified  posted on  2018-01-16   8:12:40 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  

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