|Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn|
The Silicon Valley billionaire who bankrolled a disinformation campaign in Alabama's 2017 special election for the U.S. Senate is behind the group that caused disarray and incomplete results in this week's Democratic Party Iowa caucuses, according to reports at multiple political-news sites.
The billionaire is Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, and the story has a strong Alabama flavor. U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) won the 2017 race with the help of a social-media campaign based on false posts that Republican Roy Moore intended to push for a statewide alcohol ban. Jones supporters, including Matt Osborne of Florence, AL, admitted that he helped conceive of the scheme to The New York Times.
At the time of publication, February 6, the winner of the Iowa’s Democratic Party caucus is still unknown. Senator Bernie Sanders, the clear winner in virtually every exit poll, is currently ahead in votes. Yet somehow Pete Buttigieg, a favorite of the party establishment who was unknown to most voters until last year, has claimed victory.
The force accused of sowing the confusion and disarray surrounding the first Democratic Party contest of the 2020 election season is a dark money nonprofit called Acronym. It was Acronym that launched Shadow Inc, the mysterious company behind the now-infamous, unsecured, completely unworkable voter app which prevented precinct chairs from reporting vote totals on caucus night.
The exceptionally opaque Acronym was itself created with seed money from a Silicon Valley billionaire named Reid Hoffman who has financed a series of highly manipulative social media campaigns.
The billionaire founder of LinkedIn, Hoffman is a top funder of novel Democratic Party social media campaigns accused of manipulating voters through social media. He is assisted by Dmitri Mehlhorn, a corporate consultant who pushed school privatization before joining Hoffman’s political empire.
Blumenthal's report leaves this troubling question: Have Democrats decided the best way to fight corrupt and incompetent Republicans is to be just as corrupt and incompetent as they are? That essentially was Matt Osborne's justification for the Alabama misinformation campaign that benefited Doug Jones. Nationally, some Democrats, such as former Obama campaign aide Tara McGowan, seem willing to accept Hoffman's cash and use it for "innovative" campaign tactics. Other Democrats would rather leave the corruption to Republicans. Writes Blumenthal:
One of the most consequential beneficiaries of Hoffman’s wealth is Acronym CEO Tara McGowan, a 33-year-old former journalist and Obama for America veteran.
Once touted as “a weapon of a woman whose innovative tactics make her critically important to the Democratic Party,” McGowan’s name is now synonymous with the fiasco in Iowa. She also happens to be married to a senior advisor to Pete Buttigeg’s presidential campaign.
Back in December 2018, McGowan personally credited Hoffman and Mehlhorn’s “Investing in US” initiative for the birth of her dark money pressure group, Acronym.
“I’m personally grateful and proud to be included in this group of incredible political founders + startups @reidhoffman and his team, led by Dmitri [Mehlhorn], have supported and helped to fund over the past two years,” she declared on Twitter in December 2018.
McGowan posted that Tweet at a time of political upheaval in Alabama, and analysis of Osborne's social-media fraud indicates it probably turned the election in Jones' favor. Writes Blumenthal:
The 2017 senate election in Alabama was one of the most dramatic races of President Donald Trump’s first term in office. Treated by national media as a referendum on Trump in a red state, it pitted a far-right Republican, Roy Moore, against Doug Jones, a moderate Republican who ran as a Democrat. (Note: I'm hardly a Doug Jones fan, but I'm not sure this is an accurate characterization of his political affiliation. I'm not aware of Jones ever being anything other than a Democrat; he has cozied up to a number of sleazy Republicans, such as Rob Riley and Bill Pryor, but I don't believe he ever has officially been a Republican.) In the end, Jones won an upset victory in a deep red state, thrilling Democrats across the country.
As Dan Cohen wrote in a series of reports for The Grayzone, the outcome of the 2017 Alabama race was heavily influenced by an online disinformation operation. The campaign, which was unknown to voters at the time, was called Project Birmingham.
Silicon Valley billionaire Reid Hoffman provided $100,000 to the architects of this black ops campaign. His money was pipelined through American Engagement Technologies (AET), a company run by Obama administration veteran and Democrat tech operative Mikey Dickerson. Through AET, another firm comprised of Obama campaign veterans and national security state operatives called New Knowledge was contracted to carry out the secretive voter manipulation project.
In internal documents first covered by The New York Times, Project Birmingham’s architects described the scheme as an “elaborate false flag operation” which aimed to convince voters that the Kremlin was supporting Moore through thousands of fake Russian bots. (A second scheme, called Dry Alabama, sought to convince voters Moore wanted a statewide ban on alcohol.)
Project Birmingham went to absurd lengths to drive voters away from Moore. Its architects deployed a phony Facebook page encouraging Alabamians to vote for an obscure write-in Republican candidate, arranged interviews for the candidate in major newspapers, and even sought to arrange SuperPAC funding for his dark horse campaign.
The deeply un-democratic campaign was overseen by a cast of characters remarkably similar to those who bungled the 2020 Iowa caucus count. Like the staff of Acronym and Shadow Inc., the New Knowledge operatives who carried out Project Birmingham were 30- and 40-something techies who had worked in the Obama administration and on various Democratic campaigns. (New Knowledge was rebranded as Yonder after the scandal was exposed in national media.)
The devious tactics they waged in Alabama likely influenced the outcome of the election. A leaked “Project Birmingham Debrief” claimed that New Knowledge’s black operations “moved enough votes to ensure a Doug Jones victory.”
After the scheme was exposed, Hoffman issued a public apology and claimed he had no knowledge of the New Knowledge disinformation project.