Friday, February 11, 2011

ThinkProgress bombshell: Chamber of Commerce hired private detectives to entrap opponents, dig up dirt on their families

It's just two stories so far, but I expect this will get very interesting.

EXCLUSIVE: US Chamber’s Lobbyists Solicited Hackers To Sabotage Unions, Smear Chamber’s Political Opponents
a law firm representing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the big business trade association representing ExxonMobil, AIG, and other major international corporations, is working with set of “private security” companies and lobbying firms to undermine their political opponents, including ThinkProgress, with a surreptitious sabotage campaign.

According to one document prepared by Team Themis, the campaign included an entrapment project. The proposal called for first creating a “false document, perhaps highlighting periodical financial information,” to give to a progressive group opposing the Chamber, and then to subsequently expose the document as a fake to undermine the credibility of the Chamber’s opponents. In addition, the group proposed creating a “fake insider persona” to “generate communications” with [the labor coalition] Change to Win.
CHAMBERLEAKS: US Chamber’s Lobbyists Solicited Firm To Investigate Opponents’ Families, Children
According to e-mails obtained by ThinkProgress, the Chamber hired the lobbying firm Hunton and Williams. Attorneys for the firm solicited a set of private security firms — HB Gary Federal, Palantir, and Berico Technologies (collectively called Team Themis) — to develop a sabotage campaign against progressive groups and labor unions, including ThinkProgress, the labor coalition Change to Win, SEIU, US Chamber Watch, and

New emails reveal that the private spy company investigated the families and children of the Chamber’s political opponents.

On targeting blogger Glenn Greenwald:
"These are established professionals that have a liberal bent,
but ultimately most of them if pushed will choose professional preservation over cause" (link)


Don Pelton said...

Should we start pressuring the local Chambers to disassociate themselves from the national organization?

Anna Haynes said...

I called them some months back, and as I recall, both said that the U.S. Chamber did not speak for them, on climate change.
But I don't recall whether they were completely separate from it, organizationally.

Might be worth calling them to get statements, on their views on what the U.S. Chamber did (through its law firm, which (in their view) confers deniability). Not me now, though.

Anna Haynes said...

I should also make a distinction that I've made before, that it's one thing to see if family members of ostensibly independent folk have relevant financial interests through political/PR agency ties*; e.g. if a WSJ columnist promoting inactivism were the brother of an American Enterprise Institute board member - but entirely another to dig - or use info you run across - for purposes of coercion.

* of course, now that I've said this, the bad faith game-theory countermove would be to approach the Billy Carters & offer them money, then use that connection to discredit the Jimmys. And there could be a gray area - if you've run across a pattern of curious connections & ask an individual about that connection, there should be (but, if the person hangs up on you, probably isn't) a way to clarify that it's not intended to be coercive. (I realize that's obscure, sorry; and also extremely prone to be exploited in bad faith.)

Anna Haynes said...

s/coercion/coercion or invasion of privacy/