Posted on | February 23, 2014 | 16 Comments
Several conservative bloggers repeated talking points given to them by a proxy group for the Ukrainian government — and at least one writer was paid by a representative of the Ukrainian group, according to documents and emails obtained by BuzzFeed.
The Ukrainian campaign began in the run-up to high-stakes Ukrainian parliamentary elections last year, and sought to convince skeptical American conservatives that the pro-Russian Party of Regions, led by President Viktor Yanukovych, deserved American support. During that period, articles echoing Ukrainian government talking points appeared on leading conservative online outlets, including RedState, Breitbart, and Pajamas Media.
(Whatever the talking points were, I didn’t repeat them. The only foreign country I really care about is Vanuatu.)
The emails and documents, which include prepackaged quotes from election officials and talking points that some writers copied nearly word-for-word, offer a glimpse into how foreign governments dodge tight Justice Department regulations on foreign propaganda to covertly lobby in the United States: The payments were routed through a front group in Belgium to an American consultant, who has urged writers not to cooperate with a reporter investigating the campaign.
(A “front group in Belgium”? The Flemish Menace!)
The model resembles a recent stealth campaign in which bloggers were paid by the Malaysian government to write favorable stories, though the Ukraine campaign appears to have involved smaller sums of money.
(Yeah, I was all over the Malaysia scandal, another one of those blogola deals where nobody offered me a cent, dammit.)
One of the writers who participated in the campaign, who spoke on the condition of anonymity and because of lingering qualms about the arrangement, they said, described being offered $500 for a blog post praising Ukraine’s ruling Party of Regions.
What? You sold out to foreigners for a measly $500? Hell, that won’t even buy you a round-trip ticket to beautiful Vanuatu, the sunny Pacific island paradise where the Grand Hotel and Casino offers spectacular views of the harbor at Porta Vila . . .
Apparently those cheapskate Ukrainian bastards didn’t hire Donald, either. But don’t worry: If there is ever a “high-stakes election” in Vanuatu, we’re gonna be rolling in the blog-o-bucks, baby.