The Other McCain

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How Much Cash Did Jerome Armstrong Collect in the ‘MalaysiaGate’ Operation?

Posted on | March 3, 2013 | 24 Comments

Cashing in and Crashing the Gate: Markos Moulitsas
and Jerome Armstrong sign their book, April 2006

“At 1:11 AM, Monday March 21st, Bush signed into law an order that vacates the state of Florida from having jurisdiction over the case involving Terri Schiavo. Of course, Mercury is retrograde, so at first indication, it’s unlikely that this will stand. . . . In the chart, we find Jupiter exactly conjunct the MC, in Libra, and opposite Mercury in [Aries] at the IC, with both planets retrograde. Meanwhile Pluto is conjunct the ASC. . . .
“What’s notable about the Jupiter-Mercury oppositions of retrogrades in the law passed by Bush, is that they exactly T-square the Sun of the Republican Party and the USA chart. . . . The Republican Party does well when it deals with Neptunian issues  . . . but when it comes to issues surrounding Pluto, the sexual and the bodily emerge from shadows, and they go toward excess.”

“Vis Numar” (Jerome Armstrong), March 2005

The lefties at Daily Kos made a front-page story out of the news, reported Friday by Rosie Gray of BuzzFeed, that consultant/blogger Josh Trevino got nearly $400,000 from Malaysian interests to orchestrate what Trevino defended as “a fairly standard PR operation.”

If taken at face-value, Trevino’s statement would mean that it’s “fairly standard” for shady foreigners to funnel $36,000 to Ben Domenech and $24,700 to Brad Jackson for favorable coverage. And so “Hunter” at DKos chortles with delight:

Every time we think we begin to understand what it is the conservative movement is going on about, yet another thing happens to remind us that no, there really aren’t any principles there at all — it really is just an astroturf operation from top to bottom. Lobbyists paying lobbyists paying lobbyists, all the way down. We’re terrified of majority-Muslim countries, unless their governments are paying us not to be.
Just think — all it would have taken during this whole period of time is just one rich guy willing to pay these conservative bloggers to change their minds, and they could have spent the last four years praising Barack Obama as the greatest president who ever lived. We could probably have gotten it for no more than $10,000 a pop.

Certainly, the punchline opportunities are irresistible. But before the progressive Kossacks pile on the schadenfreude, they ought to recognize their own involvement in this operation. A commenter yesterday called attention to a 2011 article by Ben Smith at Politico:

The financial arrangements that the Malaysian story alleges between Trevino, another blogger, and a Malaysian party aren’t possible to pin down, but after I posted the item, a source forwarded some 2008 correspondence between Trevino and a group of American political bloggers, from Ezra Klein to Mary Katharine Ham offering them a free “once-in-a-lifetime” Malaysian junket, paid for, he said in an email at the time, by business interests associated with Malaysian politics; the trip fell apart before he could fulfill a promise to specify the sponsors, but he mentioned in a May, 2008 email that he was “running” Malaysia Matters, which he described as educational and neutral. . . .
The Malaysia Matters site is now effectively down, but an archived “about” page says it was “sponsored by individuals who share an interest in Malaysia, and were willing to help bring Malaysia Matters to fruition.”
“Those working on this project include David All, Jerome Armstrong and Joshua Treviño,” the page says. “The three of us gave birth to this blog, but there are also others who have agreed to contribute along the way. While we might not always agree politically, we all have various interests in Malaysia that are reflected in this blog.”

Wait, did he say “Jerome Armstrong”? Founder of the progressive blog MyDD, who in 2003 co-founded the political consulting firm Armstrong Zuniga with Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas Zuniga? The same Jerome Armstrong who co-authored with Markos the 2006 book, Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics?

Oh, yes, that Jerome Armstrong — the Internet hustler who once offered such various online services as financial advice and astrology readings as “Vis Numar” — was also part of of the “Malaysia Matters” dot-com triumvirate.

Are we to suppose that Jerome Armstrong participated in this pay-for-play project out of the goodness of his heart? Was Jerome Armstrong motivated by altruistic philanthropic concern for human rights on the Malay peninsula?

Give me a freaking break: Jerome cashed a check, too.

But while Rosie Gray of BuzzFeed has reported the sums paid to, and distributed by, Josh Trevino, down to the last penny — precisely $389,724.70 over three years — and made a big deal about Trevino’s belated compliance with the Foreign Agent Registration Act, what do we know about Jerome Armstrong’s piece of the Malaysian action?

Very damned little.

How much was Jerome Armstrong paid to pimp for the Malaysian regime? We don’t know. Why don’t we know how much Jerome Armstrong was paid? Because, unlike Josh Trevino, Jerome apparently hasn’t filed a report with the Justice Department about it.

Lefties who imagine that consultant/blogger types like Jerome Armstrong are motivated entirely by fervent devotion to the progressive cause should have been disabused of such naïveté long ago.

Back in 2006, a progressive blogger in Ohio reported how Markos Moulitsas had originally supported Paul Hackett in the Democrat primary for the Ohio Senate race. But the campaign of Sherrod Brown had hired Jerome Armstrong as a consultant, and within 48 hours, Markos changed his tune and suggested that Hackett “stand down” rather than have a contested Democratic primary.

Just a coincidence, right?

Jerome Armstrong pretty much pioneered pay-to-play progressive blogging, so his willingess to join forces with Republican consultants David All and Josh Trevino in promoting the interests of the Malaysian regime shouldn’t really surprise anyone. But we don’t know how much Armstrong was paid, nor do we know whether Armstrong subcontracted any of his pro-Malaysia flack-work to other bloggers, as Trevino did.

Perhaps reporter Rosie Gray can get some answers to those questions from noted astrology expert Vis Numar.

Vis Numar sees all!



UPDATE: Linked by Bill Quick at Daily Pundit, who has been blogging long enough to remember the “Vis Numar”/”JeromeGate” kerfuffle of 2006. Bill praises my reporting, but this story was a piece of cake once two things happened:

  1. A commenter pointed out that Jerome Armstrong had been named as a “Malaysia Matters” participant; and
  2. I suddenly remembered “Vis Numar.”

Back in 2006, I was blogging to promote Donkey Cons (the book I co-authored with Lynn Vincent) when the “JeromeGate” story was broken by Dan Riehl, and I blogged about it quite extensively.

Many conservative bloggers seem to have forgotten that era, when the progressive Netroots were insurgents fighting to overthrow the eeee-vil Bush/Cheney/Halliburton regime, but I remember it well, as it was my first opportunity to engage in blogging.

The most important lesson I learned early was, “No blog is an island.” Blogging is fundamentally a collaborative effort, and if you are not aggregating — linking your readers to other bloggers and news sources — you aren’t really part of the community.

The hat-tip courtesy and the ethos of CWCID (“Credit where credit is due”) are absolutely essential to making the blogosphere a more valuable resource than traditional media.

Too many of bloggers, I fear, have either forgotten what can now, in 2013, be called the Old School team spirit of blogging as collaboration, or in the case of newcomes to the ‘sphere, never realized that such a spirit once existed. This isn’t about some kind of gooey feel-good altruism. It’s really a matter of understanding the (perhaps counter-intuitive) insight that generosity is more successful than selfishness.

The customer-service attitude — “How can I help you, sir?” — is simply good business. In the news business (and bloggers are certainly now part of that business) anyone who tries to hog up all the credit will eventually come to grief.

Excuse the unsolicited lecture, but to be praised for “reporting” — when all I was really doing was aggregating, after a tip from a commenter — seemed to require it. And I promise to try to keep my “thank you” speech short if I’m honored with an “investigative blogging” award at CPAC Blog Bash March 14, although there are a lot of people due hat-tips for their contributions there, too.



24 Responses to “How Much Cash Did Jerome Armstrong Collect in the ‘MalaysiaGate’ Operation?”

  1. Stacy McCain Breaks Another One! | Daily Pundit
    March 3rd, 2013 @ 11:35 am

    […] How Much Cash Did Jerome Armstrong Collect in ‘MalaysiaGate’ Operation? : The Other McCa… […]

  2. JeffS
    March 3rd, 2013 @ 12:02 pm

    Yet even more selective editing and/or cherry picking by the media? Say it ain’t so, Stacy! Say it ain’t so!

  3. Kevin Trainor Jr.
    March 3rd, 2013 @ 12:12 pm

    Kevin Trainor Jr. liked this on Facebook.

  4. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    March 3rd, 2013 @ 12:58 pm

    Probably enough for a few junkets to Kota Kimabalu and Penang!

  5. DaveO
    March 3rd, 2013 @ 1:39 pm

    The story of Kos and his friends exchanging favorable blogging in exchange for money and access came out many years ago. Kos and Armstrong’s defense then, as would be today: free market capitalism.

    So how is this story relevant today? Or, shorter question: who’s going to fund the conservative version of the Netroots?
    I see Warren Buffet is taking Instapundit’s advice, but the rest of America’s billionaires don’t seem to have caught on yet.

  6. TC_LeatherPenguin
    March 3rd, 2013 @ 2:21 pm

    I remember that 2006 was the Nutsroots’ “Summer of Lamont,” and Kosickstan’s dwarf king appeared in a Mentos ad….

  7. Esau's Message
    March 3rd, 2013 @ 4:14 pm

    Ben Domenech, huh? Well, I’ll keep that in mind.

  8. Adjoran
    March 3rd, 2013 @ 4:25 pm

    Let Buffett throw his money away on newspapers – but don’t suppose for an instant that his acquisitions mean an end to the frantic cost-cutting in the industry: they only cause a momentary pause for assessment before the slashing resumes.

  9. Adjoran
    March 3rd, 2013 @ 4:29 pm

    It is remarkable that Rosie Gray could determine how much Trevino was paid to the penny and fail to mention Armstrong at all. One might suspect there was an agenda beyond mere reporting at BuzzFeed – perish the thought!

    Why spoil the whole thing with a plug for CPAC, though? You were once one who stood up for Geller. What gives? Must you please The Keepers Of The Sacred Litmus to get invitations? Or will you be sitting in at guitar with Grover & the Al Qaeda Jug Band?

  10. DaveO
    March 3rd, 2013 @ 5:26 pm

    It’s not throwing money away – it’s snapping up what could have been a valuable resource and regional thought-leadership vehicle in a region that is modernizing rapidly, but still takes its news from newspapers and the Old 3.

  11. richard mcenroe
    March 3rd, 2013 @ 5:31 pm

    Stacy, ya got it all wrong. When Jerome does it, he’s a noble progressive doing his part to help the downtrodden Third World achieve parity with the hegemonic imperialists. When Trevino does it, he’s a ruthless plutocrat tearing the rice bowls from the hands of the downtrodden brown people. See the difference?

  12. Bob Belvedere
    March 3rd, 2013 @ 5:46 pm

    Part of a reporter’s duties is to aggregate. Used to be, you took the storie from UPI and the AP and other wire services and wrote a report for your newspaper. So, therefore, what you did was reporting, Stacy. [I think my opinion in this matter should be given more weight by the fact that I am agreeing with Bill Quick, despite my feelings towards him, which you well know.]

  13. Wombat_socho
    March 3rd, 2013 @ 6:02 pm

    If you think Buffett is throwing his money away, you must also think his investment in Obama and the Democrats was wasted. Somehow, I don’t think either of those premises is true.

  14. K-Bob
    March 3rd, 2013 @ 6:29 pm

    I’d go, just for the free government cheese.

  15. K-Bob
    March 3rd, 2013 @ 6:32 pm

    You kids and your blogs.

    We used to have to pass stuff around on floppy discs. Then some jackwagon went and invented “bulletin boards.”

  16. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    March 3rd, 2013 @ 6:55 pm
  17. rmnixondeceased
    March 3rd, 2013 @ 7:46 pm

    Heh. He has me blocked …

  18. JeffS
    March 3rd, 2013 @ 7:50 pm

    Buffett is a buffoon, but he didn’t get to be a billionaire by being an idiot. He bought those papers for a reason. Even after cost cutting measures, that represents an extensive, nearly grass roots level communication network at his disposal.

  19. Patriot
    March 3rd, 2013 @ 9:01 pm

    Except that this is the first year in a long time that Buffett wasn’t able to beat the S&P500. Karma is a bitch.

  20. ‘MalaysiaGate’ Update: Still More Questions Than Answers (So Far) : The Other McCain
    March 3rd, 2013 @ 11:37 pm

    […] I raised questions about progressive blogger/consultant Jerome Armstrong’s role in MalaysiaGat…, a few sources have started to supply helpful information and background. Frankly, I was shocked […]

  21. March 4 2013 Grumpy Daily Headlines | Grumpy Opinions
    March 4th, 2013 @ 11:23 am

    […] How Much Cash Did Jerome Armstrong Collect in the ‘MalaysiaGate’ Operation? : The Other McCain […]

  22. Zoolander IRL! Malaysian Payola for Bloggers Scheme Extends to Left | Foolish Reporter's Foolish Thoughts on the Foolish State of Things
    March 4th, 2013 @ 11:51 am

    […] enough, RS McCain was able to break the story that an influential left-leaning blogger also seemed to have been receiving sums of money from the […]

  23. ‘MalaysiaGate’ Day Four: Silence and Convenient Memory Lapses : The Other McCain
    March 4th, 2013 @ 9:23 pm

    […] sites like Daily Kos, Talking Points Memo and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow blog. However, since my Sunday report about the role of Democrat consultant Jerome Armstrong in the MalaysiaGate story — including an update Sunday night — progressive bloggers appear to have lost interest […]

  24. The Rev. @ThorHalvorssen’s Universal Holiness Temple Choir of ‘Human Rights’ : The Other McCain
    March 5th, 2013 @ 10:44 am

    […] Armstrong is all up in this Malaysia deal, so I’d be kind of interested in learning how much Jerome was paid by the regime in Kuala […]