Diary

NRSC Communications Director Brian Walsh Attacks RedState for Reporting Facts.

Right up front I want to say that unlike a lot of people, I don’t want to see the NRSC burned to the ground wholesale. They perform an important function that couldn’t  easily replaced by others at this moment in time. But they are receiving some bad advice and making some bad calls. Apparently, they did not learn from the mistakes of 2006 and the Lincoln Chafee debacle, and are determined to make these mistakes. However, the errors of this cycle will be even more egregious because this time, the NRSC does not even have defending incumbency as an excuse.

In any event, earlier this afternoon, I received a polite (if clearly frustrated) email from someone in the NRSC’s communications department. I have reproduced that email in its entirety (with one editorial note I could not resist) below the fold. We discovered later today, however, that NRSC Communcations director was responding to this story by personally attacking RedState, going on the attack on the DeVore campaign, and belittling California activists who dared to connect the dots in the same (eminently logical) way we did. A San Francisco activist sent Mr. Walsh a polite email asking for clarification of the matter, and Walsh sent this astonishing email in response:

From: Walsh, Brian [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Friday, October 30, 2009 4:53 PM
To:
Subject: Re: new DeVore web video and Carly’s Twitter Delight
 
it’s remarkable that you ask me if it’s true and then attack us in the last graph making clear you already believe it to be.

A few points though –

1) The allegation made in that RedState post is 100 percent false. It would be laughable if not for the fact that folks like yourself actually believe it to be true. I can assure you we have far more important things on our plate than trying to add twitter followers to one of the 30 races we have this cycle. Bottom line, it’s completely false. And btw, if we were that successful at adding twitter followers don’t you think we would start with our own @nrsc account? Like you though, we only want real followers.

2) The blogger from RedState never contacted us before posting it – presumably because facts unfortunately do not matter for some.
3) Our new media director Katie Harbath contacted this blogger when we saw it ourselves and gave him an on the record denial. Hours later, we are waiting for him to post it as he told us he would.

4) I further noted that Mr. DeVore’s surrogates spread this false attack online this afternoon over Twitter. Like RedState, they never contacted us to verify whether it was true or not. I would also note this is not the first time his campaign has spread distortions about the Committee. It’s a questionable and unfortunate political strategy to say the least.

5) I have since noted on twitter that Mr. Ramirez himself must have noticed this false rumor because he posted a tweet clarifying that he was referring to us having provided the room, tables, and chairs for his reception. That was it.

6) I agree with you that some are using “acorn-esque” tactics. I can assure you though that it’s certainly not on our end.

You ask below – “Aren’t we supposed to be focusing our energies on Barbara Boxer?”

Again, I agree – but would respectfully suggest you instead pose that question to Mr. DeVore’s campaign and to this RedState blogger.

You can believe me or not but those are the facts. Have a good weekend.

– Brian

Ladies and Gentlemen, your NRSC communications shop at work! This email deserves fisking below the fold.

Mr. Walsh says:

1) The allegation made in that RedState post is 100 percent false. It would be laughable if not for the fact that folks like yourself actually believe it to be true. I can assure you we have far more important things on our plate than trying to add twitter followers to one of the 30 races we have this cycle. Bottom line, it’s completely false. And btw, if we were that successful at adding twitter followers don’t you think we would start with our own @nrsc account? Like you though, we only want real followers.

I agree! It is laughable. I would not believe it myself if I did not see the dots connected right before my eyes. As I said in my post earlier today, the error is a venial and silly one, which is part of what makes it so disturbing and unforced.

2) The blogger from RedState never contacted us before posting it – presumably because facts unfortunately do not matter for some.

The other explanation is that the blogger in question has experience working in comms himself and knows good and well that the comms shop of a political organization is not the place one goes for unvarnished “facts.” The media goes there because they feel an obligation to print the spin the political comms guys put on things in an effort to appear objective. I’m remarkably unconstrained in my profession (the one for which I am entirely unpaid) by any such need to either seek out or treat as respectable the horseapples spun by political comms people.  Again, I don’t begrudge them doing their job, it’s just that their work product is not that interesting to me.

3) Our new media director Katie Harbath contacted this blogger when we saw it ourselves and gave him an on the record denial. Hours later, we are waiting for him to post it as he told us he would.

This is true, Ms. Harbarth did indeed contact me, and we had an email conversation. As Ms. Harbarth can surely verify, all of the emails ended, “Sent from my Verizon Wireless Blackberry.”  See, going along with the whole “I’m not paid to do this” thing, I have a job and a family life that sometimes take priority over promptly getting to a computer to reprint a denial which I flatly do not believe (I told Ms. Harbarth that I did not believe her denial but I would print it anyway).  When I *did* return to my computer, I was informed that Mr. Walsh was sending out emails like the one above, and I thought it was necessary to print a more complete picture of what the NRSC comms shop is up to tonight.

4) I further noted that Mr. DeVore’s surrogates spread this false attack online this afternoon over Twitter. Like RedState, they never contacted us to verify whether it was true or not. I would also note this is not the first time his campaign has spread distortions about the Committee. It’s a questionable and unfortunate political strategy to say the least.

If I understand this correctly, their complaint here is that a political campaign spread an attack against their opponent without contacting their opponent to get their side of it… in the interest of fairness, I guess? Really, I think I’m just going to let that one sink in on its own.

5) I have since noted on twitter that Mr. Ramirez himself must have noticed this false rumor because he posted a tweet clarifying that he was referring to us having provided the room, tables, and chairs for his reception. That was it.

I have since noticed that the “clarifying tweet” in question was posted almost immediately after Ms. Harbarth initially emailed me. I wonder, indeed, how he “noticed” that the rumor was spreading. Unfortunately, Mr. Ramirez’s “clarification” simply does not pass the smell test; he specifically thanked the NRSC for their help and attributed his thousands of new twitter followers to the help of the NRSC.  The “clarification” that he really was just thanking them for tables and chairs and has no idea how he got all those twitter followers is… well, frankly, it’s what I’d expect out of a political comms shop. See now why I don’t even bother to ask?

Since beginning this post, I have learned that Walsh continues to send out emails blasting RedState and DeVore! His latest offering:

From: Walsh, Brian [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Friday, October 30, 2009 5:45 PM
To: [redacted]

Subject: Re: new DeVore web video and Carly’s Twitter Delight
 
You cannot possibly be serious. What personal attack did I make exactly?

I’ve not only been a gentleman but I’ve been more than fair and forthcoming in taking the time to address a series of false accusations.

So I understand this though – a blogger with RedState posts a false and unsubstantiated story. With no proof and without even taking the time to ask the very party they were making the false attack about.

Surrogates for the DeVore campaign then spread that false attack – similarly, without taking the time to determine whether or not it’s actually true.

Yet, in your view, instead of questioning those tactics you instead suggest the onus is on us to disprove it? That it’s our responsibility to find out who is behind this? How do you propose we do that exactly?

Respectfully, this is ridiculous. If there are those who want to create – and spread – false rumors against fellow Republicans, they can do that. We have more important things to do though – like focusing on winning elections against the Democrats next year.

I laid out the facts for you. Like I said, whether or not you want to believe it or not is up to you. I do hope you have a good weekend though.

Brian 

Let me get this straight – my story was “false” and “unsubstantiated” and was submitted with “no proof.” I suppose, in the mind of Brian Walsh, that the open admission of one of the principals that NRSC was helping him get thousands of twitter followers constitutes “no proof.” In the land where real people live, this constitutes “dispositive proof.”

Furthermore, given that Al Ramirez attempted to blackhole the tweet in question (remember that we only have it at all due to a screencap) it doesn’t seem that it would have been very fruitful to seek a straightforward answer from Mr. Ramirez. And as far as seeking a response from the NRSC? Well, we’ve seen how they respond.

Below, I will reprint all of Katie Harbarth’s initial email to me, as I initially promised to do. But somewhere along the line it might be worthwhile for the NRSC to ask whether lashing out at honest activitsts who are volunteering their time and money for the cause of electing Republicans is a productive use of their time; And if they find themselves beseiged on all sides by people who don’t trust their word and are conspiring against them, maybe they ought to consider whether their organization has earned this distrust over the last several yaers, and whether they are engendering yet more with their interference in Florida and California now.

From: “Harbath, Katie” [redacted]
Date: Fri, 30 Oct 2009 17:09:06 -0400
To: Leon Wolf [redacted]

Subject: Your post about the NRSC
 
Leon,
I wanted to respond to your post about the twitter followers in California. You are pulling this out of thin air [“thin air” being used here as a euphemism for “Al Ramirez’s twitter feed” – LHW]. On the record, we had absolutely nothing to do with this. If I can answer any questions at any time please contact me day or night. All of my information is below.

Katie Harbath