Who lobbied for the Obama netroots gig?

I did? That's news to me. Actually, that lie is not new. I saw the lie reprinted in comments on blogs in 2007-08, and was told by numerous people that the Obama campaign staffers were spreading the rumor (as a reason for why I would dare criticize Obama), but I ignored it as childish.

Well, now that Ari Berman has peddled the lie in his new book, and folks have asked me about it, I think it deserves a refutation. Here's Ari recycling the lie:

Jim Brayton, who had the position on the exploratory committee, left the campaign because his wife was due to have a baby. Berman writes: "A lot of people now wanted his job--Joe Trippi lobbied him, as did former MoveOn and Dean organizer Zack Exley and popular blogger Jerome Armstrong. 'I became a very popular person,' Brayton joked. Brayton wanted Joe Rospars to replace him."

I heard firsthand that Clay Johnson (then of Blue State Digital) peddled the lie, I guess from the above it sounds like Jim Brayton was a source of Ari's, and who knows what other dubious source Ari had. If your sources can't be public on bullshit claims that are not even brought to the attention of the interested parties, do they really count as good journalistic sources?

This is the first I heard of Joe Trippi wanting to be the Obama internet director. Seriously Brayton/Rospars? Come on! And I don't have a clue about Zack Exley.

After Warner dropped out, and into early 2007, I helped place FTPAC staffers on about all of the campaigns, but made it clear up front that I was only interested in giving advice, tips and pointing to others that wanted to work with them.

When I confronted Ari about where he sourced it for his gossip book, we had a back and forth that I'll just reprint here for the record:


On Sep 30, 2010, at 12:36 PM, Jerome Armstrong wrote:

Ari, I never lobbied for Jim Brayton's job, who told you that and why didn't you ask me about it before you printed that lie?

I had no interest at all in doing it, or moving to Chicago, having SBNation to lead.

At the request of Gov Warner, to help place Forward Together PAC staffers, I was put into touch with Steve Hildebrand, who called and asked that I talk with Charles SteelFisher, who was slated to run the tech dept for Obama.  The only time I ever talked with Brayton was on a conference call with him, xxx, Charles, and Steve.  It was a blah blah blah talk, and I asked to talk alone with Steve after it was done alone, where I told him I'd taken a job with John Kerry, and woudn't be able to help out any further, but he could hire xxx maybe. You can ask either Trei (who was in the room) or Steve to back that up.

But its sorta late to check your facts.

On Thu, Sep 30, 2010 at 1:05 PM, Ari Berman <ari@thenation.com> wrote:

Multiple sources inside the Obama campaign told me that. The book was properly fact-checked but we simply didn't have time to run every little detail by every person, especially when we had information on good authority. It's a very small detail in the book and your explanation is far too detailed for a quick summary. If you read the book, I'm confident you will like it.


On Sep 30, 2010, at 1:23 PM, Jerome Armstrong wrote:

You are calling me a liar now. Did you talk with Steve, did he say that?  I forwarded on to you the entire context of my reaching out to them-- that I was trying to place Trei on their tech team.

Its one thing to be wrong, but quite another to then try and dig in and say its a fact.

On Thu, Sep 30, 2010 at 1:35 PM, Ari Berman <ari@thenation.com> wrote:
Jerome - I never called you a liar, I only said that I had the info on good authority from multiple sources inside the Obama campaign.

On Sep 30, 2010, at 1:40 PM, Jerome Armstrong wrote:

Obviously, either your sources or myself is a liar. If you are standing by your sources, then you are calling me a liar.

And unless your source is Steve Hildebrand, then they are full of shit, because he alone is who I talked with, as the emails I sent you showed.

On Thu, Sep 30, 2010 at 4:58 PM, Ari Berman <ari@thenation.com> wrote:
Jerome - I am sorry you are so upset but I sent the book to you because I thought you would like it, this small detail aside. I don't have anything more to do add on the topic. -Ari

On Thu, Sep 30, 2010 at 7:50 PM, Jerome Armstrong wrote:
I understand why you have that opinion its a small topic, and I would normally not even care. However, staffers on the Obama campaign spread that rumor repeatedly during early 2008 on the blogs, in order to discredit any criticism I had of Obama as some sort of grudge. Its mighty petty, and its a shame that you peddled the lie.

That you are not even able to admit it (even after I sent you the entire context that is very clear), that you engaged in gossip speaks to your lack of credibility as far as I'm concerned.

Now, when I looked back at the original emails (mentioned above and re-printed in part below) from January 2007, it was interesting hindsight reading, and curious side note of Obama's campaign history.

In late December 2006, the main persons forming the Obama campaign, Hildebrand and Plouffe, had met with and slated the guy who did Deval Patrick's stuff, Charles SteelFisher, as being brought on to roll out a first website, and it was that way for about a month. Jim Brayton was leaving in April (new born-- good reason), so SteelFisher was going to be doing Obama's whole internet scene...

Now, that didn't turn out at all. Charles just didn't have the tech ready to go, as I noted in the below email in reply to Hildebrand (his sending me over a contact to help with the John Kerry work on Set A Deadline that I'd undertook) with some advice:

On Thu, Jan 25, 2007 at 9:40 PM, Jerome Armstrong wrote:
Thanks, that contact will come in handy I think.

I hope you'll reach out to xxx xxxxxxxxxx, and further along his involvement there. He's at xxx-xxx-xxxx

I know he likes Obama a lot more, but he told me tonight that he's getting the full squeeze from Hillary camp, with the Karen Hicks/Harold Ickes/Mike Henry treatment tomorrow in DC. I don't know why he would subject himself to such torture, but he's got a serious pres campaign bug going on.

...he did volunteer work for Dean in Texas/Iowa in '04 ...a real whiz, and you would have everyone in the Warner org (including the Gov) vouch for him if need be.

I would suggest you... have him team up with Charles in building out your tech plan/platform/team. XXXX would help to cut your dev time there. Charles is a terrific visionary, but XXXX would help with the large dose of pragmatics... You guys don't have time for the perfect to be built.

Lets meet down the road sometime, best, Jerome

Then I guess Blue State Digital and Joe Rospars came aboard in the following weeks. The prefect had already been built.

I always thought it was quite shaky ethically, for the DNC to have spent 2005-06 to build out the Blue State Digital internet platform (frontend and backend) for the Democrats.org website  --having funded BSD with hundreds of thousand dollars included with putting BDS staffers on the DNC payroll-- and then for BSD to turn around and use the entire DNC-funded system, on a weeks notice, for Obama. 

Regardless, I thought at the time it was a great move by Obama to snag the BSD platform just fresh out of the gate after ~$500K in DNC funding.

And I was psyched that XXXX didn't go to work for Obama, as I was able to bring him and his tech crew onto SBNation, while in the same period getting our first outside seed money, and beginning the transition to a real CEO that's brought the company to a valuation headed for 9 figures.

Tags: Ari Berman (all tags)


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