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Saturday, April 18, 2015
MRC Does Damage Control For Anti-Net Neutrality Group
Topic: Media Research Center

A right-wing activist group got caught doing something it shouldn't have, and it has fallen on the Media Research Center to do damage control.

Politico reported that "A number of messages to lawmakers purporting to be from average constituents who oppose the Obama administration’s net neutrality rules don’t appear to have come from people within their districts, according to the company that manages the technology for some House members." That group is American Commitment, led by Phil Kerpen, a former top aide at the Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity. American Commitment boasted that it helped direct more than 1.6 million messages to members of Congress opposing net neutrality, but the company that manages the technology behind some lawmakers "contact me" pages it had “some concerns regarding the messages,” including the fact that “a vast majority of the emails do not appear to have a valid in-district address.”

Politico quoted Kerpen saying that that American Commitment hadn’t impersonated members’ constituents, but that other groups had borrowed the pre-written text available on his website. But that wasn't good enough for the MRC's Joseph Rossell, who claimed that Politico "smear[ed]" American Commitment because "it failed to point the finger anywhere else." And Rossell is ON IT:

Additional inquiry could have established that American Commitment was not responsible. In a letter obtained by MRC Business, a vendor retained by American Commitment admitted that it (the vendor) was responsible for the erroneous messages in question.

The letter to American Commitment read in part, “Regrettably, without your knowledge or consent, the language from your letters was incorrectly associated” with a separate campaign for a different, though unspecified, organization’s letters about the same issue. The vendor had verified the data used for American Commitment’s campaign, but technical errors connected incorrect information with constituents in the second campaign.

The vendor made it clear the mistakes were not intentional. The messages that the second campaign submitted “incorrectly or with incorrect or incomplete data was by no means intended to mislead any office or any person.” The vendor also said “the mistakes were technical in nature” and that they had “taken steps to prevent future errors in submission.”

Kerpen told MRC Business that he explained this to Politico after its article was published. He also told them that the messages could not have been from his group simply based on their delivery dates. He said Lockheed Martin’s analysis confirmed that members of Congress received the erroneous messages after the American Commitment campaign was over.

If the vendor is at fault, why won't Kerpen or Rossell name it? Did Rossell ask Kerpen if that mystery vendor will be punished somehow?

One gets the feeling Rossell would not be as concerned about the purported "smearing" of American Commitment by Politico if it supported net neutrality.

Posted by Terry K. at 10:57 PM EDT

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