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Floggin’ in Austin

Sat, Apr 5, 2021

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I’m shocked, shocked that a political consultant would use innuendo, rumors and false statements to try to gain advantage in a political contest. I’m not, really. After all, that’s how the game of politics is played by many who are the most successful. So I guess I wasn’t surprised when a political consultant was caught using a “flog” - a fake blog - to carry out a political agenda on behalf of a client.

In the battle to replace Austin based District Attorney Ronnie Earle - who is best known nationally for playing a major role in dethroning Republican powerhouse Tom DeLay over alleged criminal behavior in office - ethics is naturally a major and important issue.

In the race between two Democrat protégés of Earle, charges are being aired in television ads by Rosemary Lehmberg that her opponent Mindy Montford is not as ethically qualified for the position because she has accepted campaign contributions from state lobbyists. The DA in Austin has a unique role among Texas DAs because, by virtue of representing the county where the State Capital is located, he or she can investigate and prosecute state officials and people who violate state campaign and finance laws, including lobbyists. Being totally independent from them is a very important issue.

Considering the shenanigans that lobbyists and lawmakers have pulled in Texas over the years, it makes sense to have someone in that position who is not beholden to any of them and someone who is above reproach ethically. Lehmberg seemingly had Montford on the ropes on the subject as the two of them headed into a tight runoff election scheduled for this Tuesday, April 8th. Then the flog settled in.

In what was probably considered a very clever political maneuver by Kelly Fero, Lehmberg’s campaign consultant, he created an anonymous blog called AustinPoliticalReport.com. In a recent post, Terry Keel, a prominent local Republican, is accused of helping Montford in the race, thereby insinuating that she would be too friendly to those she should be keeping a legal eye on.

The blog, which promises “the best buzz and most reliable rumors in the political capital of Texas and surrounding communities,” gives no information on who is writing it or any sourcing for the stories posted on it. Apparently Keel decided he wanted to find out who was behind the blog and did. Now he’s suing for libel and filing a criminal complaint.

What’s the big deal, you might ask? There are any number of boneheaded bloggers making stuff up every day on the internet. It is, after all, the “wild west” of communications. That’s part of the allure to many, including me, I’ll admit.

The problem here is that the Lehmberg campaign then emailed its supporters about the story anonymously posted by its own campaign consultant as though it was a credible news source. Keel, a former prosecutor himself, a former Travis County Sheriff, a former State Representative, the current Parliamentarian for the Texas House of Representatives, and a hardball lawyer in his own right, has decided to pursue the case.

So, Keel is pursuing civil and criminal legal action, the candidate for DA who was trying to take the high road on the ethics issue is trying to explain she knew nothing about the flog or the connection to her own consultant, and all with only a few days left until the election. The Austin American Statesman has provided good coverage so far but the local political blogs have been pretty quiet about it.

This incident may not dramatically impact the election. I still haven’t decided who I’m going to support and I’ll try not to let the antics of a political consultant, who defies the ideals of authenticity and transparency, impact my decision making too much.

This incident does prove, however, that the issues and concerns we’ve discussed at Social Media Club meetings and in other forums and conferences on the subject are now being discovered by the larger public.

Lehmberg has now dismissed Kelly Fero, apparently taking the matter very seriously. After all, if one of her lawyers brought bogus evidence into a court case, would it be seen as just a miscommunication? Or would it be taken extremely seriously? I think we know the answer to that. This incident should be taken seriously.

Note - Rosemary Lehmberg went on to win nearly two to one in a runoff marked by a very low turnout.

~Mike Chapman

This post was written by:

Connie Reece - who has written 152 posts on Every Dot Connects.


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2 Comments For This Post

  1. Tony Katz Says:

    MIke,

    The concept of the fake blog (I don’t know if I have it in me to call it a flog……..yeah, I don’t) is really remarkable. It goes to prove how little people care about the “news” they consume as long as it fits their need. No need for research as to who who funds the blog or site, what else the reporter or blogger has written. Just take it as is and parse for your own needs.

    Even the fake blog itself, AustinPoliticalReport.com, states in a post on April 8th - “People (a category that includes even reporters) are well advised to take personal responsibility for where they get their news.” That is sage advice from a fake source.

    I think there might be an opportunity for a post or series of posts helping people find the truth behind the blog. Who runs it, who funds it, who pushes the message, how to check sources, where to look for verification, etc. I’d help.

    All the best.

    Tony Katz
    http://www.aweli.com

  2. Mike Chapman Says:

    Thanks, Tony. It turns out that the author of this blog was found out pretty easily. He’s a local political consultant who is now under scrutiny in the mainstream media. I’m with you on the point that we shouldn’t just believe everything we read. Pretty much everything I read, or watch, or hear, I try to judge for myself if it is credible and if I agree, disagree or just need to make a note of it for the future.

    Thanks for the comment, Tony.