1 year ago

Report: ‘Russian tactics’ by Democratic operatives ‘had enormous effect’ on Alabama election turnout

After a new publication obtained the internal report on Project Birmingham, the initial claims published by the Washington Post and New York Times that the efforts were “a small experiment” are coming under serious question. Project Birmingham is the name of the Democratic effort to use “Russian tactics” in Alabama’s 2017 Senate special election.

In an article Thursday evening by Buzzfeed News, which stated that they had obtained the same internal report used in the NYT and Post’s respective articles breaking the scandal, it was revealed that this internal report written by the Democratic participants themselves boasted that they “ran a digital messaging operation to influence the outcome of the AL senate race.”

According to Buzzfeed, the internal report also claims their efforts contributed to high Democratic turnout, a drop in Republican turnout and says that it “drove write-in votes to a number of candidates.” On one page it reportedly states Project Birmingham’s “sustained targeting” of Republican voters “had enormous effect” on turnout.

The publication also revealed that one of the NYT reporters who broke the story this month learned of Project Birmingham in early September, when he received a copy of the internal report and witnessed an in-person presentation on the efforts by two of the participants.

This occurred when Scott Shane, a Pulitzer-winning NYT reporter, was one of a handful of invited speakers at a meeting held in Washington, D.C. by American Engagement Technologies (AET). Shane, despite telling Buzzfeed he was “shocked” when he found out about Project Birmingham and the shadowy Democratic efforts to influence American elections, did not report on what he learned before the national midterm elections in November.

Instead, he waited until late December, claiming that he had signed a nondisclosure agreement with AET and that he had to gather enough information independent of the September meeting before legally being able to report the startling information.

AET is the group into which billionaire co-founder of LinkedIn Reid Hoffman put $750,000 to advance liberal political efforts. AET put $100,000 of that money into Project Birmingham.

Hoffman apologized this week for his ties to the project, saying he was unaware of what his money was used for.

Shane also has said he knew nothing of Project Birmingham before the September AET meeting.

“It was basically a bunch of people getting together to talk about disinformation,” he told Buzzfeed News. “Part of the reason I agreed to speak, and somewhat reluctantly sign the NDA, is I was told by the organizer that I could follow up with any of the people on any of the projects after the meeting.”

Shane asserted that it was not necessary to disclose to the American public that he previously spoke at a meeting organized by the very people behind Project Birmingham.

“I don’t think there’s any kind of disclosure that’s relevant, though I’m happy to be corrected,” he added. “If you’ve been to meet with intelligence or defense officials at an off-the-record meeting … it’s always a trade off as to what the ground rules are versus whether you get something useful for your readers. And in this case I did get something useful.”

The internal report provided to Shane and others at the meeting boasted of the campaign’s effectiveness and positions itself as a serious effort to influence 650,000 Alabama voters. It does not use the word “experiment” to describe the effort.

BuzzFeed added that they were unable at this time to republish the internal report in full because their source who conditionally provided it “said some of the report’s claims about its influence are overblown and could create a misleading impression of the operation’s impact if the full report was released.”

In other words, the internal report claims that Project Birmingham did indeed have an impact on and quite possibly influenced Alabama’s 2017 election of Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook).

Despite this, Shane wrote in his initial story last week that, “The secret project, carried out on Facebook and Twitter, was likely too small to have a significant effect on the race, in which the Democratic candidate it was designed to help, Doug Jones, edged out the Republican, Roy S. Moore.”

As Buzzfeed summarized, this seeming-contradiction between the internal report itself and Shane’s article based on that same report “raises new questions about whether the project was — as the Times said — an ‘experiment,’ or whether it was a straightforward Democratic attempt to replicate the model of the Russian Internet Research Agency.”

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall is exploring whether Project Birmingham may have violated any state laws.

Hoffman and Jones have both publicly welcomed federal investigations into the efforts, saying they were oblivious to the project before news of it broke last week.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 hour ago

Montgomery launches ‘Feed the Meter for the Homeless’ project

Under the leadership of Mayor Steven L. Reed, new specialized parking meters were installed last week in downtown Montgomery to provide a quick, convenient way to support locals affected by homelessness.

Reed announced the meters were on the way during a recent city council meeting. Called the “Feed the Meter for the Homeless” project, the City’s new initiative is made possible through a partnership with the Mid-Alabama Coalition for the Homeless (MACH).

The special parking meters are green and offer residents a way to donate directly to support MACH and central Alabama agencies working with those experiencing homelessness in Alabama’s capital city. Donations will be accepted in the forms of coins or cash at each specialized meter and by card through the ParkMobile app (zone 36999) or online payment.

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“The Feed the Meter for the Homeless initiative connects compassion with convenience by allowing Montgomery residents and visitors to support our neighbors affected by homelessness and its devastating ramifications,” Reed said in a statement. “Each donation is a hand-up to help those in need and an investment in building a better future for Montgomery and the River Region.”

For more information on Feed the Meter for the Homeless MGM, please click here.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

Cathy Randall now serving on board of The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham

Dr. Cathy J. Randall, chairman of the board of Pettus Randall Holdings, LLC, is now serving as a board member for The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham.

The Women’s Fund made the announcement in a recent release, detailing that Randall term’s officially began on January 1. A Birmingham native and Tuscaloosa resident, she is a longtime, prominent civic and corporate leader, as well as the legendary former director of the University Honors Programs at the University of Alabama.

Tracey Morant Adams, board chair for The Women’s Fund, said in a statement, “The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham strives to elevate and amplify women’s voices, and we are incredibly fortunate to welcome Dr. Randall to our board as she is a well-established voice in the state.”

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“Cathy’s passion for community service and her experience in building a better Alabama will be a tremendous asset for the organization,” Adams added.

Randall’s service to the state includes being immediate past chairman of the Alabama Academy of Honor and former president of the boards of directors of the American Village, the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame and the David Mathews Center of Civic Life, as well as former director of Alabama Girls State.

Additionally, she currently serves on the board of Alabama Power Company and is a former board member of Mercedes Benz USI. Randall was the co-chair of Governor Kay Ivey’s inaugural committee and was named as a Woman of Impact by Yellowhammer Multimedia in 2018.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 hours ago

Sessions responds to ‘desperate and afraid’ Byrne and Tuberville — ‘Sad to see them both descend to such a sleazy low point’

With Alabama’s U.S. Senate Republican primary headed into the home stretch, the field’s three front-runners are beginning to mix it up among one another.

The first significant shot came from U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope), who on Saturday went up on air with an ad attacking both his leading opponents: former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville. Tuberville has thrown a few barbs as well while on the stump, including one at Sessions that accused him of having “turned on” President Donald Trump.

In a statement given to Yellowhammer News, Sessions condemned the tone of both Byrne and Tuberville, noting their positions in recent polling and describing their tacks as “sleazy.”

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“It is unfortunate that both Tommy Tuberville and Bradley Byrne have abandoned any pretense of running a positive campaign. But it is not surprising: both candidates are trailing in the polls, and when politicians like Tuberville and Byrne are losing, they become desperate and afraid,” Sessions stated. “Both Tuberville and Byrne have quit on themselves and their campaigns. Neither can connect with voters on the merits of their ideas. It is sad to see them both descend to such a sleazy low point.”

Sessions warned there would be a response if this activity persisted.

“If their baseless, desperate attacks continue, they will be forcefully answered,” he continued.

The former U.S. Senator maintained that Alabamians in this primary will be focused on substantive issues.

“The key issue for Alabamians is who will most effectively and forcefully fight for their conservative values and interests, such as ending illegal immigration, protecting our jobs from unfair foreign competition, defending religious freedom, and further advancing our strong Trump economy.”

Alabama Republican voters on March 3 will cast a ballot for their preference to represent them on the general election ballot in November.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly and host of Huntsville’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN.

16 hours ago

Leaders, educators and students gather for Alabama’s 2nd Annual HBCU Summit

Alabama’s 2nd Annual Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Summit celebrated the state’s 14 HBCUs and the value they bring to higher education across our state and country. Saturday’s event, moderated by Alabama U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, was held at Miles College in Fairfield.

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The event kicked off with a panel discussion titled “Women in the Lead: How Six Alabama HBCU Presidents Are Raising the Bar.” The session included comments from:

“Extraordinary panel of women in leadership positions,” Jones said afterwards. “I think they provide unique insights to this. Just an amazing group of women that come from varied backgrounds — they came from academics, but also from business, so it’s a unique perspective that is what is going on with HBCUs but also with higher education in general.”

The panelists touched on a number of topics, including ways to help more high school students and nontraditional students get enrolled, making the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) simpler to fill out, partnering with businesses to offer degrees and curriculum the businesses need and working together to elevate the communities they serve.

“That’s what we pride ourselves on is that the benefit of being an HBCU is that … you may not have these large classrooms like you have (elsewhere), but you have teachers that know your name, teachers that care,” Archie said. “We’re going to give you that pep talk when you need that pep talk and we’re going to help you achieve.”

It is that level of concern for students that stood out to Jones.

“These female leaders are so dynamic and so passionate about what they do,” Jones said. “They care so much about their students and their communities. They really represent the best of all HBCUs. HBCUs are the fabric of the communities and I think you saw that reflected here today.”

The summit also featured a career fair and an afternoon panel discussion titled “Student Voices: How Alabama HBCU Student-Leaders Are Lifting Up Their Campuses.” The panel, moderated by Jones, featured students from Miles College, Alabama A&M University, Shelton State Community College, Talladega College and Trenholm State Community College.

“Trying to educate and train the workforce of the 21st century is going to be a challenge,” Jones said. “We’re changing technologically, we’re changing demographically, we’re online — everything is moving in a different direction. Education has got to keep up with that, but also so do businesses. They’ve also got to start reaching out and develop those partnerships to not only train, but to mentor. I think you heard that today.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

16 hours ago

VIDEO: Trust in government was lost long ago, Jeff Sessions leads GOP field while Jones trails all, Birmingham’s battle over monuments and more on Alabama Politics This Week

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and Alabama Democratic Executive Committee member Lisa Handback take you through this week’s biggest political stories, including:

— Is President Donald Trump causing mistrust in government or is he exploiting that lack of trust?

— With new polls out, does Jeff Sessions have the GOP race locked up and does Doug Jones even have a chance?

— Is Birmingham’s mayor boosting his profile while continuing the fight over a Confederate monument?

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Jackson and Handback are joined by Secretary of State John Merrill to discuss the latest report by the Southern Poverty Law Center that claims Alabama is suppressing voters and Merrill’s willingness to take on more responsibility at the Secretary of State’s office.

Jackson closes the show with a “parting shot” at the waste of millions of dollars Alabama municipalities spend on “public notices” because of a series of outdated laws requiring publication of voter rolls and public notices in local newspapers.

Alabama Politics This Week – 2/16/20

VIDEO: Trust in government was lost long ago, Jeff Sessions leads GOP fields while Jones trails all, Birmingham's battle over monuments has no real purpose and more on Alabama Politics This Week

Posted by Yellowhammer News on Friday, February 14, 2020

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN.