US Chamber Linked to Shady Companies In Effort to Smear Political Opponents
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An investigation by ThinkProgress has revealed that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce explored employing three "private security" firms to surreptitiously investigate the Chamber's political foes (and even their families and children), and to wage an underhanded cyber-campaign against them. According to emails obtained by ThinkProgress, the Chamber hired the lobbying firm Hunton & Williams, which in turn solicited work from three computer security firms -- HBGary Federal, Palantir, and Berico Technologies (collectively dubbed Team Themis, after the Roman goddess of law and order).
Hunton asked Team Themis to develop tactics for damaging or discrediting progressive groups and labor unions, in particular ThinkProgress, the labor coalition Change to Win, the SEIU, US Chamber Watch, and StopTheChamber.com. The Chamber's efforts to target opponents began after a ThinkProgress investigation last year raised questions about whether the business lobby was using money from foreign corporations to fund its political attack ads. According to one document prepared by Team Themis, the campaign included an entrapment project. The proposal called for first creating a "false document, perhaps highlighting periodical financial information," to give to a progressive group opposing the Chamber, and then to subsequently expose the document as a fake to undermine the credibility of the Chamber's opponents. In addition, the group proposed creating a "fake insider persona" to "generate communications" with Change to Win in an attempt to mislead and undermine them. Even more disturbingly, emails reveal that HBGary, which spearheaded the work for the Chamber, apparently thought families and children were fair game, as an executive with the firm circulated numerous emails and documents detailing information about political opponents' children, spouses, and personal lives, such as where they attended religious services.
EMAILS LEAKED: ThinkProgress acquired the emails after they were leaked by the pro-WikiLeaks hacktivist
A 'CAREFULLY WORDED NONDENIAL DENIAL': On Friday, the Chamber released its second denial of involvement in the controversy, calling our investigation "baseless" and claiming that HBGary's proposal " was never discussed with anyone at the Chamber" and that "the Chamber was not aware of these proposals until HBGary's e-mails leaked." However, as FireDogLake's Marcy Wheeler wrote, their response is a " carefully worded nondenial denial."