News

Creator of anti-Clinton ad linked to Obama campaign

Mike Dorning
Chicago Tribune (MCT)

WASHINGTON - The creator of a widely circulated viral web video portraying Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton as an Orwellian Big Brother was identified Wednesday as an employee of an Internet consulting firm that works for one of her opponents, Sen. Barack Obama.

The Obama campaign denied any involvement in the ad and the consulting firm said it fired the employee immediately after the company learned of his role.

The wide reach of the ad - it has received more than 1.7 million views on YouTube in just a few days - and the unmasking of its anonymous maker offer a glimpse of the changed media landscape of a nascent presidential campaign that is already bitterly competitive 10 months before the first voting.

The new popularity of web video allows broad distribution of clever political messages, often negative attack ads, which may not readily be traced to their creators.

The 74-second spot is a "mash-up" of a highly regarded 1984 Super Bowl commercial for Apple's Macintosh Computer that portrayed IBM as Big Brother speaking on a screen before a mass of darkly lit, slave-like followers. Video clips from Clinton speeches are digitally superimposed on the screen.

The web video urges viewers to "Vote different" and the final image provides the name of the presidential campaign Web site for Obama, Illinois' junior senator.

Phillip de Vellis, a strategist with the Washington-based consulting firm Blue State Digital, which hosts the Obama campaign web site, acknowledged he was the creator of the ad shortly after his role was disclosed by HuffingtonPost.com, a liberal-leaning news and opinion web site.

"I did it. And I'm proud of it," de Vellis said in a response posted on the Huffington site Wednesday night. De Vellis said he had acted on his own, without the knowledge of the Obama campaign or his employer, making the ad at his apartment on a Sunday afternoon using personal equipment including a Macintosh computer and "some software."

The video had been posted on YouTube anonymously under the name "parkridge47," an apparent reference to Clinton's home town of Park Ridge, Ill., and her birth year of 1947.

Phil Singer, a spokesman for Clinton, D-N.Y., said her campaign had no immediate comment.

The Obama campaign said in a statement Wednesday night that the "campaign and its employees had no knowledge and had nothing to do with the creation of the ad. We were notified this evening by a vendor of ours . . . that an employee of the company had been involved in the making of this ad."

Thomas Gensemer, managing director of Blue State Digital, said in a statement that the video "was done without the knowledge of management, and was in no way tied to his work at the firm or our formal engagement (on technology pursuits) with the Obama campaign."

Obama spokesman Bill Burton said he could not immediately ascertain how much the campaign had paid Blue State Digital for its consulting work but he acknowledged the firm is an important technology provider for the campaign.

Joe Rospars, the Obama campaign new media director, was one of Blue State Digital's four founding partners but is currently on leave because of his job on the presidential campaign.


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