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January 25, 2010

AN UPDATE ON THE “ELLIE LIGHT” ASTROTURFING STORY: Patterico notes that we’ve actually seen two types of astroturfing:

Donald Trump Astroturfing: A letter published in multiple places from one person claiming to live in multiple cities. Ellie Light was the quintessential Donald Trump Astroturfer. In fact, her real estate holdings would put Trump to shame. She published the very same pro-Obama letter in 65 publications — including 31 states, and the District of Columbia. It also appeared in 3 national publications and a Yahoo link — and in 2 foreign publications, including a publication in Bangkok, Thailand.

And she claimed to live in almost all of these locations. Because that claim enhanced her ability to place her letters. So she claimed to live in Philadelphia, PA; and Daly City, California; and Mansfield, Ohio; and Waynesboro, Virginia; and Algoma, Wisconsin; and Bangor, Maine — and dozens of other places.

Who said Obama supporters were all downtrodden?

Mark Spivey appeared in several places as well. And Ellie Light and Mark Spivey claimed residence in almost every publication to which they sent their letters.

Not even Donald Trump can claim such extensive real estate holdings!

The conclusion is simple: Ellie Light and Mark Spivey are liars. They pretend to be from multiple places to enhance their credibility. In fact, they are from one location — and they are trying to pretend they are individuals from all over America.

But they aren’t. And that leads us to Category #2:

David Axelrod Astroturfing: Identical letters published in multiple places claiming to be from different people

You get suspicious when you see the same letter appearing in multiple locations with multiple names.

Plus, questions about whether this bogus letter-to-the-editor campaign has links to the White House. And questions about whether this was inspired by Cass Sunstein’s thinking.

UPDATE: Ellie Light responds. By email.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Don Surber emails: “As a person who has dealt with letters to the editor 20+ years, the fault is with my counterparts at other newspapers, not Ellie Light. They got burnt. The Cleveland Plain Dealer didn’t. It blew the whistle. And yes, I have been burnt in the past.” Well, she did lie about where she lived. Or else she’s got more houses than John McCain.

And reader Brian Gates emails:

From that Cleveland article on Ellie Light:
“I must give the Tea Partiers credit for even knowing who [Power] is,” Light’s e-mail said.

On Wednesday, nobody had ever heard of her; today, she’s the most polite leftist working in the media.

From later in the article:
“Just because it is inconvenient for us in the news business to find out who people are doesnt mean it isn’t important anymore,” [University of Missouri journalism professor Tom] Rosenstiel said.

Too bad that doesn’t apply to Presidential candidates too, or this whole thing may never have come up.

Heh. [LATER: First link was bad before. Fixed now. Sorry!]

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