Were Conservative Bloggers Paid to Support a Ukrainian Political Party?
Several conservative bloggers repeated talking points given to them by a proxy group for the Ukrainian government — and at least one writer was paid by a representative of the Ukrainian group, according to documents and emails obtained by BuzzFeed.
The Ukrainian campaign began in the run-up to high-stakes Ukrainian parliamentary elections last year, and sought to convince skeptical American conservatives that the pro-Russian Party of Regions, led by President Viktor Yanukovych, deserved American support. During that period, articles echoing Ukrainian government talking points appeared on leading conservative online outlets, including RedState, Breitbart, and Pajamas Media.
The emails and documents, which include prepackaged quotes from election officials and talking points that some writers copied nearly word-for-word, offer a glimpse into how foreign governments dodge tight Justice Department regulations on foreign propaganda to covertly lobby in the United States: The payments were routed through a front group in Belgium to an American consultant, who has urged writers not to cooperate with a reporter investigating the campaign.
The source who provided BuzzFeed with the emails and documents said that other writers involved in the Scoville campaign had included Breeanne Howe of RedState and Warner Todd Huston, a freelance conservative writer. The source estimated that around five or six writers were on the October 26 conference call.
Writers involved in the campaign had been individually warned by Scoville not to talk to BuzzFeed during the reporting of a story on this subject that appeared in March, and to deny any payment if asked, according to the source…
Other writers who were producing incongruous pro-Party of Regions stories at the time include Ben Shapiro of Breitbart and Seton Motley, a conservative blogger.
One of Shapiro’s Ukraine posts, “Hillary Sides With Anti-Semitic Ukrainian Opposition,” is nearly identical to a post that appeared four days later in a different publication under Huston’s byline: “Clinton Dept. of State Backing the Anti-Semitism Party in Ukraine?”
Shapiro said he hadn’t been paid by anyone other than his employers to do the posts.
Scoville “was not the one pitching me as far as I recall,” Shapiro said.