If you noticed quite a few right wing blogs and media sites that seemed to be rather, uh, uncritical of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in the past few weeks, it’s not necessarily because they were really that sympathetic to the kleptocratic ruler.
They might have been getting paid: Exclusive: How Ukraine Wooed Conservative Websites.
WASHINGTON — 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.
Buzzfeed’s Rosie Gray identifies some of the people involved in this 2013 propaganda campaign:
One of the writers who participated in the campaign, who spoke on the condition of anonymity and because of lingering qualms about the arrangement, they said, described being offered $500 for a blog post praising Ukraine’s ruling Party of Regions. The payment was arranged by George Scoville, a libertarian media strategist, and Scoville’s name was on the check, the source said.
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 [Warner Todd] 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.
Motley wrote a post for Human Events about Ukraine’s gas dealings with Russia on October 15, and one for Pajamas Media on October 5 titled “Ukraine is Leading West — Not Bowing East” that cites most of the statistics about Ukraine’s economy contained in the talking points provided by Scoville.