Reuters: The golden age of opposition research

On November 14, 2011, Reuters reported:

It was a little noticed event in Texas governor Rick Perry’s schedule, an October 28 visit to the Barley House tavern in Concord, New Hampshire, to sample a burger and be interviewed by a local radio station.

The flagging candidate for the Republican nomination was addressing a tiny audience of about 10 in this early primary state. He told the story of a 38-year-old Occupy Wall Street protestor named Jeremy, who had complained that bankers got to work so early that he never managed to get out of bed in time to insult them face-to-face.

[…]

Also in the small crowd at the Barley House was a “tracker” from American Bridge, a newly formed SuperPAC doing research for the Democratic Party. The tracker was videotaping Perry’s every word and gesture, and even though the gaffe was a relatively minor one, the candidate was about to become a victim of the latest, state-of-the-art opposition research.

[…]

The Perry tracker’s high definition footage – sharp enough to be used later in a campaign ad if needed – traveled quickly from his laptop to American Bridge headquarters in DC, then out to Mediaite, a website that had been busting Republicans who referred to Jeremy as a damning reality, not a joke.

David Frum, a former speech writer for President George W. Bush who now runs FrumForum, then tweeted an item that sent the Perry clip global. Within hours, the video had been picked up by The Houston Chronicle, The National Post, and many political blogs.

[…]

American Bridge is typical of the new reality. It was founded in November 2010, after the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case opened the door to “SuperPACs,” political action committees that are able to raise unlimited amounts of anonymous money to craft attack and advocacy ads during campaigns. The fledgling Democratic research organization now has 15 trackers nationwide filming GOP candidates for Congress and the White House and 25 researchers in Washington poring over this footage and pushing it out to the public.

“The fastest way to disseminate information is through social media, such as Twitter and Facebook,” American Bridge’s Communications Director Chris Harris told Reuters. “And if it’s good footage, it will spread exponentially.”

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