Community Trust

Every community, it goes without saying, is built on trust – and nowhere is this more true than online. In the digital realm, where you can’t see and seldom know the people you’re interacting with, being able to trust the folks on the other end of the line is of the utmost importance. We need to know, as best we are able, that people are who they say they are, that they mean what they say, and that they have the community’s best interests at heart.

Conversely, pretense, hidden agendas, and fabrications can do great damage to a place like this. Without a basic level of trust, an online community loses its credibility, its cohesiveness, and its influence. Both the administrators and the users of this site understand this well, and it’s why we all spend as much time as we do trying hard to preserve the trust we’ve built here.

Because of this fundamental need to maintain trust, in the political blogosphere, we hold campaigns to the highest of standards. Candidates come here seeking our support, our volunteer hours, and our money. These are serious things to ask for, and if you’re going to ask for them, we expect nothing but total scrupulousness.

When a campaign violates this trust, it’s an abuse of our entire community and cannot be allowed to stand. Because of the higher standard we hold campaign officials to, it is our policy to make such violations public when we discover them. And unfortunately, we have discovered another such transgression.

Andrew Eldredge-Martin is the campaign manager for Doug Pike, a Democrat running in Pennsylvania’s Sixth Congressional District. Drew, who has posted here as DrewEM, used sockpuppet accounts to post disparaging remarks about another Democrat running in the PA-06 primary. As it turns out, Drew also used a sockpuppet account at Daily Kos (where I am also an administrator) over the years to comment on two other races he managed, Bob Lord’s campaign against John Shadegg in AZ-03 in 2008, and Chris Carney’s campaign against Don Sherwood in PA-10 in 2006.

Needless to say, this kind of behavior is completely unacceptable. If campaign officials have something to say about the very race they’re working on, then it is mandatory that they speak out in their own voice. Pretending to be a disinterested observer, especially for the purposes of spreading negative information about opponents, is a complete violation of our trust. For the most senior official, a campaign manager, to do so is especially unacceptable.

I offered Drew the chance to apologize, and told him I would include any apology in this post. Not only did I never hear back, but it appears Drew used the opportunity to edit the bio and signature line of his sockpuppet account at Daily Kos, in a belated attempt at transparency. This information was not present in the sockpuppet account when we first discovered Drew’s malfeasance.

Because it is our policy to ban those who create sockpuppet accounts, we have done so here. But this should also be a lesson to anyone – and to any campaign – contemplating something similar. We will remain eternally vigilant in policing this site. We will not tolerate this kind of behavior. And we will do everything in our power to ensure that the trust which animates this site remains unbroken.

17 thoughts on “Community Trust”

  1. I really, really hope Pike can distance himself from this — it will probably require firing Drew before that can happen.  Otherwise, we are going to have to start backing Trivedi.

    Amazing that he would sockpuppet for Lord and Carney, of all people.  Those guys didn’t even have primary challengers.  Usually when you hear about sockpuppeting, it’s going on on the other side’s blogs.  Why on earth would you sockpuppet your own side?

    Very frustrating.  David, thanks for putting this out in public and calling out this sort of behavior.

  2. I was just looking at the comments he made on Swing State you linked to, and he clearly identifies himself as part of the Pike campaign. Did he alter those entries?

    (the Daily Kos stuff is totally different and definitely goes into no-no territory)

  3. if one is so inclined, should be easy to get away with. Simply do the occasional sock-puppeting at a public library, or at any wi-fi hotspot, so the IP address never links to your office or home’s IP address.

    Probably goes on a fair amount. So it’s great you caught one. Congratulations.

    Not only is this person dishonest and unscrupulous, but not too bright.

  4. What do you guys think of him?  Does he have any chance left of being re-elected?  Would he be better off if he shut up?

  5. It happens often, but every now and then I see posts that seem like campaign vernacular. Things like “so and so is meeting the people and listening to there problems” things that normal people don’t say in conversation. And I always just assume that they’ve probably got some campaign affiliation. So, is this really that uncommon?

  6. And you don’t have to answer this (it might be confidential), but how hard is it to detect when a person is using a sockpuppet account?  I’m pretty darn naive about this, but I was just interested on how one would be tipped that a blogger was using a sockpuppet account.  I’m guessing it comes from your experience and education to detect these sockpuppet accounts.

    Thank you for your work on minimizing the risk on these bloggers.  It’s nice to know that SSP is monitored to prevent such a risk that could taint our healthy dialogue.

  7. We’re referring to the comments he made under the user accounts “pa_watcher” and “ProgressiveSEPA”.

  8. The GOP approach on health care is “Don’t get sick, and if you do, well that’s your problem.”.

    The second half of his statement was over the top.

  9. This is a big deal for us in the netroots.  It really is.

    But it’s of little or no significance in Pike’s larger campaign.  Very few voters read or care about blogs.  They don’t know the customs or vocabulary.  They don’t know what a “sockpuppet” is.  And they don’t care.

    Drew is going to survive this.  The netroots aren’t influential enough to get a campaign manager fired for sockpuppetery.

    But this will, indeed, dog Pike to some hard-to-predict degree, for a hard-to-predict duration, in the netroots.  It won’t be permanent damage as long as Pike remains the clear frontrunner and actually wins the primary, in which case keeping the seat Blue dwarfs all else.

  10. Sometimes you’ll see failures of disclosure — people who comment on a race that they are, or were in the past, working on, but aren’t necessarily trying to pretend to be someone they’re not. These offenses are difficult (if not impossible) to catch, but I suspect they happen more than we’d like them to (which is, of course, not at all).

    This instance was pretty extraordinary in that Drew participated in this site under his own name with full disclosure, but also set up at least two other sockpuppet accounts and used those accounts to give the impression that “local observers” were not high on Pike’s primary challenger. The remarkable thing is that Drew employed all three accounts — his legitimate one and the two abusive ones — in the same thread. I’ve never seen anything like that on SSP before.

  11. have worked on campaigns in the past, which is why you’ll see some vernacular and campaign lingo thrown into some of these posts.  I, in all disclosure, have worked on campaigns in multiple states in the past and still have friends who are on the trail.  I currently work for a law firm that handles political accounts.  But, as a personal rule, I avoid commenting on races involving candidates I’ve previously worked for and I sure as hell don’t talk about races that involve past or current clients (it would not only be unethical, but would violate a bevy of nondisclosure agreements and would get me fired in a heartbeat).  I think most folks try to police themselves as best as possible.  It’s the ones who try to appear as one entity to promote an ulterior motive that is troubling.

  12. If you’re working or volunteering on a campaign, and you decide to comment on that race here at SSP, you need to disclose that relationship. Otherwise: say nothing.

  13. Many of the people here have worked on campaigns in the past, including myself so that’s not necessarily what I’m talking about. But like I said when someone says “person x may not have the deep pockets of person y, but they’ll succeed through hard work and a strong message.” Again, no one talks like that and its usually a dead give-away to me that the poster has some ulterior motive.

  14. and safi, thanks for the clarification, I see where you’re coming from.  I guess I’ve seen that type of language before in the past, but I’d have a hard time figuring out who is working for a campaign and who may just be an enthused supporter (nothing wrong with that!).  Maybe I’m just being Pollyannish and assuming folks have good intentions.

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