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Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2005 05:03 am

G-Rod’s poseurs

Anti-Topinka posts traced to governor’s campaign computers

I was told a few weeks ago by a very good source that Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s campaign had assigned people to monitor my Web log. You may know that in addition to this weekly newspaper column I publish a daily political newsletter called Capitol Fax. I also run a political blog called thecapitolfaxblog.com, featuring posts about stories of the day, news feeds from various media sources, and dozens of comments from readers. The fact that the governor’s campaign was monitoring my blog wasn’t a surprise. I had figured that all the campaigns were keeping an eye on the blog and were posting comments both on behalf of their candidates and against their opponents. I had also noticed that loads of facts and figures were all of a sudden appearing in the comments section in reaction to Republican Judy Baar Topinka’s gubernatorial candidacy. Before I was even told about the monitoring project, I figured that some sort of rapid-reaction force had been created, which I thought was a good idea. But then I moved my blog to a new Web site where I could more easily monitor who was posting comments. In fact, that was the main reason for moving the blog. I was pretty sick of all the nastiness and wanted to ban certain words from appearing (mostly really bad swear words) and also ban people from posting (mostly those who use those sorts of words). I moved the blog a couple of weeks ago, and traffic was understandably light on that first day, so I was playing around with the settings and, out of curiosity, seeing whether I could discern who was posting. One poster, named “Right of Right,” submitted a comment that first day supporting ultraconservative Republican Jim Oberweis’ gubernatorial bid, claiming that Oberweis could beat Topinka and “get the governor’s office back in Republican control.” I casually clicked on Right of Right’s Internet-protocol address and, lo and behold, it was listed as “Blagojevich for Governor.” That meant that the pro-Oberweis poster was using a computer located at the governor’s northwest-Chicago campaign headquarters. Right of Right posted several more times that week, blasting “do-nothing” state workers; supporting the governor’s borrowing plans; claiming, “The only one who can bring reform, and who represents the true conservative values of the republican party is Jim Oberweis”; and saying that the Republican candidates “are making me ashamed to be a Republican in Illinois.” Right of Right also called Topinka a “gay-loving, gun-hating, tax-raising insider.”
I had just written a column about how I thought that Blagojevich might try to influence the Republican primary to help a conservative defeat the more moderate Topinka, so I thought that this was all fairly interesting. Another poster, “Your Neighbor,” was also using a computer at the governor’s campaign office. This character openly supported Blagojevich but also had some harsh things to say when I ran an excerpt from a Chuck Goudie newspaper column about how the governor put his name on those big new tollway signs. Goudie is an investigative reporter at WLS-TV (Channel 7) in Chicago. “Goudie clearly has it in for the governor,” Your Neighbor wrote on Tuesday. “He is a bottom-feeder who hasn’t done a worthwhile bit of journalism in his life. He is a talentless hack.” Ouch. So who are Right of Right and Your Neighbor? The governor’s campaign claims that they don’t know. “Nobody has been told to pose as anybody they are not,” says spokesman Doug Scofield, who adds that “a lot of volunteers” come in and out of the office. Maybe, but these posters managed to stay pretty tightly on message, despite Scofield’s contention that they were likely random volunteers. Just to be on the safe side, if I were an editorial-page editor, I think I’d double-check any pro-Oberweis letters before I put them in the paper. You never know.
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