A proxy group working for Ukraine’s ruling Party of Regions organized a stealth public relations campaign in the States, contacting American conservative bloggers and paying them for favorable posts across social media platforms, according to BuzzFeed. The campaign started around the time of last fall’s parliamentary elections.
The BuzzFeed article reports that bloggers were contacted by an American consultant working on behalf of a group based inBrusselswith ties to the Party of Regions. George Scoville, the media strategist named by BuzzFeed, sent info and talking points favorable to the Ukrainian government to bloggers with offers of up to $500 for blog posts.
Bloggers were encouraged to directly quote the material and to post information on their blogs and to Twitter promoting the party.
“I just wanted to share the attached documents with you in case you were interested,” Scoville allegedly wrote in one email later obtained by BuzzFeed. “You’re under no obligation to write anything, but I wanted you to have this info in case you were feeling nostalgic and/or entrepreneurial ”.
That email was later followed by what he referred to as “talking points that are mostly tweetable — some may need to be shortened.” The talking points included sentences like, “The victory for the Party of Regions is a victory for the people, for Ukraine and for democracy,” BuzzFeed reports.
According to one source who spoke with BuzzFeed, at least two other prominent conservative writers – Breeane Howe of RedState and Warner Todd Huston, a freelance writer – were part of the campaign. Howe, however, denied receiving money from Scoville, according to BuzzFeed.
This is not the first time Western PR firms have been found covertly trying to clean up the image of an Eastern Bloc country. The Kazakh government was spotted using PR firms in early 2012 to add “positive-sounding” sections to the Wikipedia page of the Kazakh president. A few months later, CNN caught flack for running what were essentially infomercials for Kazakhstan with very little disclaimer that the content had actually been sponsored by Kazakh government itself.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Marco Residori