The disinformation machine turns on for 2020

The disinformation machine turns on for 2020

In the early weeks of the 2020 Democratic primary, disinformation about leading Democratic candidates is already being spread online, according to a POLITICO analysis.

THE DISINFORMATION MACHINE — A disinformation campaign has already begun on social media, primarily targeting 2020 hopefuls Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke.

“A POLITICO review of recent data extracted from Twitter and from other platforms, as well as interviews with data scientists and digital campaign strategists, suggests that the goal of the coordinated barrage appears to be undermining the nascent candidacies through the dissemination of memes, hashtags, misinformation, and distortions of their positions,” POLITICO’s Natasha Korecki reported. “Not all of the activity is organized. Much of it appears to be organic, a reflection of the politically polarizing nature of some of the candidates.” Critically, researchers and others interviewed by Natasha could not “conclusively” identify who is behind these accounts, be it political activists, hackers or foreign actors.

More on the analysis: “ identified a cohort of roughly 200 accounts — which includes both unwitting real accounts and other ‘suspicious’ and automated accounts that coordinate to spread their messages — pumped out negative or extreme themes designed to damage the candidates [and the same cluster spread misinformation in the 2018 midterms]. … Over a recent 30-day period, between 2 and 15 percent of all Twitter mentions of the four candidates emanated in some way from within that cluster of accounts”. Here’s a good thread from Natasha that delves into the issue more.

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PRESIDENTIAL BIG BOARD — Sanders’ record-smashing campaign launch continued. His campaign said he raised more than $5.9 million from over 220,000 donors in 24 hours, POLITICO’s Holly Otterbein reported.

— Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is spending some time in Texas,speaking to students Wednesday and today.

FEC GOES NUCLEAR — Ellen Weintraub, the new chair of the FEC, is fed up with inaction over lax campaign finance law enforcement from her agency — and she says she won’t allow the agency to defend itself in court. “If [the commissioners] are not going to vote to enforce the law, I’m not going to pull any punches and I’m not going to be shy about calling them out,” she told Mother Jones’ Nihal Krishan. “And if we get sued, that requires four votes to defend those kinds of lawsuits. … I’m not going to authorize the use of agency resources to defend that litigation.”

What’s the practical effect of that? “If the government stops defending itself, it should be more frequent that the court finds that the law has been violated, which will make it harder for super-PACs and megadonors and the like to evade campaign finance law,” the Campaign Legal Center’s Adav Noti told Krishan.

NC-09, CONTINUED — John Harris, an assistant U.S. attorney in North Carolina, said at a board of elections hearing on fraud allegations that he “raised red flags at the time the decision was made to hire Mr. Dowless,” the political operative at the center of the scandal, Campaign Pro’s Laura Barrón-López reported. “‘I love my dad and I love my mom. I certainly have no vendetta against them, no family scores to settle,’ John said, holding back tears. ‘I think that they made mistakes in this process.’” Mark Harris is set to testify today.

UP NEXT — GOP Rep. Bradley Byrne jumped into the Alabama Senate race, looking to challenge Democratic Sen. Doug Jones. The “big difference between [the 2017 special election] and this time is Doug Jones now has a record, and it’s not a good record to run on in Alabama,” Byrne told Campaign Pro’s James Arkin. But Byrne isn’t alone: Del Marsh, the president pro tempore of the state Senate, told James he is “seriously considering” a run, and Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth and Rep. Gary Palmer’s names have also been mentioned.

— South Carolina Democrat Jaime Harrison said he got encouragement from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and the DSCC to run, per The State’s Emma Dumain.

FIRST IN SCORE — STAFFING UP — Targeted Victory is adding to its general consulting team.Peter Towey (former NRSC deputy political director) and Sam Oh (former chief of staff to former Rep. Mimi Walters) joined the firm as vice presidents, and Sarah Curran (of the Trump transition team) joined as a director.

— Kamala Harris is adding to her ranks. Jose Nunez, most recently regional mobilization director at the DNC, is joining the campaign as digital organizing director. Harris also hired Emmy Ruiz, who was Hillary Clinton’s Nevada and Colorado state director in 2016, as a senior adviser, POLITICO’s Nolan McCaskillreported.

— The latest staffer tracker from Daniel Strauss (for Pros only) has a bevy of presidential hires.

— FIRST IN SCORE — Matt Langston, a vet of the Texas state Senate, is joining Big Dog Strategies as partner and will helm its new office in Austin, Texas.

CASH DASH — January fundraising totals are here. The RNC brought in $15.7 million, spent $10.6 million and has $28.6 million cash on hand (report), via POLITICO’s Maggie Severns.

— The DNC raised $6.5 million, spent $8.6 million and has $6.5 million on hand (report).

— The DCCC raised $7.3 million, spent over $6 million and has $6.9 million cash on hand (report).

— The NRCC raised $5.1 million, spent $5.5 million and has $16.2 million cash on hand (report).

— The NRSC raised $5.6 million (its best January ever, per Playbook), spent $5.5 million, with $7.6 million on hand (report).

— The DSCC brought in $4 million, spent $1.3 million and has $8.9 million in the bank, (report).

CONVENTION SPOTTING — Miami Democrats are launching a lobbying campaign to try to edge out Milwaukee’s bid. Donors “are applying their clout to the city’s bid. Some of them say they’re planning to lean on potential 2020 candidates to get them behind Miami’s convention bid,” POLITICO’s Marc Caputoreported.

2019 ALERT — Mississippi Republican Gov. Phil Bryant is endorsing Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves as his successor. “I think he’ll do an excellent job as Governor,” he told Y’all Politics’ Sarah Ulmer.

POLLS POLLS POLLS — A new Quinnipiac Poll in Virginia found that voters are tentatively standing behind the state’s embattled top officeholders. Forty-eight percent say Gov. Ralph Northam should not resign after his blackface scandal, compared to 42 percent who say he should. Voters are evenly split on whether Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax should resign after two women accused him of sexual assault. Fifty-four percent say Attorney General Mark Herring, facing his own blackface scandal, should not resign, while 22 percent say he should. Black voters say none of the three should resign, and a majority of all voters say none should be impeached (1,150 voters, Feb. 14-18).

— Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who is up in 2020, hit her highest approval rating ever in new poll from the Des Moines Register.

THE NEXT FRONTIER — Campaigns are finding new ways to track voters using mobile phones, as state and federal regulators fail to keep up with technology and privacy law. “Simply downloading a weather app or game, connecting to Wi-Fi at a coffee shop or powering up a home router can allow a data broker to monitor your movements with ease, then compile the location information and sell it to a political candidate who can use it to surround you with messages,” the Los Angeles Times’ Evan Halper reported.

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CODA — HEADLINE OF THE DAY: “Bay Area congressman bravely takes stand against Trump by walking several extra blocks for coffee,” via SFGate.

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