Washington, D.C.—Yesterday, ThinkProgress published an exclusive report that a law firm representing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a right-wing trade association representing big business, is working with a set of “private security” companies and lobbying firms to undermine their political opponents, including ThinkProgress. According to e-mails obtained by ThinkProgress, the chamber hired the lobbying firm Hunton and Williams. Attorneys for the firm solicited a set of private security firms — HB Gary Federal, Palantir, and Berico Technologies (collectively called Team Themis) — to develop a sabotage campaign against progressive groups and labor unions, including ThinkProgress, the labor coalition Change to Win, SEIU, US Chamber Watch, and StopTheChamber.com.
New emails reveal that the private spy company investigated the families and children of the chamber’s political opponents. The apparent spearhead of this project was Aaron Barr, an executive at HB Gary. Barr circulated numerous emails and documents detailing information about political opponents’ children, spouses, and personal lives.
One of the targets was Mike Gehrke, a former staffer with Change to Win. Among the information circulated about Gehrke was the specific “Jewish church” he attended and a link to pictures of his wife and two children (sensitive information was redacted by ThinkProgress):
Another target was Brad Friedman, co-founder of The Brad Blog. Barr’s profile of Freidman included information about his life partner and his home address (sensitive information redacted by ThinkProgress):
This tactic of targeting opponents’ personal lives and family was not simply a random event. Rather, it was a concerted and deliberate effort to use anything possible to smear the chamber’s political opponents. To dramatize his firm’s intimidation tactics, Barr sent an email to Hunton & Williams attorney John Woods that contained personal details about fellow Hunton attorney Richard Wyatt, who was representing the chamber. The email was intended to show Woods and Wyatt how “vulnerable” they are:
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The U.S. Chamber of Commerce responded to ThinkProgress’ earlier post on its blog, dismissing the emails as a "baseless attack."
ThinkProgress will continue to report on this developing story as more details emerge.
– With reporting from Lee Fang