Issued February 17, 2011
Hunton & Williams Information Operation Against Chamber Critics
WASHINGTON, DC - Server logs and leaked emails reveal that employees at Hunton & Williams, the principal law firm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, spent 20 hours on SEIU websites last November while partners from the firm were working with private security firms on an illegal "dirty tricks" campaign aimed at undermining the credibility of the Chamber's political opponents, including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
The leaked emails from private security firm HBGary Federal reveal that Hunton & Williams staff assembled a data set for "Phase I" of an "information operation" and were planning a second data dump in the lead-up to a final pitch meeting between the Chamber, Hunton & Williams and Team Themis (the adopted name of the three private security firms working with Hunton & Williams - HBGary Federal, Palantir Technologies and Berico Technologies) scheduled for February 14.
Team Themis hoped to walk away from that meeting with a $2 million contract, as a Hunton & Williams subcontractor to the Chamber, to implement its plans which included creating "false documents" and "false personas" to embarrass and discredit the Chamber's political opponents. It is unknown whether this meeting took place or whether the leak of these documents led the Chamber to cancel the meeting.
While the Chamber has denied all knowledge of a "dirty tricks" campaign plan, calling it "abhorrent," leaked documents suggest that it may have previously met with Hunton & Williams lawyers about this effort to undermine SEIU and its progressive allies. The Chamber has taken no steps to disassociate itself from Hunton & Williams even after the leaked documents became public.
"Two obvious questions are why did Hunton & Williams employees spend 20 hours on our site, and who was paying them to do it? It is difficult to believe that the Chamber would pay Hunton & Williams for research that it did not know about," said SEIU Communications Director Inga Skippings. "The most obvious explanation is that the "black ops" work was already underway when the documents were leaked. What is clear is that this is yet another attack on working families by corporate backed interests. Now we know the depths they will sink to in order to accomplish their mission."
Articles about the alleged "dirty tricks" campaign appeared in Tuesday's Washington Post and Los Angeles Times.
The leaked emails were originally published by ThinkProgress last week.
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