Activists for rent

Not long ago I wrote:

[E]ven elements of the [Democratic] party’s hard core left are flirting with a centrist style candidate, Mark Warner. Indeed, [that element’s] attack on Clinton seems to have more to do with the fact that it can’t claim credit for her rise than on any principled desire to uphold the party’s ideological purity.

As it turns out, there may be a related but more basic explanation for the Kos crowd’s flirtation with Warner — the fact that Warner has hired Kos’ partner Jerome Armstrong as a campaign consultant. Moreover, as The New Republic’s Plank (via Chris Suellentrop at the New York Times) notes, the work Kos and Armstrong have done hyping Howard Dean, Sherrod Brown, and now Mark Warner (while one or both were on said pol’s payroll) has an antecedent in Armstrong’s past. Apparently, Armstrong was one of those online bulletin-board posters “who touted dodgy Internet stocks during the boom market without disclosing that they were being paid for their words.” The Securities and Exchange Commission alleged in court documents that “there is sufficient evidence to infer that the defendants secretly agreed to pay Armstrong for his touting efforts” on the financial Web site Raging Bull. According to Suellentrop, Armstrong agreed to a permanent injunction forbidding him from touting stocks in the future, but remains in litigation with the S.E.C. over potential monetary penalties.

UPDATE: The New York Post has more on Armstrong’s days as a for-rent stock tout. The piece suggests that Armstrong’s progess “from shill to hack” has been seamless:

The sharp partisan flair Armstrong shows on his blog was apparently honed in bitter message-board fights, where he was known for his attacks on those questioning the stocks he touted.

Floyd Schneider, a New Jersey mortgage broker and investigator of penny-stock scams, said he was a repeated target of Armstrong’s attacks because he criticized the finances and business models of firms Armstrong supported.

“[Armstrong] was among the nastiest and ugliest stock touts from that era,” said Schneider. “The stocks he touted were dogs and rigged, so it makes sense that he had a deal with promoters.

It sounds like Armstrong’s “due diligence” consisted of figuring out who was paying him dues.


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