On the right half of the blogosphere, "Kos-ola" is the buzzword of the moment. After reading James Joyner's detailed thoughts, I thought a timeline might be in order. In an effort to cut through the hype, rumors, and whispers, here's how it went down, quoting the central players themselves:
December 2002: Dean Campaign Manager Joe Trippi invites Jerome Armstrong, creator of MyDD.com, to Burlington, Vermont to assist the Dean campaign. (Armstrong's account)
January 2003: Jerome Armstrong and Markos Moulitsas, creator of Daily Kos, form Armstrong Zuniga, a political consulting firm.
June 2003: Trippi hires Moulitsas, and Armstrong, for consulting at a rate of $3,000 a month for four months. Armstrong describes his duties as “coordinat[ing] and direct[ing] the expenditures of all internet advertising for the campaign.”
Kos says he “did next to nothing (the campaign viewed me as an outsider and shot down just about every one of my suggestions.” Kos posts a disclosure that he is working for Dean on his site at the time. Armstrong ceases blogging while working for Dean's campaign.
After they leave the campaign (roughly October 2003), the two continue to enthusiastically tout Dean on their blogs — and Kos' disclosure is left in the archives.
At the end of the 2004 cycle, Kos and Armstrong dissolve their consulting business. The two co-author a book, "Crashing the Gate," which is released in March 2006.
January 2005: A Dean staffer, Zephyr Teachout, claimed the two were hired “largely in order to ensure that they said positive things about Dean.” Kos and Armstrong vehemently deny any wrongdoing. Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi and Dean's Director of Internet Communications, Mathew Gross, dispute Teachout’s version of events. Kos enthusiastically backs Dean's bid for chair of the Democratic National Committee.
Dan Riehl and BuckeyeSenateBlog have been on the case on the situation in Ohio.
April 2005: Democratic Congressman and potential Senate candidate Sherrod Brown hires Jerome Armstrong’s Political Technologies LLC firm for "Website Design & Hosting". They pay $12,000 on 4/21/05, $12,000 on 6/16/05, and then $5,000 as a recurring monthly fee.
On October 4, Sherrod Brown begins making noises about making his potential Senate run official. Kos responds
I'm not even sure who is the best candidate, the bull**** "who's most electable" question. That Zogby poll earlier today had Hackett kicking DeWine's ass. I assume Brown would do roughly as well. But in a primary, Brown has the instiutional state party apparatus (no matter how pathetic Ohio Dems might be). Hackett is an outsider.
Me, give me an Iraq vet over a career politician, even one with Brown's excellent pedigree.
But that same day, Brown contractor Jerome Armstrong makes clear he prefers the Democratic candidate who, um, hired him. Armstrong writes:
You can discount this as someone that's on Brown's team, but even if I had the opportunity to work for Hackett, I'd punt it (I did) to someone else. Others can gripe about my choosing sides, so yea, I plead guilty ahead of time.
Sherrod Brown should run for the US Senate, he's our best shot at taking back the Senate seat, and will do the most for Democrats to grow organization in the state to win there in 2008.
Note “you can discount this as someone that’s on Brown’s team.” This doesn’t merely mean that Armstrong is on Brown’s team in terms of longstanding admiration; it apparently refers to the paid campaign work. When a commenter says, “[I] thought you consulted on Rep. Brown's campaign website GrowOhio? If that's true shouldn't you post it in the entry so others can have a balanced view of where you are coming from?”, Armstrong replies, “as I've posted here numerous times, you can click on my name and see the politicains for whom I work. That's the disclaimer I choose, and no, I won't do anything further— that's already above and beyond the law.” (Interesting wording, considering his earlier run-in with the SEC.)
Two days later, Kos has changed his mind:
In this case, it might be a good idea for Hackett to stand down.
It pains me to say that. I think Hackett would be a far more exciting candidate — Iraq War vet versus career politician. Outsider versus insider. New blood versus old timer. Straight talker versus the same ol'. And Hackett would offer a perspective not currently available in the Senate.
Hackett has proven that he can get votes in one of the most conservative corners of the state. The NRA would back him against DeWine (heck, against Brown, for that matter). And he's fearless.
On the other hand, Hackett still hasn't had a year-long political campaign under his belt, with the type of scrutiny that a Senate race garners. He doesn't have the statewide network like the one that Sherrod Brown has built.
In February 2006, Paul Hackett drops out of the Senate race, contending that national Democratic officials sabotaged his fundraising efforts and actively worked against his campaign.
Also thanks to Dan Riehl, we get a glimpse of what occurred in New Jersey, a minor situation, but one worth noting in the context of the others.
According to this disclosure document, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jon Corzine paid $12,000 to Armstrong’s Political Technologies LLC for "Media Time" on April 11, 2005.
During his run for NJ Governor, Corzine opened a diary at DailyKos on April 14, 2005. Another $6,000 was paid to Political Technologies LLC on May 18, 2005 and another $6,000 on June 3, 2005.
During the 2005 campaign, Kos notes several polls indicating a large Corzine lead - however, this is not terribly surprising, nor is it unusual for Kos to enthusiastically support the Democratic candidate in one of the few off-year elections.
August 2005: Governor Mark Warner’s PAC hires Armstrong.
December 2005: Newsweek interviews Kos:
Newsweek: Looking forward to 2008, what do you think of Hillary Clinton’s presidential chances?
Kos: The person to watch on the Democratic side for president is not Hillary Clinton, but [former Virginia governor] Mark Warner. He showed that not only could he win in Virginia, a Red State, but he had the coattails to help his successor win. He is one of the most popular governors in Virginia history—he has a 70 or 80 percent approval rating. He’ll be the anti-Hillary. Hillary is at the top now because of name recognition.
June 2006: Daily Kos readers begin to ask why Warner, with all of his ties to the Kos archenemy of the Democratic Leadership Council, is getting such praise and warm welcome from Markos at Yearly Kos. Some recent headlines in Daily Kos diaries:
Huffington declares Warner the YK winner & the martinis...
Did Mark Warner Try to Buy Our Votes?
Markos and Warner are Getting a Little Cozy
Warner a Hard Sell at YearlyKos?
Yearly Kos criticized for allowing itself to serve as a platform for Mark Warner
When you hire Armstrong for consulting, do you get something besides good advice? Is Zephyr Teachout’s mentality correct, that while it’s “consulting” on paper and in the records, what campaigns really want is good buzz from Markos and the support (financial, volunteering) of Kos readers?
When anti-Daschle bloggers got cash from the Thune campaign in the 2004 South Dakota Senate race, it was shady, dishonest, and worthy of denunciation. Of course, that situation was a bit clearer; the one praising the candidate was the one actually recieving the cash from the candidate. In this situation, the only candidate who paid Markos was Dean.
But Joyner makes a good observation - most Daily Kos readers are willing to dig deep to support a candidate because Markos Moulitsas says he or she is a good candidate. There's trust there. (On the other side of the aisle, conservatives trust that a candidate endorsed by Kos won't win.) If we see Kos' preferred candidates frequently hire his buddy and co-author as a consultant... will that trust be shaken?