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GOP Candidate Boasts of Political Espionage

by: Teddy Goodson

Mon Oct 26, 2009 at 23:49:49 PM EDT

UPDATE at end of article
Delegate Todd Gilbert (R., Woodstock, 15th District) sounded as though he's in the running for WTOP's "stupidest criminal" (also called "knucklehead of the week") award when he boasted on Facebook that he stole a copy of a soon-to-be-mailed negative campaign piece his Democratic opponent John Lesinski had just prepared---- he even proudly displayed a copy of the mailer on his own wall, boasting:
My opponent is dropping a negative mail piece in the mail in the morning...No need to worry about how we got a picture of it in advance

Mr. Gilbert had his comment and the photo up before the mailer was delivered by the US Postal Service to a single house, but, significantly, after the piece had been printed and delivered to the mailing house to be addressed. The mail house prepares mail for other Democrats besides Lesinski, and party officials are naturally concerned that Democrats' microtargeting lists may also have been compromised.

How serious is such a breach of a political party's special mailing lists?  Very serious, according to Professor Matt Hindman, who teaches information technology and politics at Arizona State University,

In the modern day and age, the microtarging list is probably the most sensitive campaign document. If they cross reference with their own list, they'll know a lot about who the campaign is contacting. This list is a powerful window into campaign strategy.
Teddy Goodson :: GOP Candidate Boasts of Political Espionage
If Republicans have obtained the Democratic mailing list they can manipulate it to reveal not only their opponent's campaign strategy, but learn which voters are on the Democrats' targeted list, and work counter-measures, for example, to suppress Democratic voter turnout among those on the Democratic GOTV lists---- or engage in other Republican dirty tricks. Since the mail house in question handles other candidates besides Lesinski, it could be possible that statewide Democratic microtarget lists are in the hands of Republican operatives.

According to Dawn Teo, writing in Huffington Post( there are only two ways in which Gilbert could have filched the mailer: through political espionage or outright mail theft.  The batch of mailers was addressed by the mail house itself from a list provided by the Democratic Party during the 24 hours before the pieces were given to the post office for delivery.  According to the Lesinski campaign office, either a employee of the mail house "gave a copy to Gilbert or one of his associates," or "a postal employee snatched the mailer from the sorting center just after it arrived." Of the two, the former is more likely, but in any case "neither scenario is good for Gilbert," who seems blithely unconcerned about his unethical behavior.

Lesinski says he will send an open letter to Gilbert demanding he apologoze and confess how he obtained the document. If Gilbert does not answer, Lesinski says he will take "legal action."  

Consider some wider implications: if the source of the document were from an employee of the mail house, other Democrats will be wary of using that outfit to handle their mailouts, causing some people to lose their jobs. If a postal employee stole the item at the post office, that is a serious federal offense, mail theft. Gilbert himself was a former prosecutor for Shenandoah County, and one would think he would know better than to pull a stunt like this.  Plus, there are all those smarties who made clever and approving comments on Gilbert's Facebook page---- including another legislator, Delegate Matt Lohr, (R., 26th District) and Washington DC reporter Jennifer Ann Wishon of Christian Broadcasting Network News, both of whom supported Gilbert's actions.  

Dawn Teo talked with Gilbert's campaign manager, Wade Zirkle.  Mr. Zirkle claimed "We obtained the mailer innocently from a supporter," and, when asked if Zirkle had Lesinski's campaign data, added, "I'm not saying anything else."

At close of business on Monday the 26th, Gilbert issued a formal statement brimming with chutzpah:

A supporter randomly came upon the attack piece against me, photographed it, and sent the photo to us. It was interesting to catch my opponent attacking me with his lying and mean-spirited mailer before he could throw the mud himself. We knew when we posted it that it would bring out John Lesinski's well-known, nasty temper and that he would come unhinged. It obviously worked.

We also posted the picture on Facebook to let our supporters know the lengths to which he was willing to stoop with nasty and deceitful accusations at this late hour. Now he's obviously just desperate.

My opponent has one more week left to finally tell voters where he stands on dozens of important issues and instead we get this.

All's fair in love, war, and politics, so why all the fuss? This is penny ante, isn't it, compared to sending a plane load of Republican operatives to Florida to riot and halt the counting of votes with hanging chads in the 2000 presidential election, and nobody ever suffered for that caper. Republicans are entitled to get away with anything.  Ethics is for little people and losers. Hahahaha.

UPDATE: 1 PM Tuesday 27 October
In a noon telephone interview, Camron Gorguinpour, campaign manager for Democrat John Lesinski, said that they had had no response to their call for Delegate Todd Gilbert to apologize and reveal how he came by an advance copy of the Lesinski mailer. The point, Gorguinpour said, is that, even if Gilbert is as innocent as he claims in how he acquired the document ("from a supporter"), it was still unethical to use the photo of the mailer on his Facebook page, and the question still remains: where and how did the leak occur? Given the fact that the Lesinski office consists of just two people, the candidate (Lesinski) and the campaign manager (Gorguinpour) the leak could not have come from a mole in the campaign.  

The mail house is in Harrisonburg, and received two Lesinski mailers, including the subject one, Wednesday and Thursday for labelling and distribution at the end of the week on two successive days.  Since the document was at the mail house for two days, it is likely the leak was in the mail house itself, but there is still a remote possibility the thief was in the post office. A smug Mr. Gilbert continues to try to treat the episode as big joke on Lesinski, attempting to divert attention from the content of the mailer.

Todd Gilbert, a graduate of the University of Virginia and a former prosecutor, was elected in 1996, shortly after receiving his law degree from Southern Methodist University Law School. His Committee assignments include Agriculture, Chesapeake Bay and Natural Resources, Finance, Militia and Police, and Public Safety.  John Lesinski, a retired Marine colonel, owns a real estate company, The Leland Group.  

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Get a screen shot
It's still up on his facebook page

Look it up
 yourself at:
Inasmuch as Mr. Gilbert is displaying stolen merchandise I will not repeat his misstep.

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