By: E&P Staff and The Associated Press
The mystery creator of the Orwellian YouTube ad against Hillary Rodham Clinton is a Democratic operative who worked for a digital consulting firm with ties to rival Sen. Barack Obama. Philip de Vellis, a strategist with Blue State Digital, acknowledged in an interview with The Associated Press that he was the creator of the video, which portrayed Clinton as a Big Brother figure and urged support for Obama’s presidential campaign.
De Vellis said he resigned from the firm on Wednesday after he learned that he was about to be unmasked by the HuffingtonPost.com., a liberal news and opinion Internet site.
“Hi. I’m Phil. I did it. And I’m proud of it,” he quickly wrote on his own (new) blog at Huffington Post.
“I made the ‘Vote Different’ ad because I wanted to express my feelings about the Democratic primary, and because I wanted to show that an individual citizen can affect the process. There are thousands of other people who could have made this ad, and I guarantee that more ads like it–by people of all political persuasions–will follow.”
Blue State designed Obama’s Web site and one of the firm’s founding members, Joe Rospars, took a leave from the company to work as Obama’s director of new media.
“It’s true … yeah, it’s me,” de Vellis said Wednesday evening.
He said he produced the ad outside of work and that neither Blue State nor the Obama campaign was aware of his role in the ad.
“But it raises some eyebrows, so I thought it best that I resign and not put them in that position.”
In a statement released Wednesday evening, the Obama campaign said:
“The Obama campaign and its employees had no knowledge and had nothing to do with the creation of the ad. We were notified this evening by a vendor of ours, Blue State Digital, that an employee of the company had been involved in the making of this ad. Blue State Digital has separated ties with this individual and we have been assured he did no work on our campaign’s account.”
The Clinton campaign had no immediate comment.
The connection to the Obama camp, however, poses a public relations problem for the campaign. Obama has argued that he is a different type of presidential candidate who rejects negative politics.
The ad was guerrilla politics at its cleverest and had become the boffo hit of the YouTube Web site.
The 74-second clip, a copy of a 1984 Apple ad for its Macintosh computer, has recorded nearly 1.5 million views, with an enormous surge in the past two days. The video’s final image reads “BarackObama.com.”
De Vellis remained hidden for weeks, protected by the anonymity afforded by YouTube and the absence of federal regulations governing most Internet political speech.
The ad portrayed Clinton on a huge television screen addressing robotic humans in a stark, futuristic hall. A female athlete tosses a hammer at the screen, destroying Clinton’s image with an explosive flash. Then this text: “On January 14th the Democratic primary will begin. And you will see why 2008 isn’t going to be like ‘1984.’”
De Vellis said he used footage of an updated Apple ad that portrayed the female athlete wearing an iPod. He said he used standard Apple equipment to modify the video and edit Clinton’s image into the clip.
Obama, appearing on CNN’s “Larry King Live” Monday night, said his campaign knew nothing about the origins of the anti-Clinton ad.
“Frankly, given what it looks like, we don’t have the technical capacity to create something like this,” he said. “It’s pretty extraordinary.”
DeVellis concludes his Huffington Post posting, “Let me be clear: I am a proud Democrat, and I always have been. I support Senator Obama. I hope he wins the primary. (I recognize that this ad is not his style of politics.) I also believe that Senator Clinton is a great public servant, and if she should win the nomination, I would support her and wish her all the best.
“I’ve resigned from my employer, Blue State Digital, an internet company that provides technology to several presidential campaigns, including Richardson’s, Vilsack’s, and — full disclosure — Obama’s. The company had no idea that I’d created the ad, and neither did any of our clients. But I’ve decided to resign anyway so as not to harm them, even by implication.
“This ad was not the first citizen ad, and it will not be the last. The game has changed.”