Ali Akbar, a right-wing new media strategist, is causing some serious problems for the Romney campaign’s new Social Media Director, Bill Murphy.
AliAkbar and DougHoffman
If anything can be said about Akbar, it’s that he’s made some enemies. In the past five years he’s been convicted for felony theft and credit card fraud, and accused of attempted voter fraud, straight-up fraud, and stealing from Tea Partiers. He’s even been identified as “the new boy wonder and lover of Karl Rove”. He humbly describes himself as one of the most-read political bloggers on MySpace and one of the original Tea Party coordinators, and claims his work “has been seen on every major network and publication.” On his Pinterest profile he identifies himself as a “Woman-helping man” – because apparently you need his help, ladies.
Murphy and Akbar have worked hand in hand since at least 2009, when they were among those behind the creation of the American Liberty Alliance. ALA collected funds throughout the summer of 2009 under the guise of being non-profit-esque, repeatedly saying they were in the application process for 501(c)3 status. Meanwhile ALA is registered as a for-profit corporation.
For some reason Murphy has left his role as Director of Strategic Initiatives for American Liberty Alliance off of his resume.
Later Murphy and Akbar worked together at Vice and Victory, Akbar’s digital media strategy firm, and at the National Bloggers Club, a group that claims 501(c)3 status and yet somehow is not registered as one. In February they put on an event at CPAC called BlogBash. Murphy was listed as the Coordinator and Akbar was a Host/Organizer. They even gave a “Changing the Narrative” award to Andrew Breitbart.
Before his rise to relative prominence, Akbar first burst onto the scene in Texas as a dynamic young convict, having been found guilty of felony theft, burglary and credit card fraud. This became a matter of interest in December of 2007 when Akbar was accused by his colleague Joey Duerben of attempted voter fraud, which seemed newsworthy after Akbar was erroneously identified as a member of the McCain campaign. “McCain Staffer Attempts Voter Fraud” and all that. In fact he was just among the authors of Bloggers for McCain, a site un(officially)affiliated with the campaign. At the time Akbar wailed on his internet radio show that Deuben was attempting to discredit him with false accusations. In what I’m sure is an unrelated coincidence, last December Deuben was accused of child molestation and arrested.
Akbar was also drawn into a controversy involving a crooked county sheriff, Michael Meissner, after it became public knowledge that Meissner had enlisted Akbar to help scrub online records of his skullduggerous activities.
From November of 2007 through August 2008 Akbar worked as the E-Campaign Manager for the Ray McKinney for Congress campaign. In September of that year he started Republic Modern, a new media firm that designed the website of the American Liberty Alliance as well as that of its precursor, the Sam Adams Alliance. RM’s portfolio, no longer available online, included: #dontgo, Hip Hop Republican, McCain Now, PatTippett.com, Princella Smith, RayMcKinney.org, TalkStraight, The Super Majority and Vote Bitter. Currently, any links to Republic Modern will take you to the Vice and Victory landing page.
In early 2009 Akbar became involved in the formation of the online new media campaign to support and/or co-opt the Tea Party Movement, probably because of his connections to Sam Adams Alliance and #dontgo. Eric Odom, founder of American Liberty Alliance, not only started #dontgo, but was also SAA’s new media guy around the time Akbar was designing SAA’s website. Though initially listed merely as ALA’s Technology Consultant – albeit one cited as particularly integral to its creation – Akbar currently claims to be Chairman of the Board, despite having apparently left the organization in November of 2010 – presumably to start Vice and Victory with Bill Murphy.
Earlier this year Akbar and Murphy started a group called the National Bloggers Club. They were supported by seed money from Foster Friess, the billionaire who propped up Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign and earned notoriety for suggesting that women use aspirin as birth control – by placing a pill between their knees. You haven’t lived unless you’ve seen Alex Wagner’s reaction to that comment on the February 16 episode of The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell. Initially the National Bloggers Club claimed to be a 501(c)3 non-profit. However, investigations by the bloggers Breitbart Unmasked and the Liberal Grouch, a.k.a. Bill Schmalfeldt, have revealed that in fact National Bloggers Club is a for-profit enterprise.
I’ll leave you with perhaps the most intriguing detail of this ever-developing story. In June, Schmalfeldt used a photo of Akbar holding a wad of cash in each fist and wearing an Obama mask to sell items on the Liberal Grouch’s Zazzle page. The next day, Zazzle emailed to inform him that the item had been taken down for violating intellectual property rights. Although now they claim they made a mistake (or at least that there was a ‘miscommunication’), when Schmalfeldt initially asked whose rights he was infringing upon, Zazzle responded, “Specifically, your product infringes upon the intellectual property rights of Karl Rove.”
Alex BZ is a researcher, a journalist and a public affairs graduate student at the University of San Francisco. His work has appeared in the Times of London,TIME Magazine, the Democratic Daily, The Association of Alternative Newsweeklies,OC Weekly and SF Weekly. Currently he is the Chief Research and New Media Officer for Spend Consciously. He likes Haagen-Dazs and justice. A slightly different version appears at Huffington Post.