Yesterday, ThinkProgress released an exclusive investigation into the underhanded and surreptitious campaign waged by a lobbying firm representing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, an well-heeled association representing big business. The report detailed how Hunton & Williams, a lobbying firm hired by the Chamber, solicited “private security” companies to investigate the Chamber’s political opponents, including ThinkProgress, the labor coalition Change to Win, SEIU, US Chamber Watch, and StopTheChamber.com. Their tactics included planting false documents, creating fake personas, and targeting opponents’ families and children.
In response, the Chamber of Commerce said these were “baseless attacks” because the Chamber had “never seen the document in question.” In addition, they mention that the security firm in question (presumably HBGary) had not been “hired” by the Chamber or on the Chamber’s behalf.
However, as Marcy Wheeler wrote, their response is a “carefully worded nondenial denial.” In reality, the reason why the Chamber can claim not to have “hired” HBGary is because until as recently as a week ago, the security firm was working on spec. As Wheeler pointed out, a February 3 email shows that Hunton & Williams simply got “HBGary to do a month of work for free to decide whether they want to hire them.”
In fact, the Chamber conveniently used Hunton & Williams as a go-between for the Chamber and private security firms including HBGary, as the following graphic shows:
On January 13, 2011, an email shows that the private security firms assumed the project was “a go.” However, an email on February 3 showed that Hunton & Williams wanted the firms to work on spec “and then present jointly with H&W to the Chamber” on or around February 14. Then, after their work was approved, the security firms planned to “begin enduring work at agreed upon rates (approx. $250-300k per month for the entire team – both services and license fees).”
It is not clear if that meeting will still happen after HBGary’s emails were leaked.