Conservative western bloggers: Ukraine strongman's pay-for-play useful idiots

With all the discussion of whether the #Euromaidan protesters are acting on their own behalf or because they've been put up to it by foreign agents, it's worth revisiting an important story from last July. Buzzfeed reported on how the current ruling Ukrainian political party used fronts to pay bribes to American conservative bloggers who posted talking points about its campaign in a hotly contested election

An anonymous whistleblower has revealed that he was paid $500 to post favorable material about the Party of Regions -- the dictatorial Ukrainian ruling party -- during the last election. The payment was allegedly provided by "libertarian media strategist" George Scoville, through a laundering process that allowed the whisteblower and others to conduct their work without registering as foreign agents in DC.

Talking points -- some repeated verbatim -- from the Scoville memos appeared on RedState, Breitbart, and Pajamas Media. Scoville and the writers involved would not confirm or deny that money was changed hands for posts intended to influence the Ukrainian elections.

The writers involved characterize Scoville's memos to them as merely informational, part of the usual mix of material they receive from many sources. I receive a lot of this material, and post some of it -- for example, I have a post scheduled today from the ACLU -- but I always disclose the source of this material, always identify quotes when I use them and do not pass them off as my own words, and I never, ever, ever accept payment for editorial suggestions.

One of the writers who participated in the campaign, who spoke on the condition of anonymity and because of lingering qualms about the arrangement, they said, described being offered $500 for a blog post praising Ukraine’s ruling Party of Regions. The payment was arranged by George Scoville, a libertarian media strategist, and Scoville’s name was on the check, the source said.

An email from October 26, 2012 shows Scoville inviting writers to join a conference with Mikhail Okhendovskyy of Ukraine’s Central Election Commission. The call was organized by the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, a Brussels-based group headed by Leonid Khazara, a former senior member of parliament from the pro-Russian Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. According to its website, it is a “a unique ‘Modern Ukraine’ organisation based in Brussels and operating internationally as an advocate for enhancing EU-Ukraine relations.”

In practical terms, the ECFMU exists to promote Yanukovych and the party — but its nominal independence means that its representatives in Washington do not need to register as foreign agents and make the extensive disclosures required under that program. Instead, the only evidence of its activity comes in the far more relaxed domestic lobbying disclosure law, which shows that the Brussels-based group employs two well-connected Washington lobbying firms, The Podesta Group and Mercury/Clark and Weinstock.

Exclusive: How Ukraine Wooed Conservative Websites [Rosie Gray/Buzzfeed]

(via Wil Wheaton)