Conspiracy of the AstroTurfed Conservatives

Iowa: website leads to Iowa Gun Owners. That domain is registered by the same proxy LLC as reopeniowa, but was registered in 2007. Identical to Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin.

Maryland: Website lists no contact information or responsible group. Identical to New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, similar to Ohio.

Minnesota: website leads to Minnesota Gun Rights. That domain is registered to the same LLC as reopenmn, but was registered in 2013. Identical to Iowa, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin.

New Jersey: Website lists no contact information or responsible group. Identical to Maryland, North Carolina, Oklahoma, similar to Ohio.

North Carolina: Website lists no contact information or responsible group. Identical to Maryland, New Jersey, Oklahoma, similar to Ohio.

Ohio: Website lists no contact information or responsible group. Similar to Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, somewhat similar to Washington.

Oklahoma: Website lists no contact information or responsible group. Identical to Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, similar to Ohio.

Pennsylvania: website leads to Pennsylvania Firearms Association, registered to the same LLC as reopenpa, but was registered in 2019. Identical to Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin.

Washington: Website lists no contact information or responsible group. Similar to Ohio.

Wisconsin: Website leads to Wisconsin Firearms Coalition registered to the same LLC as reopenwi, but was registered in 2016. Identical to Iowa, Minnesota, Pennsylvania.

Conclusion: of 100 domains researched, 16 have active websites, including 1 Facebook group, and 6 quasi-legitimate looking domains.

There appear to be at least two campaigns here, one of which is definitely an astroturf. Iowa, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin are identical and likely all maintained by the same individual or group. Maryland, New Jersey, and North Carolina are identical and could be maintained by the same individual or group, but there isn’t any real data to support that. Ohio, Oklahoma, and Washington are outliers. They’re roughly similar to the previous group, but different enough that the domains may have been bought independently.

Conspiracy rating: 5/10 Comet Ping Pongs.

UPDATE: One of the domain squatters in Florida has now run his domains through the GoDaddy proxy service. Keep an eye on any websites that redirect from those domains, as he could have found buyers.

This isn’t any conspiracy, it’s just good old fashioned American business. There are indeed two campaigns:

PA, WI, OH, MN, IA – OCP’s branding is displayed proudly all over these sites, just look at the source and the stunningly obvious “contact your legislator” custom site widget. Seems to use uniform CMS. Ohio is not an outlier – they just altered their CMS presentation.

MD, NC, NJ – these were harder to ferret out, but they all use similar formats & different CMS They try to link directly to CHANGE.ORG, and up their “blog” when data can’t be autofilled. These “blogs” cross link with one-another. These sites seem to have a hard time dealing with privacy extensions, unlike OneClickPolitics.

  • Unknown data collection/provenance:

OK (OCOPA is a real but intensely partisan think tank, the reopenok site is, however, very new and looks to be aping the other sites instead of relying any CMS), WA (this is a true enigma – if someone really wanted their sites to be “grassroots” looking they would all look like they were designed by script kiddies that time-traveled from 1998). Hilariously, whatever software they are using in WA links directly to this reddit post as part of their “truth news feed” – so it’s not hand-curated.

I encourage you to read and examine the sites, mission statements, and services offered by One Click Politics, and UJOIN. They go out of their way to expound that they are masters at pretending to be grass-roots movements that can conjure up seemingly organic support at the drop of a check.

To quote OCP:

Are you launching a new coalition or association and need more members now? Want 10,000 signatures for your petition from residents of a certain state? Are you battling a legislative issue in a location where you don’t have enough advocates, who are constituents of the legislators you are attempting to influence? Or would you like to impress your boss by reporting a 15% growth in membership in less than 90 days? If your answer is yes, keep reading!

OneClick Acquisition is your solution for generating immediate legislative actions from new supporters within mere days. We deliver “on demand, organic supporters” through our proprietary digital ad placement technology.

So again, not a conspiracy – but definitely astroturfing. The real question though, isn’t who is doing this. It’s can they be definitively financially linked to these two professional astroturfing firms?

(probably not)

Both firms tout their ability to cycle news stories, facebook posts, twitter rampages, and texting so as to appear “grassroots” and not seem as if they are disseminating copy-pasted material.

And yes, there are many, many more professional astroturfing firms out there, willing to take whatever check comes across their desk in order to influence public opinion and legislation.

I suggest that if any of you want to stick it to OCP and UJOIN, take screenshots of their bogus sites, so that they’ll have to diversify their tactics in the future.

In conclusion, this isn’t something necessarily coming from ESLEWHERE. It’s a critical flaw in our political system. Private corporations can legally masquerade as normal citizens who are concerned about their “constitutional rights” being infringed upon by and you don’t know who wrote the check.

Here’s the thing: people on both sides of the aisle are going to be screwed by these so-called protests. People are going to die if this takes hold. This isn’t a right vs left thing. This is a normal people vs big-data-government-lobbyist thing. Even your racist uncle who may have gone to one of these protests may be hurt by this. It’s not you (if you disagree with him) vs him, or you vs his political views. It’s normal people vs THEM.

THEM isn’t your governor, or your representative or senator. THEM is whoever hired these ghouls. Also these ghouls themselves.

Wash your hands, wear a facemask, and P.S.:

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EDIT: I would be remiss if I did not take the time before logging out to mention that the states targeted by OCP – pennsylvania, wisconson, iowa, minnesota, and ohio are presidential election swing states. Make of that what you will.