Conservative Party 'Cash Gordon' campaign was designed by US anti-healthcare lobbyists

On the day the US Congress passed legislation providing health coverage to 32 million Americans without insurance, Political Scrapbook can reveal the Conservatives’ Cash Gordon campaign was developed by an anti-healthcare lobbyist described as “Karl Rove 2.0″.

Writing on the Blue Blog yesterday, the affable Sam Coates claimed that Conservatives’ campaign site against Labour/Unite links was “built in just a few days”. What he doesn’t tell you is that the system has been purchased off-the-shelf from Republican strategists David All Group and was originally developed to galvanise opposition to Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms.

Cash Gordon is based on Operation Waiting Game, which leverages social media against reforms which, it is claimed, “will have the same devastating effects in the United States as it has in Canada and in nations across Europe: longer wait times and lower quality care”.

In an embarrassment for CCHQ, the party’s flagship campaign is currently hosted alongside those attempting to “rescue America from government-run health care”, including NotSoSure.org and Hands Off.  Another site rails against homosexuals in the armed forces, stating the military “should not be used as a tool to advance the goals of gay activist groups”.

One wonders what the “few days” spent creating Cash Gordon were used for. As the graphic below shows (click to enlarge), the much vaunted site is almost identical to NoEnergyTax.com. The initiative from the right-wing Heritage Foundation aims to scupper carbon trading legislation designed to combat climate change. Funders of the foundation include a host of corporate special interests such as oil giants Chevron Texaco and Exxon Mobil.

"Cash Gordon" and "No Energy Tax" campaigns compared

Spot the difference: "Cash Gordon" and "No Energy Tax" campaigns compared

Contrived to herd visitors through a linear series of actions, Cash Gordon rewards users with a system redolent of primary school merit points. Once you’ve read Michael Gove’s bonkers “new militant tendency” speech (described by the FT as “lazy politics”) you receive a gold sticker – oh sorry –  25 points. Helping to bombard Charlie Whelan with hectoring tweets (straight out of the #kerryout playbook) gets you 20 points.

But perhaps the biggest indictment of the campaign is the level of engagement achieved in relation to its cost. With a $15,000 pricetag, the act.ivi.st web platform makes Cash Gordon the most expensive few web pages in UK politics – and it gets worse. At the time of writing, links to cash-gordon.com have been tweeted 241 times. That’s a shocking £41 per tweet. Even widening the net to every single mention of #cashgordon by the general public brings this down to a bargain basement price of, erm, £15.50.

Attacking Labour’s union links: £15 per tweet.
Recycling an anti-healthcare web platform: priceless!

Many thanks: to Steve Hanlon for his invaluable help.

39 Comments

  1. Posted March 22, 2010 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    This is not a big deal. The service provider is: http://act.ivi.st/

    If you berate X for using http://act.ivi.st/ just because Y does, then you should berate everyone who uses WordPress.com/blogger.com/blogspot.com just because Y does.

    They’re *exactly the same sort of thing*.

  2. fitaloon
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    So let me see the VW bug was designed for Adolf Hitler so everyone who drove or drives a bug is an Adolf Hilter supporter, mass-murderer and jew hater. Got the logic, what a real scoop.

  3. Samuel Coates
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    This post sounds scandalous, but it’s not. Your logic is that people should only use web platforms that are only shared by those you agree with. So presumably you’ll be moving off WordPress then?

    Developers build website platforms, not lobbyists. As far as I can see this particular award-winning platform has had nothing to do with healthcare issues?

    On cost, obviously don’t know what was paid so your speculation is pointless. You’re also for some reason measuring this Facebook campaign’s (so far considerable) success solely by the number of tweets linking to it.

  4. Posted March 22, 2010 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    STOP THE PRESS

    ‘LEFT-WING BRITISH POLITICAL BLOG’ WAS DESIGNED BY BNP LOBBYISTS’ http://bit.ly/9t6BXQ

  5. Posted March 22, 2010 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    (Yes, I am aware that the website was in fact that of the BNP and not a lobbying group, but you see my point made with tongue firmly in cheek, I hope).

  6. Posted March 22, 2010 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Seems to be the time for left-wing blogs to do silly process stories – first Will Straw trying to make a story out of video Chris Grayling supporting Conservative party policy, now you’re getting wound up because the Conservative party uses an off the shelf platform.

    We can’t all be powered by Tangent Labs (thank god).

  7. Posted March 22, 2010 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    The arguments about platform (“yeah, but the BNP use WordPress”) would stand up if it weren’t for the fact that the both the tech and political sides are done in-house at David All Group. It’s a political communications consultancy and act.ivi.st is their proprietary platform. Every single one of their staff (bar one) is listed as a Republican operative:
    http://www.davidallgroup.com/about

    Last time I checked, WordPress creator Matt Mullenweg wasn’t being paid to scupper Obama’s legislative programme.

    On cost: TechPresident reports that: “Act.ivi.st microsites come at $15,000 a pop, All says. The way they’re designed, each site is really only useful for one issue, so you’d need to buy a new one for each policy push.”
    http://techpresident.com/blog-entry/springtime-republican-political-technology

    If the Tories paid something else then perhaps they’d care to enlighten us? Over to you @SamuelCoates

  8. Samuel Coates
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    I’m still missing the story here – we’ve invested in an award-winning Facebook Connect app, nothing else. Where have we endorsed others who have used it?

    Essentially, the left-wing Twittersphere was stone silent all weekend because we launched a truly innovative online campaign – and now to their delight they’ve found a way to spuriously link it to evil American lobbyists. It’s pretty pathetic.

  9. Posted March 22, 2010 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    >> political sides are both done in-house at David All Group
    Are you suggesting, then, that the Conservatives paid act.ivi.st not just for the platform, but also for the idea?

    >> can’t get away from the fact that they’re a political communications consultancy
    Are you also suggesting that the group (republican or not) are actively campaigning on behalf of the Conservatives in the UK?

    >> WordPress creator Matt Mullenweg wasn’t being paid to scupper Obama’s legislative programme
    If he was, would you still be using WordPress?

    It is clear that act.ivi.st is just a platform, whoever the group behind the service is. We could go looking at the political backgrounds of plenty of platform developers, and find eventually similarly tedious links between anyone and everyone.

    The fact is that this is a non-story, and has been worded to scaremonger.

    It is disappointing to see coming from the psbook.

  10. Tom FD
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    OMG the centre-right politicians in Britain have connections with people on the centre-right in America! They might even have differing opinions about important political issues!!! It’s a shocking scandal!!!!!!!!!!

  11. Posted March 22, 2010 at 11:27 am | Permalink
  12. VicSingh
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Evil attracts evil and the end of the day.

    It reveals a deeo seated hatred by Tories for the NHS and any other bodies that may be set up for the betterment of ordinary people (including Unions).

    Nothing new, same old scummy Tories.

  13. Posted March 22, 2010 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Tory Bear, Tom FD, Samuel Coates – your argument is completely facetious. The David All Group are a small conservative consultancy with a staff associated with the worst aspects of American Republicanism. It’s completely different from using widely available applications or software such as Facebook or WordPress.

  14. Posted March 22, 2010 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    Some of the dodgy front groups they have in the states make the Tax Payers Alliance or Migration Watch look like the boy scouts – This guy is far from alone: http://www.bermanexposed.org/

    The language around this stuff is the scariest – trying to mobilise concerned people and sucker them into supporting vested interests against themselves, be they tobacco, oil, drink, insurance, unionbusters or whatever. A serious lack of respect for the people they recruit to follow them.

    It’s certainly true you can use a system, or even hire a consultant, from nasty campaigns without meaning you’re nasty yourself, but you think the Tories would rather not have even the slightest association to some of these groups if they could avoid it.

    If these are the kind of go-to people the new Tories are happy to use for campaigning, I’d be worried that some of the other less savoury part of US lobbying/web campaigning are coming our way too.

  15. Charles A-S
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Excellent stuff, promoting the Cash Gordon site further with a petty meaningless story.

    Priceless!

  16. Tom
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    I really don’t see what the big deal is. If I wanted to make an astroturfing online campaign that pretends to defend ordinary people while actually sucking up to big business and doing everything possible to weaken the position of the man on the street, I’d go to people with a track record of doing that too.

  17. Posted March 22, 2010 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    This is a brilliant scoop from psbook. The co-ordinated reponse of the so-called “independent, free-minded” Tory blogosphere is testament to how rattled they are.

    Anyway, here’s a reminder of how some of those who oppose healthcare reform behave, from today’s Guardian – http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/mar/22/us-healthcare-bill-passes-congress -

    “Some directed racist and other derogatory remarks at African-American members of Congress, including John Lewis, one of the veterans of the 1960s civil rights movement. One congressman was spat on.

    “Another protester shouted “faggot” at Democratic congressman Barney Frank.”

    We should remember whose side certain Euro-sceptic NHS-hating Tories are on in all this. Nice, new party? No f***ing chance!

  18. Posted March 22, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Saying that David All Group is the same as WordPress and Facebook is ridiculous. There is a huge difference between a platform which can be used by everyone and a platform which is designed by political partisans and is used by political partisans from the same side of the trenches.

  19. softmutt
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Sorry dude…Your reasoning don’t stand up to scrutiny. Can’t see why it should make a difference. It’s an off the shelf web site. Big deal.

  20. Mark Hanson
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Sam, this idea that a flood of negative #cashgordon comments on the site is good is an interesting point. I guess there’s no such thing as bad publicity….

  21. Posted March 22, 2010 at 12:32 pm | Permalink
  22. Conor
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    Excellent story PS, this really does matter. The Tories’ defence that “it’s the same as using WordPress” is ridiculous – WordPress isn’t an inherently political organisation.

    Although they’re right about the free promotion. I, for one, would never have looked at the site had PS not mentioned it.

  23. Posted March 22, 2010 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    It seems to me that the substantive question is whether act.ivi.st is available to political campaigns that David All doesn’t agree with.

    If it’s available to anyone who pays, then it really doesn’t matter. If it’s available to the Tories because David All likes the Tories, then that’s effectively a case where David All is supporting the Tories. That then makes the question meaningful – ie, “If David All supports the Tories, what does that say about the Tories?”.

  24. Roy Bohan
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    Doing a bit of lunchtime surfing on the three unwise MP’s and their attempts to make more cash, and I found this complete and utter non-story. Whether you think cash gordon is wrong or right, you have to think whether it got/is getting decent press coverage.

    Given how long til the election, that is all that matters. Left wingers slagging off right wingers a week later in a blog means nothing. Given what is rumoured to be announced (with a nice new anti-Gordon/Unit/Whelan website) and launched this Thursday you will be more than busy blogging for the next few weeks.

  25. Sunder Katwala
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Kudos to Tom’s comment earlier@12.18pm

    “I really don’t see what the big deal is. If I wanted to make an astroturfing online campaign that pretends to defend ordinary people while actually sucking up to big business and doing everything possible to weaken the position of the man on the street, I’d go to people with a track record of doing that too”.

    Doesn’t that nail it?

    ***

    By the way, “David All is the internet and he believes you are too”
    http://davidallgroup.com/about

  26. Posted March 22, 2010 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    From Twitter: @psbook: Perhaps someone should teach @dizzy_thinks the difference between shared hosting and a dedicated server?

    Hmm let’s see, dedicated hosting, a dedicated single webserver, most likely Apache, serving pages for only one single website under one single domain. Shared hosting, a single webserver configured using the VirtualHost element to serve pages for multiple websites under multiple domains. Cash Gordon website? That’ll be a VirtualHost on a shared webserver.

    If you’d like to read a manual on it I suggest looking here: http://httpd.apache.org/docs/1.3/vhosts/

    Word of advice mate, don’t try to tell me how my chosen profession as a Sysadmin managing multiple domains across multiple webservers in multiple countries is done. I’ll make you look like a complete tit.

  27. Triffid
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    You really might want to read Dizzy’s article … do I hear the words “Ooops” ?

    Embarrassing. Just embarrassing.

  28. Posted March 22, 2010 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    What Tom said.

    TomFD’s remarks rather give the game away – these people are not “the centre right”, they are far right extremist wingnuts. Most people who have a look at the “work” of this organisation find it repellent and disgusting, the Tories find it fascinating, useful and worth investing in.

  29. Posted March 22, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Did they really spend $15,000 on a site that can be brought down by a piece of Javascript in a tweet?

  30. Tom FD
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    They might be extreme from the UK’s point of view but actually on the centre-right of the US political spectrum. Obamacare is the issue the Republicans are fighting their campaigns on because it is clearly something a large section of the US population is deeply concerned about – even the bill’s supporters readily concede it is deeply flawed. The Conservatives in the UK are fighting campaigns on distinct issues of their own that relate to this country’s political climate – such as Labour being in the pocket of the same union attempting to ground air traffic to a halt this weekend, for example.

    Is it accurate to call someone “extreme” because they want the law to stay the same as it has been for years and years?

  31. Chris Keating
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Well, it’s gone now. Wonder if it will be making a return! I wasn’t too sold on the underlying concept in any case… bit.ly/9S6JqM

  32. Simon
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_Misuse_Act_1990 – “unauthorised modification of computer material” is an offence. By injecting code maliciously it is likely you are in breech of this Act.

    Furthermore, I also imagine it will be against the Twitter terms and conditions. According to http://twitter.com/tos you should not

    “use the Services to send altered, deceptive or false source-identifying information; or (v) interfere with, or disrupt, (or attempt to do so), the access of any user, host or network, including, without limitation, sending a virus, overloading, flooding, spamming, mail-bombing the Services, or by scripting the creation of Content in such a manner as to interfere with or create an undue burden on the Services.”

    As the Twitter embed on the Cash-Gordon website was a legitimate use of the Twitter service, those doing code injection can be considered to be in breech of these terms.

    So well done everyone who’s responsible for this recent Javascript injection. Hope you’re proud of yourselves.

  33. Posted March 22, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    The stench of desperation around this article is rancid. I can understand that any pathetic ploy to steer people away from the filthy revelations of Byers, Hewiit and Hoon seems attractive, but this is just pitiful.

  34. Josephine
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    OOH! Lets cause a non stink, anything to keep eyes off what;s really happening in Labour – Byers, Hewitt, Hoon also Whelan and his Unite pals – and do we really want a gov’t that is more than 50% funded by Unions? – that does not feel much like a true Democracy to me.
    Poor little boy red – get another real story…
    Josephine

  35. Josephine
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    oops! yet more typing errors from little old me. Sorry! It rather takes away the indignation felt …..

  36. blanco
    Posted March 23, 2010 at 1:39 am | Permalink

    Where are all the Toryscum now? Cash Gordon? More like David Spameron.

  37. titus aduxas
    Posted March 23, 2010 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    15000 quid for the website? That’s only 3 day’s of Steven Byer’s time.

    Seems slime and Labour are synonymous.

  38. Geoff S
    Posted March 23, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    So Weak ! (ask Ed Balls)

  39. Posted October 8, 2010 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    Conservative Party ‘Cash Gordon’ campaign was designed by US anti-healthcare lobbyists… I am confused as to the message of this post. Obviously the anti healthcare lobbyists were capitalist teenagers cashing in on Cash Gordon. Anyone can purchase web hosting at economical prices that includes website generation software that even granny can use. With just a few clicks of the mouse, before second tea, you can have a $15,000 dollar website online…with no additional cost, and ready for whatever use you wish. With the wise choice of templates, you can even make a site so intricate and detailed, that it will befuddle even the most sincere British Healthcare supporter. The animated Mickey Mouse characters keeps them amused for hours.
    –This from your friendly MOST CONSERVATIVE WEBSITE in America, AlabamaTeaParty.org

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