It all started with a tweet. Yesterday Glen Greenwald retweeted
a comment made about a reporter
dying while covering the war in Afghanistan. The original twitterer was tied to a PAC that supports President Obama. Glen Greenwald (and later David Sirota) - never missing a chance to take a cheap shot at the president - included "pro-Obama PAC" in their tweets, to somehow insinuate that this was related to him. At the very least, this is what you get from Obama's financial supporters, right? What they DIDN'T
do was scratch beneath the surface to find out anything at all about this person and the PAC he represents.
So - we did.
Engaging the type of investigative "journalism" that used
to be Greenwald's stock-in-trade, we started digging. What we found was an interesting example of just how messed up our political campaign system is. We started with the PAC's site
. It's a mess. In the description, it refers to "us" private citizens, and says it is focusing on LGBT issues. On the About Us
page, I noticed a couple curious things. There's the "SPQR" logo superimposed on what looks like a Yugoslavian flag (or a sideways French flag). There's also the "Featured Products" with the prices in Euros. Finally, there's also a site prominently linked on the PAC site called "TeamObama2012.com". Well THAT certainly looks official, but the two sites look VERY similar, so it seemed obvious to me they were from the same person or group.
I was curious what "SPQR" meant, so I googled it. The first hit was the Wiki
, which says it is a common abbreviation for a latin phrase meaing "The Senate and People of Rome". THAT got my curiousity up. The logo shown there:
also matched exactly the logo on the red, white, & blue image on the PAC website:
So why the fascination with Rome? I did a DNS check on both websites to see who they were registered to. It turns out the "TeamObama2012.com" site is registered to
a "Lee Andrew" who lives in Lugano Switzerland, just a few miles from the Italian border. The SPQR site is registered to the PAC in Lyon, France
. Say What? How can someone in France register a PAC?
So - taking a look at the official PAC documents
, it seems the PAC is registered to a "Lee Giabenelli-Cavitt II" in Petersbutg, VA. The PAC is also on shakey ground, as the FEC has sent them a letter asking for more information on their campaign finances. It was interesting that this person was named "Lee" as well.
Going back to the two websites and digging a little deeper we find that Lee Andrews is described
as a disabled vet, and former Republican. On the SPQR site, they are selling T-shirts
created by "American artist Lee Andrews", "independently produced by his non-profit human and gay rights association registered in Europe.
So who is this Lee Andrews? Who is Lee Giabenelli-Cavitt II? I did a Google, and came up with this
. One more click, and I had my answer: Lee Andrews and Lee Giabenelli-Cavitt II are the same person
So what about that address in Petersburg, VA where the PAC is registered? Here's an image of the Google street view:
I am not sure what is in that building. It sure isn't Lee Giabenelli-Cavitt II, because he is Lee Andrews, living in Switzerland, and selling T-shirts that he designed for his "PAC". Is this just a money making scam? Probably. What else has he done, I wondered? IMDB tells us: he made a movie about himself
, and oddly included Levi Johnston in the name (no, he is not in the movie):
"Levi Johnston: Don t Move!" is an avant garde cutting edge documentary set against the backdrops of many European cities. The film follows a one decade journey from 2001 until 2010 of Lee Andrew an American national as he travels throughout Europe and North Africa capturing images of male subjects from all walks of life - firemen, rugby players, aspiring models but mostly guys next door types.
So what do we make of all this? We have self-promoting "artist" living in Europe who makes "documentaries" about his own life, and sells t-shirts he created through a PAC ostensibly supporting Obama, that's registered to an obvious shell address in podunk VA. To me - the guy seems like a scheister. I don't know how legal the PAC even is.
One thing is for certain - it is not tied to Obama or any other Obama supporter here in the U.S. in any way except name only. Perhaps the pros like Greenwald could've figured this out, had they taken 10 minutes to dig a little, instead of taking the opportunity to vent their hatred of the president and slam him by association with this sham site.