WASHINGTON -- White House hopeful Barack Obama told the Chicago Sun-Times his campaign had "no way of knowing" that the creator of the anti-Hillary Rodham Clinton YouTube ad worked for a campaign vendor and asserted that the ties were only "attenuated."
Clinton, asked by the Chicago Sun-Times on Thursday about the impact of the Internet spot and YouTube on the 2008 presidential race, said the campaign is in "new territory for everybody.''
"We are all trying to figure out what this new technology means not only to political campaigns but to how we do business, how we relate to one another, so there is going to be changes and challenges that none of us could have foreseen,'' she said.
Obama told the Sun-Times on Thursday that his campaign was not damaged by the revelation that the ad maker, Philip de Vellis, worked for Blue State Digital, the Washington firm whose co-founder, Joe Rospars, is on leave -- to work for the Obama campaign. Blue State holds a contract with the Obama campaign to provide technical Internet support and supply proprietary software. Though much is made that social networking tools such as YouTube "democratize" politics, the fact remains that in this case, de Vellis is a political professional.
Phone company analogy
Asked for his reaction to the links between his campaign and de Vellis, Obama said, "Yeah, very attenuated ties. ... Obviously, as I said before, we have no idea who this person was, we have no way of knowing who this person was. He doesn't work for us and my understanding is that the vendor had a policy of not doing this kind of stuff and as a consequence he has left."
Obama likened the situation to having "a phone contract with Verizon and an employee of a phone company does something that you know, we're not, we're not responsible for that."
de Vellis connection with Obama Senate press spokesman
The Obama campaign, however, will have to grapple with the reality that in the small world of Washington operatives, there are more ties than it probably would like. Before joining Blue State, de Vellis handled Internet chores in the campaign of Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).
'New sexy client'
Last year, Obama's Senate press secretary, Ben LaBolt, was the spokesman for the Brown campaign and roomed with de Vellis in an Ohio apartment. LaBolt only would echo the statement released by the Obama team: "The Obama campaign and its employees had no knowledge and had nothing to do with the creation of the ad."
De Vellis bragged about contributing to the official Obama Web site in a February e-mail: "I designed the MyBarackObama toolbox that is on the front page and all the sidebar pages." He even offered to take suggestions for improving the tools because he "can pass it along to the team."
Blue State Digital managing director Thomas Gensemer said de Vellis was writing about a software package, "MyBarackObama," that is part of its product line. "These are our assets," he said. He explained de Vellis' bragging as "we are a small company excited about having a new sexy client."