WASHINGTON – Leaked documents indicate that the US Chamber of Commerce hired a private firm to gather information about the families and children of its progressive political opponents.
E-mails circulated by Aaron Barr, the CEO of HBGary Federal, illuminate highly personal data about critics of the Chamber, including detailed information about their their spouses and children, as well as their locations and professional links.
The e-mails were acquired and published by ThinkProgress, shortly after the liberal blog revealed that the Chamber hired lobbying and security firms to map strategies to discredit progressive opponents.
One e-mail by Barr includes personal information, apparently obtained by HBGary, about Brad Friedman, co-founder of The Brad Blog and other projects that have reported on the Chamber's lobbying.
Friedman posted additional documents put forth by Team Themis -- which comprises HBGary and two other firms -- that were apparently prepared in collaboration with Chamber law firm Hunton & Williams. One PowerPoint slide includes information on Friedman's life partner, home address, children, and professional links.
"For now, the revelation of terror tools used so brazenly against political opponents in the private corporate sector is disturbing, to say the least," wrote Friedman on his blog. "While the notion of paid political operatives subversively using social media to discredit opponents has long been suspected by many, here we have evidence that these tactics are, in truth, fairly common among those who can afford to deploy them."
Critics noted that ThinkProgress may have redacted mention in Barr's emails of Brett Kimberlin, who is affiliated with the Friedman co-founded group Velvet Revolution, and has been implicated in domestic terrorist attacks.
Another e-mail by Barr offers information on Mike Gehrke, former staffer at Change to Win, which was also tagged as affiliated with groups that have criticized the Chamber.
Barr informed a Hunton & Williams employee in an email about Gehrke's wife, his children, and where they go to pray. He wrote that he "did a little bit of poking" to get the information.
The Chamber is a staunchly conservative lobbying group that represents some of the nation's wealthiest business interests. It is the largest lobbying spender in the nation by a considerable margin, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Barr's firm, HBGary, was recently revealed as one of the groups advising Bank of America on a plan to counterattack the anti-secrecy outlet WikiLeaks, which said it held data exposing corruption at the bank.
HBGary's website was recent hacked and defaced by online protest group 'Anonymous,' which dumped the CEO's emails onto bit-torrent networks for the public to see. An additional 27,000 HBGary emails were published Monday.