By Ray Stern
Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and two of his employees wrote anonymous Internet articles slamming Thomas' running mate, Tim Nelson, a study commissioned by Nelson shows.
The study (accessible by a link in an East Valley Tribune article today) states that writings by Thomas and two of his underlings, Barnett Lotstein and Rachel Alexander, are very similar to authored articles on an anti-Nelson blog site.
The charge by Nelson's camp isn't that surprising, considering that Thomas apparently spends many a sleepless night futzing around with his Wikipedia page, as my colleague Sarah Fenske reported earlier this year.
Nelson's campaign outsourced the study to Michael Farringdon of the United Kingdom, who now may be an official "volunteer" for the campaign because he apparently did the work for free.
In the Trib's article, Lotstein denies he's ever written for the blog site, calling the study "voodoo science."
Professor James McKusick, dean of the University of Montana's Davidson Honors College used stylometry to show that the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge probably wrote a translation of the German tale, Faust. In the wrong hands, McKusick says, "it's possible to cook the results if you wanted to do something quick and dirty" with stylometric analysis."
However, the science can also be considered reliable when done right, he says. McKusick took a look at Farringdon's report at my request, but says he's not very familiar with the specific type of analysis used, called "cumulative sum stylometry," and thus couldn't give his opinion of the conclusions.
Other stylometric techniques have been broadly accepted by academia. When the concept was applied to the famed Federalist Papers in the 1960s, experts found that James Madison had likely written 12 of the essays. Those results are still considered valid, McKusick says.
Readers with too much time on their hands can even try replicating Farringdon's results with non-user-friendly stylometry software found on the Internet called Signature.
Even without the help of an obscure science, it's no stretch to imagine Thomas and crew blogging anonymously to help the campaign. This kind of thing probably happens all of the time these days -- heck, one article on the anti-Nelson site accuses Nelson of doing the same kind of covert blogging:
ACLU Tim posting comments under fake names on newspaper web sites
THE LIE: ACLU Tim has been posting comments on newspaper websites pretending to be someone else, talking about himself in the third person. His comments are easy to spot because he always says the same things: "Fire Andy Thomas!" "That's why I'm voting for Tim Nelson!" He uses lots of exclamation points. Here is a classic example - Nelson posted the first 8 comments using the names "RobertGL," "conservativo," "WTF?", "AJ," "acer," "Nelson," DannyDem," and "Pluto." He always posts the first comments after each article (even during work hours when he's supposed to be working at Osborn Maledon), so he must be getting google news alerts to notify him when they're first released. Posting as "conservativo" he claims to be a conservative - an obvious lie.
THE TRUTH: Tim Nelson is pretending to be someone else to the voters to convince them to vote for him. Is he that bad of a candidate that he can't even find anyone to stump for him except himself pretending to be someone else? Do we want someone for county attorney who posts comments on public newspaper websites pretending to be someone else urging voters to vote for himself? Someone that sneaky should not be elected to an office dedicated to upholding the law.
According to Farringdon's study, the anonymous author of the above article is probably one of Thomas' aides, Rachel Alexander.