Revelations about right-wing disinformation boss Jake Hoffman's election ratfuckery have spurred a last-ditch effort to stop him from ascending to the Arizona legislature.
Hoffman, a Queen Creek council member and Republican House candidate for Legislative District 12, drew national attention last month when the Washington Post reported on a disinformation cell of local teens his digital marketing company, Rally Forge, had organized. The teens posted identical messages that asserted COVID-19 is overhyped and generally attempted to undermine confidence in the validity of American elections — all in support of President Donald Trump.
Experts quoted by the Post compared the local effort to those Russian troll farms conducted in support of Trump leading up to the 2016 election.
“In this election, the troll farm is in Phoenix,” Graham Brookie, director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, told the Post.
Facebook eventually removed 200 accounts, 55 pages, and 76 Instagram accounts associated with Rally Forge, and Twitter permanently suspended Hoffman's personal account.
The field director for Turning Point Action, the Turning Point USA entity directly managing the effort, defended the program to the Post as a summer program for teens to engage politically during COVID-19; Hoffman compared the teens' messages to a phonebanking script. Hoffman did not respond to voicemails left at the number on his candidate registration by Phoenix New Times.
However, an analysis by Stanford University's Internet Observatory found that Rally Forge has operated several dozen completely fake Facebook and Twitter accounts dating back to 2016, including those with computer-generated profile pictures, in support of campaigns on behalf of Turning Point USA and a pro-hunting organization.
Despite the disturbing nature of the allegations connected to Hoffman, as New Times reported, with two open seats in Legislative District 12 and the Democratic party not running a candidate, he's set to sail into the Arizona House of Representatives.
This seemed wrong to Kristin Clark, a government-administrator-turned-full-time-mom-of-two who has lived in Gilbert since 2015. After reading New Times' article, she spoke with some other outraged legislative-district locals and decided to mount a write-in campaign.
"It's all crazy," she told New Times of the disinformation campaigns linked to Hoffman, while dropping off her kid at preschool.
Clark acknowledges her campaign is a long shot. For one, she only started running in September and has only raised a total of $3,000 to Hoffman's $129,000.
Hoffman has received $2,800 from a conservative Wyoming millionaire. Another $71,000 is money he has loaned his own campaign.
Clark worked for Maricopa County for over a decade, writing and managing budgets and preparing finance reports. She says she's also running against Hoffman's "anti-government" stance, as she believes there needs to be a strong counterbalance on markets. How this will play out with voters is another question, but Clark said she's been surprised by the support she has gotten from people of all parties.
"I feel like I've become a repository of Jake Hoffman stories while out campaigning," she said. "There is definitely a hunger in the community to have an option other than Jake Hoffman."
Clark has one other advantage in the campaign: she can still use Facebook.
Read the full Stanford report here.
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