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Ad creator claimed role in Obama campaign

March 23, 2007|Dan Morain | Times Staff Writer

An e-mail surfaced Thursday that suggested the man who claimed credit for creating the "1984" video attacking Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton did work related to Sen. Barack Obama's campaign -- despite claims to the contrary by the Illinois Democrat's aides.

The anti-Clinton spot posted on YouTube attracted attention because of its quality, because of the mystery surrounding its creator, and because it was apparently the first such posting in a presidential campaign in which the Internet is sure to play an important role. There is no legal requirement that people who post such ads identify themselves.

Obama's campaign says it had no role in creating or posting the ad. But Wednesday, Democratic operative Philip de Vellis took credit for the ad. It turned out that he worked for Blue State Digital, a computer firm that is among Obama's consultants.

On Thursday, an earlier e-mail surfaced in which De Vellis boasted to numerous people about his role in the creation of a Web page, My.BarackObama. com, a site designed by Blue State Digital.

"I designed the MyBarack Obama toolbox that is on the front page and all the sidebar pages," said the Feb. 10 e-mail, which urged recipients to visit the Obama site.

He asked recipients to let him know what they thought about the site's functionality, adding: "I can pass it along to the team. The social networking tools are pretty awesome. Create a profile and fool around."

The e-mail appears to run counter to statements by Obama's campaign.

On Wednesday, Obama spokesman Bill Burton said the campaign had been assured that De Vellis "did no work on our campaign's account." On Thursday, he said, "We stand by our statement."

Thomas Gensemer, Blue State Digital's managing director, said Thursday that the "toolbox" to which De Vellis referred was generic and used by other clients, and said De Vellis "did not work on the Obama account." Gensemer says De Vellis was fired; De Vellis says he resigned.

Gensemer added that De Vellis, like many employees of Blue State Digital, sent notes to friends at the start of Obama's campaign to attract attention to the website. De Vellis could not be reached for comment.

Gensemer said De Vellis was capable of creating such a spot, though numerous people questioned his technical and creative prowess in a series of postings on a Democratic-oriented blog in Ohio where he had worked during the 2006 campaign.

"Phil is a graphic artist who has solid experience working with video," Gensemer said.

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