Phil de Vellis Made ‘Hillary 1984’ Video

Phil de Vellis, who Mike Krempasky describes as a “former Deaniac and former Sherrod Brown internet campaign hack,” admits, after having been smoked out by Ariana Huffington, that he is the man behind the pseudonym “ParkRidge47,” creator of the “Hillary 1984” video.

I made the “Vote Different” ad because I wanted to express my feelings about the Democratic primary, and because I wanted to show that an individual citizen can affect the process. There are thousands of other people who could have made this ad, and I guarantee that more ads like it–by people of all political persuasions–will follow.


The campaigns had no idea who made it–not the Obama campaign, not the Clinton campaign, nor any other campaign. I made the ad on a Sunday afternoon in my apartment using my personal equipment (a Mac and some software), uploaded it to YouTube, and sent links around to blogs.

The specific point of the ad was that Obama represents a new kind of politics, and that Senator Clinton’s “conversation” is disingenuous. And the underlying point was that the old political machine no longer holds all the power.

Let me be clear: I am a proud Democrat, and I always have been. I support Senator Obama. I hope he wins the primary. (I recognize that this ad is not his style of politics.) I also believe that Senator Clinton is a great public servant, and if she should win the nomination, I would support her and wish her all the best.

I’ve resigned from my employer, Blue State Digital, an internet company that provides technology to several presidential campaigns, including Richardson’s, Vilsack’s, and — full disclosure — Obama’s. The company had no idea that I’d created the ad, and neither did any of our clients. But I’ve decided to resign anyway so as not to harm them, even by implication.

This ad was not the first citizen ad, and it will not be the last. The game has changed.

There’s not much doubt about that. Krempasky is right, though:

And at the end of the day, lest the “reformers” of the world screech about anonymous hit pieces, shady internet operatives and add calls for regulations in the name of accountability: here’s a newsflash. The system worked just damned fine. Someone ran a creative, entertaining hit piece of sorts. Lots of people watched it. People started snooping – and the provenance of the video was established. End of story. BlueState gets to pay a little price, Obama’s campaign pays a little (folks will simply not swallow the notion that no one knew anything, in spite of their earlier denials) as well.

And the world keeps turning. Remember, in politics, especially online: more speech = good thing. Period. The alternative – restrictions or regulations…it would be ironic, don’t you think – that a video using Ridley Scott’s commercial to parody a candidate could be used as justification for making the underlying fantasy a terrible reality.

The Politico‘s Ben Smith is among those not swallowing the “no one knew anything” meme: “Could Obama’s staff not have known? Could de Vellis’s boss the founder of de Vellis’s shop, Joe Rospars, who now works for Obama, not have known?”

Thomas Gensemer, Blue State Digital’s Managing Director, assures us they did not.

Mr. de Vellis created this video on his own time. It was done without the knowledge of management, and was in no way tied to his work at the firm or our formal engagement [on technology pursuits] with the Obama campaign.

It’s quite possible, of course. Hundreds of people make videos and post them on YouTube every day. As Politico commenter “Wale” observes,

“Could Obama’s staff not have known” what some guy who worked for a company that worked for them does at home on his computer? Sure they could. The same way Hillary could [not? -ed.] have known the man she was sleeping in the same bed with was cheating on her. . .


Still, we’ll likely never know for sure.

UPDATE: Jerid at Buckeye State Blog argues at great length that there’s no way a talentless hack like de Vellis could have made this ad.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Ted says:

    Spam comment in violation of site policies deleted.

    Contribute something to the discussion rather than cutting-and-pasting generic comments on other people’s blogs in an effort to promote your own. -ed.

  2. Bithead says:

    I wonder;
    This guy’s nick; “ParkRidge47” A reference to Hillary Clinton’s birthplace and year of birth?

    And I’m not sure, but if I were Obama, I don’t think I’d want to use that ad. Consider the first time Apple used it; THey were trying to convice people they were too stupid to use the PC.

    You may notice the ad, in the long run… or given the percentages, even in the short term, didn’t work.

    I smell a fish, here.

  3. I think it both very plausible that this was done without anyone elses knowledge or done in a way to provide ‘plausible deniability’.

    I do find it ironic that Obama would say his campaign didn’t have the technological capabilities to do the ad, then find a consulting firm working with his campaign in several different ways had one of its employees do this “at home”. Of course the firm name ‘Blue state digital’ would be a clue that someone on his campaign figured they would need this sort of technology.

    If I had to place my bet, it was done to impress the boss with what they could do. Either to impress Obama to spend more with BSD or to impress someone in BSD that Phillip was a creative and capable guy.