HBGary Fees: “Dam It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta”

One of the more interesting documents on HBGary et al’s partnership with the Chamber of Commerce details the prices they wanted to charge. Now, other emails make it clear that the Chamber balked at what the team originally proposed would be $2 million of work–the Chamber didn’t pay these rates (indeed, they probably haven’t paid for any of this).

But I was particularly interested in what HBGary’s Aaron Barr proposed charging for the work of what they called a “Social Media SME.”

Social media sme ($250 per hour) – experienced in social media link analysis. Personna development. Content management. Social media exploitation techniques.

This is a social media consultant, someone we know from the team’s plans they intended to deploy on Facebook and Twitter in false personas ultimately aiming to destroy the credibility of anti-Chamber activists.

These are just reasonably skilled trolls.

And for that, they wanted to charge $2,000 a day.

To put it in even more stark perspective, consider one ultimate target of the campaign: the men and women SEIU organizes pushing back against the anti-worker policies of the Chamber. Many of these workers–the kind of people who keep your building clean or care for you when you’re sickmake as little $12/hour or less (though the wages for nurses and other skilled medical care providers are higher).

These corporate spook assholes–in addition to targeting Americans for political activism–also think they’re worth 20 times as much as the people who care for the sick.

As the Palantir employee working with Barr on these numbers put it, “Most of all that we are the best money can buy! Dam it feels good to be a gangsta…..”

  1. BoxTurtle says:

    $250 an hour for trolling. I’d send ’em a resume, but their website is still hosed.

    Boxturtle (Troll for Hire)

    • papau says:

      That was my first thought-

      250 an hour is a lot – and for the retired one hour is more than a week’s work at Wallmart or the Grocery

      If the right wing would pay us experience folks that well, we might consider voting for the GOP (not really – but the idea will be in the presentation I am considering!).


  2. WilliamOckham says:

    I hope the paid trolls show up. They need to be asking themselves why they aren’t getting $250 an hour. Do they know the rate they are being billed at? They should start asking some serious questions to the folks who are contracting with them. I figure they are probably being paid a per-piece rate. No way they’re making anywhere near $250/hour. Maybe they should organize. You know, form a union.

    • RonShepston says:

      I’ve been thinkng for some time how we might help unions more. I have had a long conversation with a national level guy of a union on the issue and the obstacles to unions are formidable. The biggest obstacles for unions is the money to increase membership. Small companies or large companies with lots of dpartments of different skills don’t provide the necessary bang-for-the-buck to justify the effort.

  3. behindthefall says:

    Hey, show some mercy. Electricians around here are walking off with $400/hr, and I have heard that people were charging $275/hr to scrape the ice off your roof. They’re just keeping up with the trades. /s

  4. kris108 says:

    Oh, boy, what a week! I never, ever tought news would make me happy, ever. But lo and behold, i has been wrong. This anonymous operation: perfect. Wild, humorous, ruthless, courageous, intelligent. Sad for the collateral damage, but: no corpses made. And the people of Egypt won! Tables have been turned. Whatever happens, whatever setbacks, these things prove that dickheads don’t always win. I needed this.

  5. kris108 says:

    Goodness, the tech guy is finnish. Poor him. But i’ve not seen any print media here take up the story. Maybe he can still get a job. But he might be a tad paranoid after this…

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    If the Chamber avoids creating records that it paid for any of the advice or work suggested in these proposals, it can credibly claim it did not agree to or authorize any of it. Without a digital or paper trail, it would be hard to prove otherwise.

    It would be relatively easy, however, for individuals or firms who became aware of such proposals through the Chamber, or any of the governments to which they are subject, to act as cut-outs, to be paymasters for such work. Of course, being the Chamber, it could be doing what businesses often do: outsource the creative side of running themselves by soliciting free proposals from would be vendors, then do the work themselves and take credit for it.

  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Key take away from Glenn Greenwald’s discussion of this today:

    And because the U.S. Government is free to break the law without any constraints, oversight or accountability, so, too, are its “private partners” able to act lawlessly. That was the lesson of the Congressional vesting of full retroactive immunity on lawbreaking telecoms, of the refusal to prosecute any of the important Wall Street criminals who caused the 2008 financial crisis, and of the instinctive efforts of the political class to protect defrauding mortgage banks.

    As Glennzilla notes, proposals such as the ones to the US Chamber and to Bank of America, the country’s largest bank, and the actions suggested in them are commonplace. What’s remarkable about these is that we found out about them and some of the individual actors who proposed them, wanted them and may have used them – in this instance.

    It is the consequence-free lawlessness – and the tight braiding of corporate and governmental action – that is most pernicious.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Glenn’s closing comment is pretty good too:

      There are supposed to be institutions which limit what can be done in pursuit of those private-sector goals. They’re called “government” and “law.” But those institutions are so annexed by the most powerful private-sector elites, and so corrupted by the public officials who run them, that nobody — least of all those elites — has any expectation that they will limit anything. To the contrary, the full force of government and law will be unleashed against anyone who undermines Bank of America and Wall Street executives and telecoms and government and the like (such as WikiLeaks and supporters), and will be further exploited to advance the interests of those entities, but will never be used to constrain what they do. These firms vying for Bank of America’s anti-WikiLeaks business know all of this full well, which is why they concluded that proposing such pernicious and possibly illegal attacks [and blithely documenting it] would be deemed not just acceptable but commendable.

      Thanks, Marcy, for all your work. I think Izzy would be proud, too.

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I’m not sure, but this sort of comment by John Cole, in an piece on the same subject linked to in Glenn’s article, might not have made it past the editing process at the NYT. It has a certain je ne sais pas directness common here, but not often seen in the MSM:

    And they [B of A, other large corporations, their trade associations, vendors and lobbyists] are well financed, have a strong infrastructure, a sympathetic media, and entire organizations dedicated to running cover for them. They’ve even created their own mythical ideology in which they are superhero Galtian overlords, and this lets a few rubes who babble ignorantly about the free market get to feel like they are playing along, when they are really just being played. It’s these guys versus all of us, yet half the people being rogered (Republicans and glibertarians and hell, half the Democrats) have been convinced the other side is a bigger threat to their well being than the people with all the power, money, and resources. Hell, even in this post I can guarantee that at least five shitheads will come in and tell me they don’t like Glenn Greenwald because he uses too many words or that Jane Hamsher is shrill or because neither of them fellate Obama to satisfaction. Talk about not fucking getting it.

  9. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Handy definitions, from a lengthy article in a series on large, undisclosed media campaigns engaged in by the Pentagon, by investigative reporter Mark Prendergast:

    [T]he [Pentagon’s Inspector General] IG defined PsyOp [“Psychological Operations”, media campaigns, not therapy or brain surgery] as “selective information” intended “to influence the emotions, motives, objective reasoning and ultimately the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups and individuals.”

    Public Affairs is “truthful and factual unclassified information” intended for audiences that may include Americans.

    Information Operations are intended “to influence, disrupt, corrupt or usurp” an opponent’s “decision making while protecting our own.” Information Operations can incorporate PsyOp, but not Public Affairs. [emphasis added]

    PsyOps may not be directed at a “US audience”; only “truthful and factual unclassified information” is to be given to the US public. It’s possible that legally mandated distinction has become more honored in the breach.

    • emptywheel says:

      One other point Glenn made, which I had been thinking about too, is that the HBGary plot had some similarities to what the Defense Intelligence plotted against Wikileaks in 2008.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        This sort of thing, which Karl Rove, his mentors and acolytes would find too routine to mention, must be commonplace in and out of government for such large enterprises to document and discuss so openly.

        Twenty-five years ago, when memories of the consequences of Nixon having written down his enemies lists and taped his tirades were still fresh, these sorts of ops would have been discussed and implemented over expressive grunts in dark parking garages, in the glow of nothing but lit cigarettes. Now they’re exchanged over blackberries and digital slide shows. Next, they’ll be leaving hard copies on the floor in ballrooms at the DC Hilton and the Four Seasons.

        • Louise says:

          The GOP have been doing this since the days of Ken Clawson and the “dirty tricks” boys. “Ratfucking” is a *Republican* term. They’ve tried it on every Democratic Presdient; they’ve tried it on every Democratic issue and initiative. It is what the Republicans *do.*

          All that is happening now is that they are keeping up with the times (they think.)

          What astonished at first – but now makes perfect sense – is that a whole company like this – HBGary, and the Tempis Group – existed at all. How many customers does it have? What are its annual billings? How many other companies like this are there out there?

          What other events in the history of the past forty years are the result of Corporate GOP criminality and fraud?

  10. kris108 says:

    That test where 65% of people obeyed the reliable person in white coat and gave the person on the other side of the glass elecric shocks is good to keep in mind. 65% will always obey what they consider authority. Can something be done about it? Isn’t this what Alan Moore tries to think around in V for Vendetta? In what circumstances would that 65% be willing to change?

  11. jdmckay0 says:

    corporate spook assholes


    Seems the breed is propagating wildly like a computer worm, working their way into mainstream.

    I wonder if this $250 p/hr gets factored into increased-US-worker-productivity?

  12. OldFatGuy says:


    Trolls make $250 an hour!!!!

    Geez, I may have to amend my feelings toward them.

    Hell I’d be a troll for $250 an hour.

    Who knew???

  13. PeasantParty says:

    Heck, I’ll troll for fifty bucks an hour!

    the real issue is how our DOJ can promote and even recommend criminal activities to criminals it is suppose to investigate and place behind bars!

    • mzchief says:

      Sorry. The middle man is not going to pay you that let alone minimum wage. The hourly billable of $250 for an 8 hour work day go only to the middle man as it’s almost impossible to be a contractor and go direct as the other corps demand you too are a C corp so you can get paid business to business (by PO). Then, maybe you get paid on time but most corps were running 90 days behind in accounts payable in the DC Metro last time I looked. So, people these days that are working are mostly net negative after the other required payments (e.g. that ever increasing health insurance premium) for things that don’t necessarily result in a service actually rendered. Here’s some more of that craptastic stuff that has been passed off as a “benefit to employees” that has been going on for the last 10 years:

      “Outplacement cowboys screw the recently unemployed” (BoingBoing.Net, Cory Doctorow at 11:06 AM Tuesday, Feb 1, 2011)

      The corps learned long ago how to suck the life force out of workers if workers won’t come together and fight for everyone like those Western European workers do.

      • mzchief says:

        P.S. The CEOs and other key staff at those levels of a corp aren’t typically the corp’s employees but contractors with special employment contracts outlining special terms and conditions. Jerre Stead (more here, here and here) is a famous example as he was brought in to repackage Legent Corporation for flipping. He did it in a way the markets loved at the time (part of it included aggressive lay offs) resulting in the spiking of the stock value in less than 6 months. That released him from his contract, he took his cut ($16.5 million) and moved on. At the time it was the largest out-of-country financed (Zürich) corporate takeover in the US software industry ever. So, the cycles of cash extraction revolve around the bigger bubble blowing cycles of the Gold Sacks in some very predictable ways.

      • papau says:

        Amen to your thought. If this nonsense does not grow unions the American people are too stupid to be saved.

        • mzchief says:

          If we don’t come together in common cause around basic human freedoms in this country (e.g. worker unionization), we will go the way of the dodo. How can that be any clearer?

    • dakine01 says:

      HBGary may be charging $250 an hour but the troll they are hiring is probably lucky to get that $25 an hour in actual cash.

      The managers have to make their profit points doncha know

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Good point. The productivity may be the individual’s contribution, but s/he rarely gets a share of the revenue generated from that work, regardless of how much the ultimate customer has to shell out.

        But $25/hour? I suspect there are several tens of millions of Americans who would agree with Charles Bronson’s character in the Magnificent Seven. While chopping wood in his only shirt, he said about a $20 offer for six weeks’ work, “Right now, that’s a lot.”

    • Margaret says:

      Right? I’m easy too! I’ll do it for ten percent of that and give you six solid eight to ten hour days of really quality trolling. WAY beyond anything they’ve ever provided.

      • PeasantParty says:

        LOL! I know you would! You would burn their socks off! Ha-ha!

        I’m wondering if the Chamber uses it’s web sites much and if so, do their member businesses know what they are doing?

        I’m telling ya, this little episode may make some of them think again about that annual membership fee.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          The largest contributors to the Chamber’s budget won’t think twice; they run the show and more often than not are probably anxious to get similar advice.

  14. PPDCUS says:

    Where’s Casino Jack when you need him?

    At $2,000 per gansta per day, the Chamberpot shows that it knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

    Oh, yeah… in Club Fed.

  15. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Personna development. Content management. Social media exploitation techniques.

    This is a social media consultant, someone we know from the team’s plans they intended to deploy on Facebook and Twitter in false personas ultimately aiming to destroy the credibility of anti-Chamber activists.

    These are just reasonably skilled trolls.

    And for that, they wanted to charge $2,000 a day.

    I don’t think they’re reasonably skilled trolls.

    I think they’re morons.
    And I also think they’re getting – at best – a 10% cut of that $2,000/day billing.

    Personna development“?!
    Oooooooooh, they make it all sound so ‘professional’.

    Lord have mercy: next week, they’ll be creating positions for potted plants, with titles like: “Ambient greenery audition monitors.”

    Let ’em create all the moronic positions they want; I cannot wait to read TBogg on this topic! I may open champagne before reading, ’cause I think it’s gonna be spectacular fun ;-))

    Already, I’m grinning like a fool just thinking about reading TBogg singlehandedly, verbally eviscerating these idiots.

    Will Marcy’s update include any shots of these fools wearing little Malkin outfits, pumping pom-poms: “Gimme a P! Gimme an E! Gimme an R! Gimme an S! Gimme an O! Gimme an N! Gimme another N! Gimme an Aaaaaaaaaa! PERSONNA! PERSONNA!” all jumpy in their lil’ uniforms, waving their pom poms. Go Gangsta Team HBGary!

  16. arcadesproject says:

    Lemme see if I’ve got this straight. SEIU members who are janitors and hotel maids and nurses aides by occupation are a threat to free market capitalism and have to be taken down and fucktards who brought the world financial system and economies to their knees, like Jamie Dimon and John Thain, are not.

  17. dustbunny44 says:

    Sure they’re paying blood money in Barr’s case, but $250/hr is around standard fare for most any kind of corporate professional consulting (most of which is more above board). It’s actually more expensive in many cases.
    This is all standard corporate stuff. Scary because those contracting and executing the political demolition work don’t even realize how they are contractors for the oligarchy, the reflexive defenses of the cancer that results from “free markets”.

    • PPDCUS says:

      This is all standard corporate stuff. Scary because those contracting and executing the political demolition work don’t even realize how they are contractors for the oligarchy …. ???

      They always know for whom and from whom they are stealing — Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

      the reflexive defenses of the cancer that results from “free markets”

      Corporate captured markets with Potemkin regulation are the antithesis of free and open.