Hunton & Williams Left Fingerprints at SEIU

Hunton & Williams, the law firm that solicited HBGary and two other security firms to spy on Chamber of Commerce opponents, has remained silent so far about its efforts.

But it hasn’t covered its tracks. The SEIU reports that people from Hunton & Williams spent 20 hours last November–at the time when Themis was pitching H&W to use a JSOC approach to go after Chamber opponents–on the SEIU sites.

Server logs and leaked emails reveal that employees at Hunton & Williams, the principal law firm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, spent 20 hours on SEIU websites last November while partners from the firm were working with private security firms on an illegal “dirty tricks” campaign aimed at undermining the credibility of the Chamber’s political opponents, including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

And of course SEIU is able to see precisely what H&W was looking at in that period: top H&W page views in 2010 include SEIU’s page on the Chamber and on big banks. People from H&W searched on individuals at SEIU as well as on SEIU’s organizing of protests outside of BoA’s General Counsel. They even searched on “hourly pay for SEIU organizers.” (Whatever that is, it’s less than Themis was going to charge for its paid trolls.)

No wonder H&W has been so quiet about their role in this campaign.

Update: This post has been edited for accuracy.

  1. Teddy Partridge says:

    If lawyers still got disbarred in 21st century America, these troll wannabes would be first in line. In the self-policing guild, we know, lawyers can do just about anything in service to powers-that-be without facing discipline from within.

    • tejanarusa says:

      Lawyers do get disbarred – just check any state bar’s journal or website.

      Just not for political dirty trickstering, at least not when it’s for Repubs or other RWers.

  2. PeasantParty says:


    Seventy-Six Hours!

    Excellent work, M. Yes, no wonder they are being so noncommental and hiding behind the scenes.

    I think it is time to go on a letter writing campaign to the National Bar Assoc. and the state association as well. As citizens of this country we can’t just turn our backs on this. Especially, when the media that we have is all corporate owned and completely off the grid for facts and truth.

  3. lysias says:

    Isn’t there a crime-fraud exception to the attorney-client privilege? Does anybody have standing to sue one of these groups of bastards and thus to use discovery against them?

      • eCAHNomics says:

        Someone mentioned wrt small parties suing deep pockets that the latter would bury the former.

        But I’ve had further thoughts about that defeatist attitude, which normally I would disagree with.

        It’s all about discovery, not necessarily about winning. So as long as you have enough resources to hang in for some discovery, and assuming (BIG assumption I admit) that your adversary doesn’t destroy evidence (unlike the USG), then you can have some substantial impact.

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Or was it a couple of geeks at HBGary, showing off their s/w’s utility for H&W, pretending to be senior partners trolling the SEIU’s website?

    Interesting idea, but it more likely demonstrates the need among service providers for ruthless corporations for persona impersonation s/w, so that they can perform dirty tricks without liability to their bar licenses, their reputations or their jobs and families. The irony that it is those very protections these programs would deny others is too poignant for words.

    This has become more than a culture war; it is a class-based economic war now being fought on multiple fronts, except that it often seems as if only one side is aware of or fighting it. These sorts of s/w tools liberate no one, except from the consequences of their acts. Talk about moral hazard. These s/w weapons are like mustard gas used in WWI. Antidotes will be needed from progressive geeks, making persona impersonators transparent. Even that is a two-edged sword, in that it might also lead to further erosion of privacy.

    Oh, and beware any solution offered by the administration that promotes its goal of issuing individual, driver’s license-like permits to use the Internet. That won’t stop persona impersonators used by powerful organizations any more than banning abortions would keep Buffy from using her platinum card to fly offshore and get one while on holiday. It will be more like stopping gun running to Ethiopia in 1935 and Spain in 1936, when only the Fascists already had weapons. The appearance of being even-handed can frequently be deceiving.

    • manys says:

      earl: There wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) be any “top page views” or 20hrs spent if they were showing off the software. They would have just saved the pages to analyze locally (I’m assuming a lot here). Software and people access websites very differently, even if the s/w side was being repeated for different demonstrations or whatever.

      I’m still wondering about DOJ workers handing out referrals for activities that would be illegal for the DOJ to conduct.

  5. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Hunton & Williams, the law firm that solicited HBGary and two other security firms to spy on Chamber of Commerce opponents, has remained silent so far about its efforts.

    Am I the only one thinking this sure likes like the way that either the Mafia or the KGB would approach ‘business’? This behavior bears no relationship to the kind of Main Street economics with which I grew up.

  6. MadDog says:

    OT – Via the ACLU:

    In A Blow To The Rule Of Law, Court Dismisses Lawsuit To Hold Former Government Officials Accountable For Torture Of Jose Padilla

    A federal court today dismissed an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit filed against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other current and former government officials for their roles in the unlawful detention and torture of U.S. citizen Jose Padilla. In a troubling 32-page ruling, South Carolina federal judge Richard Mark Gergel held that Padilla had no right to sue for constitutional violations, and that Rumsfeld and the other defendants “are entitled to qualified immunity regarding all claims of alleged constitutional violations arising out of Padilla’s detention as an enemy combatant…”

    Josh Gerstein over at Politico also covers it and provides a link to the opinion (32 page PDF).

  7. marksb says:

    ‘Qualified’ immunity? Will someone explain please?

    If any of us still believed in Hope&Change, the wool has certainly fallen from our eyes over the last couple of months. Whew.

    • gannonguckert says:

      Qualified immunity is as opposed to absolute immunity.

      Judges and prosecutors have absolute immunity. The idea is that you can’t make these people prosecutable for their decisions and actions, or they’ll be too afraid to undertake punishments of powerful people. It is a dangerous power to award, but we (modern societies) do it because anything less is worse.

      Qualified immunity is what cops and many investigators get. It means they have no immunity if their actions are outside the scope of their training or job purpose. The fact some cops get sent to jail shows it kinda works.

      • gannonguckert says:

        To clarify somewhat, Rumsfeld is awarded qualified immunity, per this particular Nazi-style judge, on the purported basis that torture is an official policy of the U.S. govt., so his actions are within the scope of his employment.

  8. eCAHNomics says:

    Do you mean to tell me that websites can actually tell who visits them & what they look at? I’m shocked, I tell you, really shocked. I NEVER knew that. /s

  9. orionATL says:

    this general story should be the watergate story of our times.

    it is that compelling a story.

    it is a story of secret use and, likely, abuse of government power to benefit gov’t and some large corporations who have colluded with gov’t (or with whom gov’t, i.e., treasury and the white house, have colluded) to the general economic and political detriment of the citizenry.

    this story should have ramifications on top of ramifications that provide news stories for months, if not several years.

    this story should result in congressional investigations of violations of ordinary americans’ rights to criticize – and vote on – the JOINT actions and policies of large corporations and their american government.

    this general story should result in it becoming known that not only was the u.s. dep’t of “justice” was involved in supressing dissent afainst corporations,

    but that there were white house staff who knew in detail the illicit behavior the doj was trying to launder thru the law firm hunton and williams.

    this story should make clear that when, in 2002, the white house and the dept of defense conducted a psycholgical operation, using cia tactics, against the american people

    in order to encourage an invasion and occupation of iraq,

    with willing help from the u.s. corporate media -pinch sulzberger and bill keller of the NYTimes, and equally willing support from fox news, and CNN, etc.,

    when your military trains killer groups like the navy seals, delta force, cia/dod mercenaries, et al,

    and then cut loose this lethal-thinking detritus of war among the american population,

    when you ignore and violate established federal law to spy on americans and foreigners using the trivial and abstract excuse of “stopping terrorism”,

    you – the president and the white house, you – the attorney general and the dept of “justice”, you – the bank of america, you – the u.s. chamber of commerce –

    have moved expediently in a major way that damages a special social compact, the american constitution, that has served as a guide for human political development for over 250the suppressingchamber years.

    some folks, myself among them, think that that is too heavy a price to pay for allowing a few presidential, congressional, corporate
    power-addicts to operate over a small 10-15 years time span in the nation’s history.

  10. orionATL says:

    to move from the general and abstract to the specific –

    – aig bailout

    = goldman sachs bailout

    my uninformed guess is that all this marshalling of secret militias is about protecting the white house and treasury from revelations of deals consummated similar to the white house deals about medical insurance reform.

  11. Auduboner says:

    And I bet they billed BofA at $200 per hour for each of those hours.

    This is worth filing an ethics complaint to the DC bar over. Anyone here a member? If not, I will.

  12. fortmorgan says:

    Things that alarm me. The Obama Justice Department referred the C of C to Hunton & Williams. Private citizens and/or journalists, like Greenwald, Lee and House, were targeted for character assassination.
    I am struggling a bit to view the SEIU as a victim here. As one looks about, it appears a sizeable campaign is afoot to make the storyline “Chamber attacks poor working people”. If I were a gambler, I would bet that SEIU uses some of the described “dirty tricks” against their own enemies.