Let the Pro-Oprah Resistance Beware: Scam in Progress?

A majority of Americans are really frustrated right now but they shouldn’t let their guard down at the first sign of hope. Tapping someone’s anger is an easy way for scammers and other hostile agents to get access to personal information and in some cases, money.

One likely example of opportunism is the National Committee to Draft Oprah Winfrey for President of the United States 2020. There have been emails sent to folks soliciting their support to recruit Oprah Winfrey to run for president in 2020 — except the entity sending the emails looks like vaporware.

There’s a simple yet attractive website with a countdown clock to Election Day 2020 and a sign up form as well as a donate button, along with a means to share the website across social media.

A press release announcing this effort is published as a separate page at the website, too.

Except that the press release — unlike authentic press releases — gives zero information about the organization except for an email address.

The website itself has no About Us, no Directors or Founders or Managers or Team page. There’s no information about a nonprofit or other political entity behind this, only an organization name, a claim to copyright, and the two pages — Home and Press Release.

And absolutely no Privacy Policy or Terms of Use provided, nor is the page set up for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) protocol (for this reason I am not providing a link to the site).

The website’s domain registration is masked, only showing DomainsByProxy as the registrar. Do a WhoIs lookup on the Democratic Party’s domain for comparison; you’ll find the domain isn’t masked at all and both a physical address as well as contact information are readily available.

The worst part of this is the repeated use of a quote by Winfrey’s long-time partner, Stedman Graham, as a justification for this ‘movement’. Yet nowhere on the site does Graham appear as a founder, director, manager, team member, or even an endorser.

If one of these emails should show up in my inbox, I’m going to treat it as a spearphishing attempt and mark it spam. Because I haven’t received and looked at one of these emails, I can’t rule out these emails are, in fact, phishing attempts of some kind.

The website itself should be treated with suspicion; without more evidence of a legitimate organization behind it, it’s merely a pretty address harvesting tool and an opportunity for a scam artist to pick up some easy liberal cash.

How easily could an outfit like Cambridge Analytica match up these harvested addresses against Facebook and voters’ records, to identify which voters to suppress with Oprah-flavored micro-targeted messaging via social media? It’d be worth a pretty penny to an opponent (and their sponsors) facing stiff headwinds in 2020.

If there is a real movement which is serious about recruiting Oprah, for goodness sake show up at local Democratic Party meetings and learn how to do this correctly. Don’t let Oprah get turned unknowingly and without her consent into another Russian tool to fragment the party by drafting her from outside the party.

P.S. Hey Tom Perez and Keith Ellison — perhaps a little tighter control on domains.democrat addresses is worth your time, to prevent Democratic Party supporters? Didn’t the DNC learn anything from the past two years about cybersecurity?

[Image on home page via National Committee to Draft Oprah Winfrey for President of the United States 2020, published here under Fair Use.]

Blogger since 2002, political activist since 2003, geek since birth. Opinions informed by mixed-race, multi-ethnic, cis-female condition, further shaped by kind friends of all persuasions. Sci-tech frenemy, wannabe artist, decent cook, determined author, successful troublemaker. Mother of invention and two excessively smart-assed young adult kids. Attended School of Hard Knocks; Rather Unfortunate Smallish Private Business School in Midwest; Affordable Mid-State Community College w/evening classes. Self-employed at Tiny Consulting Business; previously at Large-ish Chemical Company with HQ in Midwest in multiple marginalizing corporate drone roles, and at Rather Big IT Service Provider as a project manager, preceded by a motley assortment of gigs before the gig economy was a thing. Blogging experience includes a personal blog at the original blogs.salon.com, managing editor for a state-based news site, and a stint at Firedoglake before landing here at emptywheel as technology’s less-virginal-but-still-accursed Cassandra.

40 replies
  1. seedeevee says:

    “Don’t let Oprah get turned unknowingly and without her consent into another Russian tool to fragment the party”

    You just can’t stop with the xenophobic trash . . . .

    • bmaz says:

      “Xenophobic trash”?

      What in the living fuck are you talking about? This is a flat out ignorant comment that is not worthy of this site.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      You might actually read the post, tweak the software, or make like a tree.

      The cynicism of the scam is breathtaking.  It is an example of how wide and varied are the threats to democracy that we now face.  An ignorant, self-obsessed, lazy president and supine Congress are likely to do little about them.  Thanks to Rayne for exposing it.

    • Rayne says:

      I took a few minutes to think about your comment. To what perceived xenophobia are you referring? Be specific.

      If you’re referring to my belief that women of color aren’t pack horses obligated to bear any load this country places on them, fuck off.

      If you’re referring to my reference to Russia’s active measures designed to further fragment the left, you need to bone up on influence operations, comrade. Welcome to the ranks of the demoralized. And then kindly fuck off.

      • bell says:

        thanks for your post.. these kinds of scams are becoming increasingly regular..

        regarding the link you’ve shared… is it any different when or how the usa does and has done this?  reading the conclusion, it is quite easy to substitute usa for russia and washington for moscow… that is where things are now at on the planet..

        • Rayne says:

          You want to report on US influence on elections overseas? Knock yourself out. I have enough on my hands with our own jacked up elections.

  2. sapaterson says:

    Thanks for the alert, emptywheel. Guess the Russians are busier than the Republican Judiciary Committee members preparing for 2020. Couldn’t the newly disbanded Presidential Commission on Election Integrity look into this? Oh, sorry – forgot that’s a ploy for voter suppression. May I suggest that anyone who wants to contribute to the billionaire’s election campaign send it to berniesanders.com. He’ll know where to send the money. Better yet send it to jill2016.com The Socialists need a win.

    If Oprah wants to run can we all acknowledge that she is unqualified without making it about race? She lacks the degree in law, the body of knowledge necessary to weigh in on Foreign or Domestic policy decisions. She attended Tennessee State University which is a fine college but has a degree in Communications which launched her career in Journalism in Chicago. She could easily have attended a law school in the last couple of years and hired tutors that assured she pass the bar. That would show respect for the office and personal integrity. Her money allows for her lifestyle to be obscured from public view but will it be enough to stop a Fusion GPS inquiry? And what will they find?

    I can hear it now – “But she is so successful and / or brilliant that she can hire the most qualified people to fill her Cabinet.” To which I reply that departmentalized meritocracy is a poor substitute for an understanding of the overall needs of the population. Obama hired whom he deemed most qualified in economic matters in Larry Sanders and he and the other experts carved out an economy that’s great for the most qualified but a slow burn for the rest of us. Likewise in Defense Robert Gates and his ilk were experts in war and we’re sixteen years into an endless quagmire in Afghanistan. Hillary and Billary were set for pillory with their strong belief in meritocracy. They had the audacity to leak their names of their experts before the election. How palling paling around with Henry Kissinger, the most bloodthirsty actor in the Vietnam war.

    The pathos of the unqualified is that they feel that money begets knowledge. Bloomberg, Zuckerberg, and others try to leverage their position of wealth and power into one of popularity. Why not a consensus candidate from within the dynamics of the party? Instead of the news anointing candidates, ignoring others and flooding the airwaves with free time as they feel fit? You realize that the media is always the greatest winner in every election. They get to keep all that campaign money. Rupert and Sumner don’t care who wins as long as they get paid. Here the Repubs and the Russians gave Murdoch all that money and he still calls DT names in public.

    There is the direct funding campaign model that Bernie has shown us. This will eventually replace the existing financing which is essentially begging corporations for money in exchange for favors. I’m betting that a long information campaign is more likely to organize the Socialists than the Dems in direct funding. Socialists need to link co-ops into voting blocks the same way that unions do with dues on members. May I suggest the Socialists concentrate on promoting co-ops instead of candidates. Sure, run your silly Jillies and I’ll probably vote for them but prepare the infrastructure that the Repubs and Dems flee from: a promise of equitable social structure, jobs, wages based on group decisions by the workers, demands of public financing of healthcare and housing.

    I would really like to see a Black woman in the Oval office as the leader of the free world. I voted for Kamala for that very reason. The Dems are looking for a performer and a fighter to run for President in 2020. But after listening to her on Rachael Maddow, I fear Ms. Harris has the diction of Beyoncé and the charm of Mike Tyson and would be another weakling in the grand arena.

    • Trip says:

      I agree that the Democrats need to make taking the big money out of campaigns and think tanks etc, a strong issue, and perhaps advocating for public campaign financing (reform as a promise), in the future, to stymie the influence of lobbyists. It has never been more blatantly obvious than through this current administration that the shadow government (of the Kochs and other assorted oligarchs) is determining all policy against the benefit of the majority of citizenry.

      • Rayne says:

        The Democratic Party doesn’t have ‘big money’ like the GOP does — recall Hillary Clinton had to bring a lot of donations to keep the party afloat.

        What the Dems need to do once they take back Congress — assuming their voters can overcome what is sure to be the worst levels of voter suppression ever — is change campaign finance to rid itself of Citizens United.

        Just wait; the best case against Citizens United will reveal itself soon.

        • Trip says:

          The Democratic Party doesn’t have ‘big money’ like the GOP does

          Come now, we can’t play a pretend game, like Trump’s base does. The Democrats have been influenced and bankrolled by lobbyists, employed lobbyists in government, and became lobbyists after government. Saying the money the GOP got was bigger as a general defense is an avoidance of acknowledging the systemic problems which interfere with a true democracy. No one has clean hands, unstained by money; big or small.

          What the Dems need to do once they take back Congress — assuming their voters can overcome what is sure to be the worst levels of voter suppression ever — is change campaign finance to rid itself of Citizens United.

          Anyone witnessing the rigging, on policy, on the investigations, and so on, should have no issue making campaign finance reform a part of the narrative for a true democracy. You are actually agreeing with me, except you are concerned about the fallout with funding before the election, from wealthier benefactors. Why should it be verboten to speak of it before, when it is killing us as a nation?

            • Trip says:

              Have the Democrats not been influenced or bankrolled by lobbyists? Your dogwhistling that I am somehow an undercover Trump supporter/whackjob, notwithstanding, is anything that I have said false? Do you not see the threat to the democracy? I don’t understand why everyone has to keep that on the downlo, until after the election. If you are going to be the voice “of the people”, as a counter to the money-machine of the oligarchs, that’s a lot of silence.

              • Trip says:

                When you make a premise that our rich guys are better than their rich guys, you allow for continuation of all rich guys running the show to proliferate and determine policy ad infinitum. I’m not calling the Democrats the same as Republicans, I just don’t understand why it can’t be said aloud that the system is killing any influence of the populace, first and foremost. This wait until tomorrow, when tomorrow never comes…it should be striking fear how far the needle has already moved with the Trump administration. Why not make it a part and promise of taking back the reigns? I fail to see how that might remotely be offensive, unless you are an advocate that things should remain the same.

                • bmaz says:

                  Thank you for the confirmation “Trip’. And, by the way, I did not make any such “premise”, but it was oh so marry of you to say so. Yes, by all means, let us harsh on the “system”. Probably you will next scream about “Citizens United” as yet another boogeyman. In spite of the fact that some of the First Amendment arguments in CU ring true.

                  Tell us more about “the system”.

                    • bmaz says:

                      Confirmation of your divisive trolling and jackassery. And that is duly noted too. But thanks for your commentary that has graced our presence for, literally, a whole ten days.

                      Booyah!

                    • Trip says:

                      No I don’t see citizens united as a bogeyman. My comment spoke to campaigning with a message of an overhaul, promoted by the Democrats. Pointing out with clarity, and driving home the fact that a couple of rich brothers influenced, or more precisely DIRECTED the current path of the nation, when they were never elected. Thanks for the knee jerk reaction and ad hominem attack.

          • Trip says:

            I’m finished responding to each edit and re-edit. If it has been determined that I shouldn’t comment here any further, for creating undue stress, so be it. I’m completely okay with that.

            • Rayne says:

              The threading on this exchange is impossible to read on a mobile device, that’s for certain.

              As for your remarks about financing: the facts don’t lie. Hello, OpenSecrets.

              And of course the openly reported donations don’t include any donations in kind, like all the adverts and messaging in social media bought by outsiders and by dark money, posted by troll-bot farms and bored teenagers in Macedonia. Gee, which party was the beneficiary?

              • Trip says:

                Bmaz kept editing and rewriting replies, after I responded to the first cut. No one argued that the GOP wasn’t corrupt. My initial point was that the Democrats would be serving the people by reinforcing the idea that a shadow government has taken over democracy, and the way to get it back is asserting that they promise when they are in office, they will do an overhaul in every way possible including, but not limited to, campaign finance reform. I don’t know how to say it in any other way. Simply because I agreed with one element of the sapatersons opinion, I am a troll, uninformed or covert operator. I’ve disagreed with that person before, but it doesn’t mean I need to discount everything if it has validity. I’m quite certain that I will remain ‘a troll’, but I figured I’d give you the courtesy of a response, since you didn’t choose the ad hom route in your reply to me.

    • Rayne says:

      I disagree with you about Oprah’s qualifications. There is nothing in the Constitution limiting the office to those with JDs, and as a successful media mogul Oprah has had to avail herself of trustworthy legal counsel for decades. Having heard her speak in person about her personal work history nearly 20 years ago, she was compelling then as a candidate for elected office. She’s more so now, which is why so many people are eager to see her run.

      The most important reason Oprah should not run: we don’t need fewer media outlets run by women and persons of color, at a time when the right-wing is making a focused effort to take over and consolidate media in this country. Protecting the First Amendment by protecting diverse media must be a greater priority for our country.

    • bmaz says:

      Yes, and have been doing so for over a decade. Literally since before the founding of this site. Unfortunately, I have to spend too much time these days with clear cut trolls, and those, like you, that wander in thinking they own the place and have clear trolley tendencies.

      And, yeah, sure, you meant Emptywheel the website instead of simply admitting you screwed up your attribution. Good one. So, we have so far established your intent and disingenuousness. A fine start to the morning for you SAP.

      • sapaterson says:

        Still don’t hear anything positive. Calling people names doesn’t really further the discussion. (thank-you for reminding seedeevee – what a jerk) I gladly admit I make mistakes. Your name calling tendency shows me you lack ideas. I have a tendency to seek websites that cover issues that I know a lot about. That’s why I’m here today. Not a troll, have posted a few dozen times here, am new at social media because I am a newly retired teacher who finally has time to write and read.

        Yesterday my journey took me toe to toe with Nigel Farage, you know the UKI pm candidate and we had a lively discussion about nationalism. Bmaz, he never called me a name and I actually got him to admit he was wrong on some issues surrounding protective market dynamics. Is that powerful?

        I am a Great Lakes kid and also have been following Marcy Wheeler since before this manifestation of her blogs. And you know what? Her writing has gotten so much better in the last couple of years. (I recognized Rayne’s style when I was editing and was about to change it when my mouse failed.) I’m trying to remember the now defunct website that she was the guest blogger on forever – just to prove to you who loves her the most but I’m distracted and I’ll let you win that one, too. I greatly appreciate her commercial free platform and her free flow of ideas, trolls included. Yes, call me out of line when you have a better idea and  think you can convince me. I love that.

        But the concept of cult figure as a political candidate alarms me. And sincerely that is somewhere that my journey takes me today. Yesterday it was Thomas Pikkety and ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’, hence Farage. Tomorrow it takes me somewhere else, most likely Richard Wolff and Co-ops.

        When you try to ascribe characteristics to strangers its doing the same thing as Capitalism tries to do. Race, religion, gender? These are social constructs meant to divide us. Don’t surrender!

         

        • bmaz says:

          Listen SAP, you are trolling this blog and trying to divide its principles. You can stuff that simpering shit right where there is no sun.

          If you do not find enough “positive” here, please take that opportunity to get out and go elsewhere.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Wash, rinse, repeat.  Read the post, tweak the software, or make like a tree.

      The practical problem for our democracy is that, like Schwarzenegger in California, Oprah has the popularity, name recognition, charisma and resources to win.  She has energy, focus and business acumen that Trump couldn’t even dream about.

      Oprah actually made her billion from nuthin’, and manages well the companies she invests in or on whose boards she sits.  Her intelligence, drive and business experience far exceeds Trumps.  But she woefully lacks political experience, military experience, and government administration.  Before Trump, other presidents made up for a lack of one of those by experience with another.  Oprah can’t do that.

      (As for Oprah’s alma mater, you seem to underestimate the problems of growing up poor and African American.  Unlike white guys Bush and Trump, she wasn’t a legacy.  Nor did her missing daddy show up by surprise to donate a new building to an Ivy League school in order to secure her admission and graduation.  That makes her success all the more exceptional.)

      Oprah would need to fill that lack of experience.  If she wants to be president, she needs to acquire it.  She needs to be much clearer about what she stands for, why her priorities are those we need, and to explain why she’s worth voting for.

      But Rayne’s post is about a secret organization that is using the Internet to scam her would be supporters, steal their money, and torpedo Oprah’s credibility. She would recognize that as political and cyber warfare of the first order.

  3. Michael says:

    “Don’t let Oprah get turned unknowingly and without her consent into […]”

    Good heads-up, as far as it goes. Especially since the site accepts cash.
    I would suggest that someone give a heads-up directly to either Oprah or one of her people. She should want to know that persons unknown are soliciting $$ in her name.

    • Rayne says:

      I hope she has staffers who are combing through social media for mentions. This post and tweets about the movement should turn up.

    • Rayne says:

      I have thought for quite some time that the Panama Papers were under-investigated. Somebody wanted them out for bigger reasons than reported at the time. Trump’s licensing deal on properties in Panama alone should have run up some flags and yet no one took the bait.

  4. Kim Kaufman says:

    I’d like to hear about some of Oprah’s policies before floating her as next Prez/savior of the free world. My understanding is that she’s as much of a neo-lib as Obama. I’m pretty sure she’s all in for charter schools, for one thing.

    But she does qualify positively for the first question the DNC asks potential candidates: can you self-fund?

    Thanks for the heads up on the bogus website.

  5. bmaz says:

    Earl of Huntingdon – Yes, there was indeed an hasta la vista moment. It may have gobbled your reply with it though, sorry about that.

  6. sapaterson says:

    Thanks for the acknowledgement of disagreeing with me instead of ignoring me Rayne. I will agree that Oprah is a great orator and to see her speak in public must have been a magical event. I have voted twice in my life for non – Democratic ticket for President and Vice-President (sorry to disappoint your yap dogs) The first time was when Angela Davis was on the Peace and Freedom ticket and I mention this in response to your listening to Oprah. In 1973 when I was an undergrad at UCLA my Radical English Comp teacher who late admitted me and an ex- black panther on minority exceptions even though I was so Wisconsin white that I glowed in the dark back then.

    During the third week of the quarter we took a field trip two buildings over to where Angela Davis lectured to us for ninety minutes on the prison / industrial complex and the affects of racism on Black women’s psyche. I was led to believe that AD was a divisive radical whose opinions should be avoided (by the media at the time). I believe she had just been released from prison or maybe had just come back from Europe – there was some dramatic timeline going on. What I discovered was that Angela Davis has the most beautiful mind of anyone I have ever met. She had endured years of oppression and incarceration, yet she spoke measuredly and gracefully about the plight of others and never about herself. She was bigger than life at that moment. I remember her hair and the gap in her teeth. Of course Cathy had to sit us in the first two rows. Here is this white boy unable to avert his gaze from the Siren’s song of intellectual wisdom that flowed. AD smiled at this and continued her fiery speech.

    Second time was Jill because Hillary lacked the wisdom to choose a widely popular Democratic Socialist as her running mate. Hey but what do I know? I’m just a troll.

    • bmaz says:

      You work pretty hard towards cementing that status for a guy that bitches about it so much. Pick a path.

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