Jake Hoffman deceived voters. Now he’ll serve on an election committee


OPINION: House Speaker Rusty Bowers appoints a newly elected legislator who specializes in internet disinformation campaigns to the No. 2 post on the panel that oversees elections. Genius plan.

Jake Hoffman (Photo: Town of Queen Creek)

The newly elected legislator who ran what amounts to an internet troll farm — paying teens to post conservative talking points and baseless conspiracy theories aimed at getting President Donald Trump re-elected — has been appointed to the state House committee that oversees elections.

No, really.

House Speaker Rusty Bowers this week not only appointed incoming Rep. Jake Hoffman to the House Government and Elections Committee, he made this minister of disinformation the panel’s vice chairman.

The Washington Post in September exposed Hoffman’s Rally Forge, a digital marketing firm that paid teenagers, some of them minors, to set up fake personas and blanket social media with thousands of nearly identical posts aimed at undermining confidence in the validity of election and downplaying the impact of COVID-19.

Their posts, often replies to news stories, created the appearance of a social media groundswell of youth support for conservative causes but actually were slightly edited comments lifted from a shared document, according to the Post.

Hoffman paid kids to deceive you

In other words, Hoffman wanted to fool you into thinking these were real people spontaneously expressing deeply held conservative beliefs instead of what they were — a group of kids being paid to deceive you, reportedly scoring bonuses, to boot, if they could create enough buzz around their posts.

Their posts cast doubt on the integrity of mail-in ballots and trumpeted the baseless claim that 28 million of them have gone missing in the past four elections. They noted that “Democrats will do anything to screw over Americans” and that Joe Biden “is being controlled by behind the scenes individuals who want to take America down the dangerous path towards socialism”.

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They pushed the baseless theory that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was intentionally inflating the death toll and warned, “Don’t trust Dr. Fauci,” a reference to one of the nation’s foremost experts on infectious diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

It’s the kind of thing you might expect to come out of Russia. Instead, it came out of Phoenix — or more specifically Hoffman’s secret cell of paid teenage trolls.

“In 2016, there were Macedonian teenagers interfering in the election by running a troll farm and writing salacious articles for money,” Graham Brookie, director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, told the Post this fall. “In this election, the troll farm is in Phoenix.”

We want him influencing election law?

And now, the head troll is the No. 2 man on the House committee responsible for proposing changes to Arizona’s election laws.

A spokesman for Speaker Bowers defended the appointment of the Queen Creek Republican.

“Incoming Representative Hoffman was duly elected by the voters in LD12 and will bring experience to the Government & Elections Committee with his previous elected service on the Queen Creek Town Council and Higley School Board,” House spokesman Andrew Wilder told the Phoenix New Times’ Erasmus Baxter.

Gee, perhaps Hoffman should also run the committee that oversees issues involving social media.

He was, after all, permanently suspended by Twitter along 261 other accounts associated with Rally Forge, for violating rules on platform manipulation and spam once the story came to light. Facebook also banned his marketing firm for “deceptive behavior”, removing 202 accounts, 54 pages and 76 Instagram accounts tied to Rally Forge — accounts that had amassed 400,000 followers.

Or, as I like to think of them, 400,000 suckers.

“In each case, the people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fictitious accounts and personas as a central part of their operations to mislead people about who they are and what they are doing,” Facebook wrote, referring to its investigations into trolling operations based in Myanmar, Azerbaijan and Hoffman’s cell in Phoenix.

And this is the guy Speaker Bowers appoints to the panel that approves changes to Arizona’s elections laws: a guy who specializes in internet disinformation campaigns.

This, at a time when Republican leaders already have half the state believing (without evidence) that Arizona’s election was a fraud.

Sure, makes total sense to me.

Reach Roberts at laurie.roberts@arizonarepublic.com.

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