Now hiring political hackers and hecklers

Photo courtesy of Zialater/Flikr

Photo courtesy of Zialater/Flikr

Money isn’t new to politics, but the way people are spending it in this election is borderline unethical. Advertisements, canvassing, and a team of political communication experts are expensive. Now, there seems to be a new part of the budget allocated to hiring hackers and hecklers.

Politicians hire experts to dig for dirt on the opposing candidate. Usually, they uncover discrepancies between a voting record and policy stance or legislation that failed or backfired. In 2016, it’s getting personal between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

In Clinton’s corner, founder of the liberal watch group Media Matters for America, David Brock, has offered $5 million to cover legal fees for anyone who leaks damaging videos of Trump from his time as the host of “The Apprentice.” Following the Trump tape, Brock is hoping that with over a decade of tapings the Republican presidential candidate might have slipped up another time.

Campaigning for Trump is Alex Jones, a conservative conspiracy theorist who started the website Infowars. Following the second presidential debate, Jones offered $1,000 to anyone who attended a Clinton rally wearing a “Bill Clinton rape” shirt and could be seen on television for at least five minutes. He upped the offer to $5,000 to anyone who could be heard yelling, “Bill Clinton is a rapist.”

Several individuals have entertained Jones’ offer and received the attention they wanted. In North Carolina, as they were being thrown out of a Clinton rally, President Obama played off their stunt with his own witty banter.

“Try to get your own rally,” Obama said. “They were auditioning for a reality show.”

Mark Burnett, the producer of Trump’s former reality show “The Apprentice,” has stated that he cannot legally release any unaired footage from the show.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (M.G.M.) bought Burnett’s production company and now owns the footage. Based on the contract they have with Trump, insiders at M.G.M. have reported that they cannot legally release any of that footage without his permission. Some entertainment lawyers have refuted this saying that Trump wouldn’t be able to win a case against them in the context of releasing the footage for the purpose of informing the public in an election.

Trump’s side also has an interest in obtaining leaked information that could damage the Clinton campaign. Recently some of her e-mails have appeared on WikiLeaks, which publishes secret information from anonymous hackers online. Although inconclusive, United States officials reported to CNN that there is a substantial amount of information supporting that Russia is behind the attacks. This is unsurprising to some considering Trump’s odd relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a man whom most U.S. presidents have been cautious around since the Cold War.

Following an announcement by James Comey, 11 days before the election, the FBI will continue to investigate Clinton’s emails. There might be more of a demand for dirt than ever before. Comey’s timing couldn’t be worse for the Clinton campaign, and his decision to publicize the investigation was heavily criticized considering that it could affect the outcome of the election.

With the polls narrowing as Election Day gets closer, there is no telling what other information might be hacked or leaked.

In such a personal election, there is an individual investment for the candidates in obtaining harmful information on the other, even if it is obtained illegally. While candidates are managing harassment at rallies and trying to protect digital data, people seem to be searching for the skeletons in their closets.