Friday afternoon, the White House quietly released its annual report to Congress on White House staff salaries. Among the employees is the infamous director of progressive media and online response, Jesse Lee, who is paid $72,500 a year to provide White House sanctioned responses to any negative press it receives.
The position, which was previously part of the privately-funded DNC's rapid response team, is now a taxpayer-funded spin machine to thwart bad press against President Barack Obama. In effect, the position is a pulpit for the White House, through Lee, to ridicule critics and promote a liberal agenda. Lee frequently retweets liberal bloggers and media organizations, but also picks fights with a number of conservative bloggers.
Perhaps most surprising is the main target of Lee's rebuttal tweets, none other than former NewsBusters and MRC social media marketer, Kevin Eder. Eder, who describes himself as "quite literally...a nobody," is the subject of 15% of the tweets coming from Lee's official White House account.
As the Heritage Foundation's Rob Bluey explains,
Of the 267 tweets written by Lee in just over a month, a stunning 40 of them have been directed at Kevin Eder, a prolific Twitter user with more than 83,000 tweets to his credit. That means 15 percent of Lee’s tweets — from an official White House account no less — have been with Eder.
One such example happened last week in a dispute over the budget.
Eder posted this tweet: “Hmm…it can’t be true that @SenateDems haven’t passed a budget in 790 days and the only plan Obama has is a speech. Right, @jesseclee44?”
To which Lee responded: “@keder @SenateDems Plan is keep negotiating w/ Rs & Ds, not default & trash economy, not voucherize Medicare to fund more tax cuts for rich.”
It seems like something to laugh at when a White House staffer has dedicated so much of his Twitter feed to a person who describes himself as a nobody, but when you remember that Lee is paid $72,500 in your tax dollars, the situation becomes less amusing.
Lee is not the only White House staffer who dedicates himself to online engagement, either. According to Michelle Malkin, there are at least 17 staffers with titles referencing the Office of Public Engagement or Online Engagement.
These “engagers” are among the top earners in the White House. Fourteen of the 17 earn $50,000 or more. Chicago crony Valerie Jarrett, the White House senior adviser who oversees OPE, receives a salary of $172,200 a year. Michael Strautmanis, deputy assistant to the president and counselor to the senior adviser for strategic engagement, earns $150,000. Nathanael Tamarin, a special assistant to the president for public engagement, makes $96,900 a year.
The director of OPE, Jon Carson, pulls in $153,000 annually. Carson’s deputy, Brian Bond, boasts a $93,840 yearly salary. OPE deputy directors Greg Nelson and Anne Filipic earn $92,000.
What, exactly, are all these minions paid to do? OPE describes itself as “allow(ing) the views of the ordinary American citizen to be more readily heard within the administration” and coordinating “events that bring members of the administration in contact with members of the public.”
In reality, it’s another publicly subsidized Obama spin operation by a different name.
These engagers are partially to thank for events like today's Twitter town hall, an online engagement effort to reinvigorate the same support base that carried Obama to victory in 2008.
The Twitter town hall focused on Obama's work in creating jobs and fixing the economy. Users asked their 140-character questions with the hashtag #askobama, and a pre-selected team of "seasoned Twitter users" handpicked the best #askobama tweets for the president to answer. Tough questions were in short supply, though, as the moderator of the town hall was Jack Dorsey, Twitter co-founder and close friend of the administration.
If only Eder had been selected to the seasoned Twitter users team, perhaps Obama would have faced more challenging questions this afternoon. Jesse Lee surely would have been tweeting about it.