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Annoying, Generally. - Blather. Rants. Repeat.
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captainsblog
captainsblog
Annoying, Generally.

Let's play a game!

Open your browser's search engine page.

Type in the name of any US state. Space bar. Now the letter "A."

If you've got search suggestions enabled, I can almost damn-guarantee that the term [state name] attorney general will be near the top of the list. If you picked the exceptional state or your suggestion feature is disabled, type the whole thing out, then hit "Google search." (You are using Google, right?)

Atop the list will be your random state's attorney general's webpage, on which, it is virtually certain, you will find two things:

-The name, and one or more prominent pictures, of that state's AG, as the anchoring features of the page; and

-A list of, or links or rotating splash pages about, all the Important Crusading Things that the state's AG has been doing to protect you, the voter consumer, taxpayer, utility customer, whatever.

I deal with compliance issues for clients around the country, and we get complaint forms, typically filled out in crayon by crazy people trained by internet how-to sites, which have to be responded to at these offices.  Almost all of them fit this template. It's all about The Boss- and The Boss is not the governor, or anyone else in the chain of command, but Kamala, or Buddy, or Lori, or in our case, Eric. Eric the AG. (I wonder if he sells fish licences.) 

In our case, at least, Eric's office is the only place in state government, outside the judiciary, where you won't see Andrew Cuomo's name splattered over every which thing. No, Eric takes all the credit, and Eric gets all the pub. Seems odd, in a way, since Cuomo was Eric's predecessor in the office, as Eliot Spitzer was his predecessor in it, before they each climbed up the Capitol Steps to become the Guv.  It wasn't always this way.  I vaguely remember the names of the old-school holders of that job when I was growing up, mainly because unlike in the federal goverment (where the holder of the office is, literally, a Holder), the AG in New York is a separately elected post. So I remember Louis Lefkowitz from Rocky's days, and Bob Abrams from the reigns of Hugh Carey and Cuomo the Elder's, mostly from them campaigning every four years- but for little else they ever did in office. But by the time local hack Dennis Vacco got into (and quickly out of) office, the position had evolved into its current one of attracting upwardly mobile political animals, and with the advent of the Internet it became the center of attention-whoring that it now, plainly, is.

One of the latest examples of this came across my attention the other day, in an article about "astroturfing"- the sneaky efforts to influence public opinion in politics and commerce by posting, usually for pay, comments or reviews about a candidate, or a product or service.  There's not much anyone can do about it in politics thanks to Citizens United, but Eric could and did go after it in the arena of Yelps and similar online review sites. As usual, the first thing you see in Eric's self-published press release is Eric's name:

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that 19 companies had agreed to cease their practice of writing fake online reviews for businesses and to pay more than $350,000 in penalties. "Operation Clean Turf," a year-long undercover investigation into the reputation management industry, the manipulation of consumer-review websites, and the practice of astroturfing, found that companies had flooded the Internet with fake consumer reviews on websites such as Yelp, Google Local, and CitySearch. In the course of the investigation, the Attorney General's office found that many of these companies used techniques to hide their identities, such as creating fake online profiles on consumer review websites and paying freelance writers from as far away as the Philippines, Bangladesh and Eastern Europe for $1 to $10 per review. By producing fake reviews, these companies violated multiple state laws against false advertising and engaged in illegal and deceptive business practices.

And how did Eric go about finding these astroturfers pretending to be legitimate reviewers? Why, by pretending himself to be a legitimate business in search of such needs:

In recent years, the reputation management industry has exploded as businesses have become increasingly concerned about their online reputations.  So-called search engine optimization ("SEO") companies routinely offer online reputation management as part of their services.

Posing as the owner of a yogurt shop in Brooklyn, representatives from Attorney General Schneiderman's office called the leading SEO companies in New York to request assistance in combating negative reviews on consumer-review websites.  During these calls, representatives from some of these companies offered to write fake reviews of the yogurt shop and post them on consumer-review websites such as Yelp.com, Google Local and Citysearch.com, as part of their reputation management services.

So, in other words, it's do as I say, not as I do.  But that's fairly typical for Albany, and in particular for alumni of this AG's office who have both higher aspirations and Client Numbers with whorehouses.

But the punch line doesn't come until the end, which is, as usual, where Eric deigns to give any actual credit to the people in his office who did the actual work in uncovering this scam.  They don't get boldface in the article- that's reserved for Eric Himself and the senior litigation counsel fro Yelp, but he does, at the very end, make the following mention of who got him his headline du jour (or maybe du hour):

The investigation was conducted by Assistant Attorneys General Clark Russell and Jordan Adler, and Investigator Vanessa Ip, in the Internet Bureau, with special assistance from Deputy Bureau Chief Susan Scharbach of the Real Estate Finance Bureau, under the supervision of Executive Deputy Attorney General of Economic Justice Karla G. Sanchez.

I especially love that the Internet Bureau has an employee named Ip. I wonder what her address is;)



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Comments
sturgeonslawyer From: sturgeonslawyer Date: February 23rd, 2014 06:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Didn't work for Hawai'i.
captainsblog From: captainsblog Date: February 23rd, 2014 06:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
I tried six random ones (in addition to several I already knew would work), and of course they all fit the mold. They must be too busy fending off birther demands for Obama's hospital records.
sturgeonslawyer From: sturgeonslawyer Date: February 23rd, 2014 06:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Tried several more states. While many gave me the expected result, neither Florida nor Alaska did. Interesting.
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