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Va. Campaign Gets a Lesson on Loose Lips in the Age of Twitter

By Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 7, 2009

A cautionary tale for politics in the Internet age: Late Tuesday, a 23-year-old assistant film editor working in Massachusetts used Twitter to answer a friend's inquiry about how he'd been spending his time.

"I work 45 hours a week as an assistant editor in Boston editing political campaign commercials. Right now: Bob McDonnell for VA Gov," Jonathan Paula wrote.

Oops.

Robert F. McDonnell, the Republican candidate for governor of Virginia, has not yet aired a television commercial. And when he intends to start has been a closely guarded secret, especially since a Democratic group began a half-million-dollar ad campaign Monday that slams him.

Within three hours, Paula's tweet had made its way to Virginia political blogger Ben Tribbett, who quickly posted an item on his Not Larry Sabato blog suggesting that McDonnell will soon be hitting the airwaves.

In the Twitter era, there are no secrets.

It's a reality to which campaigns and businesses will simply have to adjust, especially as younger employees, comfortable with sharing their lives online, join the workforce, said Sarah Milstein, co-author of an upcoming book called, appropriately, "The Twitter Book."

She said the trend started a decade ago when people began musing about their daily activities on blogs. "Twitter lowers the barrier even further," she said.

According to his résumé -- also available online -- Paula is an assistant editor at Dirt Road Productions, which has been paid more than $55,000 by the McDonnell campaign.

(Per his Twitter account, Paula is also producer of the popular YouTube series "Is It a Good Idea to Microwave This?" One recent installment: "Is It a Good Idea to Microwave My Little Pony?")

McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin had no comment on the leak. His Democratic opponents, however, were delighting in the slip.

"It's great to see that the Virginia Republican Party continues to take the lead in online media," cracked Joe Abbey, campaign manager for state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, one of three Democrats competing in the June 9 primary to oppose McDonnell.

When reached yesterday at Dirt Road's Boston offices and told that his tweet was burning up the Virginia campaign trail, Paula initially seemed tickled.

"I would have to talk to my boss before mentioning anything, but I think that's pretty hilarious," he said.

Then, Paula continued: "Actually, can you hold on? My boss is calling me right now."

After several moments of hold music, a Dirt Road executive came to the phone to say that the company does not comment on clients.

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