The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

A Texas ad agency tied to Trump signs on with Germany’s far right

A campaign poster of the German anti-immigrant party Alternative for Germany, or AfD, in Berlin reads: “Burkas? We prefer bikinis.” The sentence at the bottom reads: “Trust yourself Germany.” (Markus Schreiber/AP)
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BERLIN — Far-right European parties — at least those that have not been decimated in recent months — are not exactly cozying up to President Trump, despite significant ideological alignment. A right-wing German politician this week urged the American president to “tweet less” and marveled that he couldn't keep his staff in order.

But there's at least one tie binding these parties, beyond their embrace of nationalism and their harsh words for immigrants. Many are relying on a Texas-based advertising agency — founded by a young political strategist crowned by Bloomberg News as “the man who invented the Republican Internet” — to propagate their message.

That includes Alternative for Germany, or AfD, according to a report Wednesday in Spiegel Online. The far-right party, poised to enter the German Parliament for the first time after elections on Sept. 24, has enlisted Harris Media, founded in 2008 by Vincent Harris, to hone its online advertising. It is planning a social media blitz ahead of the high-stakes contest, in which Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to claim a fourth term.

Harris has worked with several conservative U.S. politicians, including Newt Gingrich and Mitch McConnell, though it was his role advancing the message of Ted Cruz in the Texas firebrand's successful campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2012 that cemented Harris's reputation as a tech-savvy spokesman for those on the right.

His firm completed projects for Trump during the Republican primaries. A video it produced before the November election for a neoconservative nonprofit, Secure America Now, took aim at Germany, depicting the country in a panicked state overrun by Muslims — cathedrals transformed into mosques, Oktoberfest void of alcohol.

A global outlook has translated into a global clientele. Spiegel reported that Harris Media has allied itself with the U.K. Independence Party, or UKIP, which promoted the successful Brexit campaign last year, and with the ruling Likud party in Israel.

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The right-wing American strategists working with the AfD have a broad portfolio, according to Spiegel.

They are helping the party bypass German subsidiaries of companies such as Google and Facebook by connecting AfD officials directly to contacts in Silicon Valley, the news website reported. And they are devising strategies to allay qualms about identifying with the far-right party, including by minimizing the group's logo. They are even weighing in with ideas of their own, such as the slogan “Germany for Germans,” rejected by an AfD staff member as too brazenly nationalistic, according to Spiegel.

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The AfD has developed a slew of controversial campaign materials, including advertisements showing the belly of a pregnant woman and pronouncing, “New Germans? We'll make them ourselves,” and another declaring, “Burkas? We prefer bikinis.”