Debunking Breitbart’s Cruz-Fiorina-Mair Conspiracy Theory

Although the 2016 elections are far from over, the political coroners responsible for performing the autopsy on this cycle are already preparing to file a death certificate for one victim: the truth.

Serious policy discussion has been cast aside as outmoded, replaced by a new media dynamic in which slogans, catchphrases, and half-truths rule the day, all fueled by the bubble effect and the cycle of misinformation amplification it makes possible.

The latest example of this is seen in a conspiracy theory being peddled by Breitbart Reporter Patrick Howley. After shoddy and incomplete research, Howley has unearthed the fact that Carly Fiorina’s presidential campaign shares a mailing address with Liz Mair’s anti-Trump Make America Awesome PAC. As Breitbart reported:

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Consultant Liz Mair’s controversial anti-Donald Trump super PAC shares a mailing address with Carly Fiorina’s presidential campaign, which just re-launched as a nonprofit.

Fiorina is a Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) supporter.

Mair’s PAC Make America Awesome is under fire after it ran a sexist advertisement in Utah featuring Trump’s wife Melania, a model, posing nude. The ad encouraged people to vote for Ted Cruz. Mair is open about the fact that she is helping to boost Cruz, though Cruz has denied involvement with the ad.

By spinning up the gears of the Internet outrage machine through shoddy and incomplete reporting, Howley is attempting to mislead the public into believing a conspiracy exists where the facts prove otherwise.

Although Howley tried to dig up a scandal, what he actually found was a P. O. Box rented by Election CFO, a prominent Northern Virginia campaign accounting firm, whose services have been retained by literally hundreds of federal campaigns and committees, as well as hundreds more active within Virginia state politics.

In the world of accountancy and campaign compliance, just a handful are knowledgeable in campaign finance and qualified to keep the books of a political committee.

For the strident conspiracy theorist, even the presence of a reasonable and simple explanation keeping with Occam’s Razor is insufficient to dissuade belief in the more captivating but less truthful of explanations. After all, one might ask, why would Carly Fiorina and Liz Mair share the same campaign accountant in this, a nation which spans 3000 miles from sea to shining sea?

Those intent upon finding nefarious motives and secret coordination where none exists would point to this as evidence that shady schemes must indeed be targeting Trump.

Thinking people, however – in addition to thorough reporters – would find a much simpler explanation.

Those with knowledge of all parties involved, or merely access to Google, can easily connect these dots, for Carly Fiorina, her chief strategist, Amy Noone Frederick, and Liz Mair all happen to live in Northern Virginia – very close to the accounting firm which keeps their books.

The truth, however, doesn’t drive nearly as potent of a political narrative as a good conspiracy theory, nor does the truth drive nearly as many clicks in this intellectually debauched campaign cycle.

Although the truth behind this sharing of an official address is readily accessible with a bit of research, and should certainly be within the realm of discovery by a professional journalist, the damage resulting from the story is already done.

Invariably, this shoddily-researched drive-by hit against Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, and Liz Mair will be seen by millions as it is shared on social media and reposted from blog to blog, whereas attempts at a rebuttal might be seen by a few tens of thousands, at best.

This is how the political drive-by media operates: throw out half-truths secure in the knowledge that readers looking for a source of outrage will find one, then happily pass it along, truth be damned, as the story takes on an even more outrageous spin once it hits social media.

Although they shouldn’t get away with it, a sufficiently emotionally-driven and low-information electorate ensures they will. Where are their editors?

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