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CPAC’s ‘Blog Bash’ makes citizen-journalists heroes for a night.
NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland — Thursday night, more than 500 people will crowd into Bobby McKey’s Piano Bar here to pay a sort of backhanded tribute to a man who hates them: Brett Kimberlin, the convicted bomber-turned-progressive activist whose attempt to suppress the truth about his criminal history became a major rallying point for conservative bloggers last year.
The National Bloggers Club, which will be hosting the fourth annual “Blog Bash” at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), helped call attention to the plight of Virginia blogger Aaron Walker, whose online battle against Kimberlin escalated into a series of courtroom confrontations. Last May, “Everybody Blog About Brett Kimberlin Day” helped called attention to the cases of those who, as syndicated columnist and blogger Michelle Malkin wrote, were “targeted by convicted Speedway bomber Brett Kimberlin because they dared to mention his criminal past or assisted others who did.” She added: “The late Andrew Breitbart warned about Kimberlin and company.”
Breitbart, of course, was the digital media entrepreneur who died last year, barely three weeks after he accepted the “Changing the Narrative Award” at Blog Bash — the only award for journalism Breitbart ever received in his lifetime. This year, the award has been re-named in honor of Breitbart, whose celebrated role in exposing the Anthony Weiner cybersex scandal helped demonstrate the power of online media. The connection between Breitbart, Kimberlin and the Weiner scandal … well, it’s complicated. I spent weeks last year covering the Kimberlin story (see, for example, “Terror by Any Other Name,” May 29, and “Online Armageddon”), and its multi-layered complexity is a challenge to explain briefly.
It begins with Brett Kimberlin, who in 1981 was convicted of a weeklong string of bombings that terrorized the small town of Speedway, Indiana. He was sentenced to 50 years, but served only 17 years, during which he managed to become a minor celebrity by claiming to have once sold marijuana to Vice President Dan Quayle.
After leaving federal prison, Kimberlin evidently leveraged his political connections into a new career as a progressive activist; in 2005, he co-founded two tax-exempt organizations that have since raised more than $2 million. In 2010, one of those groups, Velvet Revolution, took aim at Breitbart’s organization, urging criminal prosecution in Maryland against James O’Keefe III and Hannah Giles, the two young conservatives whose undercover video sting destroyed the left-wing group ACORN. Breitbart fired back a few months later, with a lengthy article by Mandy “Liberty Chick” Nagy about Kimberlin’s past. From there, a steadily escalating online war began, that evidently put a number of bloggers — including Nagy, Walker, Patrick “Patterico” Frey, and Breitbart.com contributor Lee Stranahan — on Kimberlin’s list of targeted enemies.
Since May, when bloggers rallied around Walker, the enemies list has grown to include the entire National Bloggers Club, which helped defray Walker’s legal fees. In recent weeks, Kimberlin and his allies have attempted to shut down Blog Bash, contacting the venue and threatening protests against the event. If Kimberlin thought he could intimidate conservatives, he was sadly mistaken. Tickets to Blog Bash have become so highly coveted that many VIPs can’t get in, as the club’s president Ali Akbar pleads that fire-code capacity won’t allow any extra attendees. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz made the guest list, as did 2012 presidential candidate Rick Santorum, and yesterday the National Republican Senatorial Committee announced that it was co-sponsoring the event — a rare gesture by the GOP establishment, reaching out to conservative bloggers who are often critical of the Republican Party leadership.
This show of unity on the Right is, as I say, a backhanded tribute to Kimberlin, whose criminal record and harassment of bloggers is the subject of 5,000 flyers that the National Bloggers Club will distribute at CPAC. But the true tribute is to Andrew Breitbart, who warned about Kimberlin, and who inspired bloggers to fight back.
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