At A Glance
- Republican State Senator Martin J. Golden’s staff have been campaigning using fake social media accounts, possibly using taxpayer funds.
- There has been no comment to newspapers about Senator Marty Golden’s troll accounts.
- This may be a state ethics violation.
- We are providing a full list of Tweets from these fake accounts.
Yo angry Muppet, have you told the people you’re stealing from that you are losing by 46 points?State Senator Martin J Golden via. Twitter
On July 8th, 2018 at around 5:38 pm, someone using Republican NY State Senator Marty Golden’s official account hit ‘Tweet’ on the quote above. It was directed to Andrew Gounardes, one of Mr. Golden’s possible Democratic challengers.
The Tweet was quickly deleted, but the Internet is forever. It was screen capped and re-posted by Mr. Gounardes. Some felt Golden’s comment was crass but ultimately harmless. Others laughed at the phrasing. Something deeper was happening, though.
The phrase “Muppet” in the Tweet was familiar to a few local social media users, including Radio Free Bay Ridge. We quickly linked the phrasing to an anonymous Twitter troll who for a few months had been attacking local politicians and hyping up Senator Golden’s candidacy. The account was called Blue Collar Conservative and went by the handle @JoeBlue24142498. It is apparent that it was run by a state staffer with access to Golden’s account, who had just accidentally Tweeted from the wrong account.
Other Troll Accounts Used by Senator Golden
This is not the first time a Golden staffer (or Golden himself) has been caught using Social Media accounts to anonymously harass constituents, attack journalists, or campaign outside of the legal limits of his office. Reporter Julianne McShane noticed a similar gaffe linking Golden’s account to South Brooklyn Red (@SouthBrooklynR) mere weeks earlier.
An additional indicator that both South Brooklyn Red and Blue Collar Conservative are run by Golden staffers is that both had gone out of their way to attack McShane’s award-winning local reporting for The Brooklyn Paper. Indeed, it was the focus of the South Brooklyn Red’s very first Tweet, shortly after McShane asked hard questions about the technology behind Senator Golden’s proposed bill to install security scanners in NYC schools. The only other named people on Twitter (we can find) who has been critical of McShane personally have been Golden staffers.
Possible Ethics Violations
While generally vile, nothing at first glance seems illegal about these accounts. However, the ‘Muppet’ Tweet cites polling numbers that don’t exist publicly (“losing by 46 points”). Combined with the fact that whoever posted this was working as a Public Officer for the NY State Legislature, it can be reasonably assumed that this data was confidential internal information. Leaking it would be a direct violation of the Public Officers Code of Ethics § 74.3.c. If the data was from Golden’s re-election campaign, it would instead be a violation of the Little Hatch Act of the Civil Service Law §107.1 which says Senate staff cannot engage in any outside activity which conflicts with their salaried duties or which imply a violation of public trust, nor can they use their official position to influence an election. In context, both accounts existed solely as an advertising campaign for Marty Golden’s reelection.
Blue Collar Conservative and South Brooklyn Red both tweeted extensively during office hours, on taxpayers time. This also implies the use of government-paid cellphones, computers, and
Both fake accounts were actively campaigning for Mr. Golden’s re-election. This means that Mr. Golden’s staff is being paid by the state to campaign for his reelection… and they are actively concealing that activity, rather than making the separation between their job and personal opinions clear.
Also, while minor, we’d be remiss to point out that the profile picture for Blue Collar Conservative was a stolen copyrighted picture and had a watermark. Hilariously, the search terms for the photo include “looking crazy”, “desperate” and “loneliness”.
A Perception of Persecution
There are a few reasons why Golden or his staffers created these accounts. Most obvious is that it is an election year for Mr. Golden. Social Media has not been kind to the Senator or his staff, especially on Twitter. The majority of his staff Tweet amongst themselves during office hours, liking each other’s posts. The rest of their interactions are with a vocal set of progressive constituents (including this podcast).
This has led to a perception by Golden’s staff that most social media accounts critical of him are illegally run by his political enemies. His staffers have repeatedly accused City Councilman Justin Brannan and his Chief of Staff Chris McCreight. Both are proteges of his longtime political nemesis Vincent Gentile.
This belief that their opponents “started it” may have led them to be more comfortable with organizing and setting up fake accounts as part of their job managing Sen. Golden’s social media presence.
We can, however, personally vouch for the Twitter accounts most often accused of being run by Democratic functionaries. This includes Fight Back Bay Ridge, Bay Ridge Drivers, Fake Marty Golden, and others. They are not run by any elected Democratic apparatus or political club. We’ve met them in person. The only thing linking them is a shared disapproval of Golden’s policies, leadership, ethics, and influence on South Brooklyn. They are all, also, constituents.
The Testaverde Factor
Another contributing factor to the creation of Golden’s troll accounts is Anthony Testaverde, Golden’s former staff liaison for Marine Park and Gerritsen Beach. Testaverde was unceremoniously fired for comparing Parkland, Florida shooting survivors to Nazis. Testaverde was posting to his personal Facebook page outside of office hours but was a core member of the office social media circle.
South Brooklyn Red was created in April 2018, shortly after Testaverde was fired in March.
Blue Collar Conservative was created in June 2018, shortly after Sen. Golden was denied the Reform Party ballot in favor of Mr. Gounardes (thanks to local blogger Queen of the Click for pointing out this connection). The head of the Brooklyn Reform party, Bob Capano, was a frequent target of both troll accounts after this point. Capano was also a primary challenger against Sen. Golden’s staffer John Quaglione in the 2017 City Council race.
It is entirely possible that Testaverde’s firing was a ‘lesson’ to staffers to hide their more inflammatory opinions under fake accounts. This new anonymity may have easily snowballed into using their accounts to illegally campaign and otherwise ignore ethics rules. It also let them unleash themselves a bit, participating in fat-shaming, race-baiting, nativism, and more.
Staffers with Access
So who is responsible?
The Senator’s account is shared and managed by at least four staffers, not including Martin Golden himself. The first and most likely is his longtime spokesperson John Quaglione (whose Twitter account has grown saltier since losing his City Council election in 2017). On the day of the “muppet” Tweet, John claimed he was not responsible and was at a Cyclones game. We are unsure how this prevents one from Tweeting, but it was a denial all the same.
The second person with access would have been John Seravalli, who was promoted to full-time staff shortly before South Brooklyn Red was created. At a recent charity skydive event, Seravalli was on the ground and had filmed video through Golden’s twitter account.
Marko Kepi is another possible staffer with access to Golden’s social media accounts. A special assistant to Mr. Golden and one of his personal drivers, Marko has posted pictures of Golden attending the parade that Mr. Kepi organizes with his NGO, Albanian Roots.
Marko is the most likely suspect for running the Blue Collar Conservative account, for multiple reasons. Firstly, he is the only staffer with a background in England. Using “Muppet” as an insult is a British slang term, and Marko studied in England before moving to the United States from Albania, according to his LinkedIn profile. Perhaps most damning is the fact that Marko personally made the exact same mistake Blue Collar Conservative did a few weeks later, Tweeting from Golden’s account instead of his own. No other staffer has made this mistake.
The only other staffer we are aware of with possible access is James McClelland, one of his senior advisers and self-described “media specialist” who has formerly acted as Golden’s spokesperson.
Update: As of August 5th, 2018, we’re ready to confirm that, barring new evidence to the contrary, Marko Kepi was the person responsible for running Blue Collar Conservative. After being called to task on Twitter, there has been no denial from Golden’s office or Marko himself. Marko has also inadvertently confirmed he was using state resources to campaign for Golden using a
We strongly suspect a different staffer in Golden’s office is responsible for South Brooklyn Red, a staffer for a Staten Island elected official is responsible for at least two false Facebook accounts, and a state employee and friend of Golden is behind two other accounts, Billy Batts (on Facebook) and Jenny Ling Po (Twitter and blog comments sections since 2008).
Tweets from Known Marty Golden Troll Accounts
It is clear that these Tweets were subsidized using taxpayer dollars by people who were actively discharging the duties of their public office. As such, we are posting a full archive of this account’s posts for future reference as part of the public record, and to clarify this connection.
We will add additional accounts as they become deactivated or warrant inclusion in this archive. We are in the process of adding archives of at least three additional suspected accounts.
Blue Collar Conservative
Status: Deleted July 9th, 2018
(After being accused of being run by staffers)
If you are the copyright owner of the above Tweets, feel free to get in touch with us and we will be happy to credit you.