What do Rocketboom's Andrew Baron and John Edwards's fling Rielle Hunter have in common? They're both videobloggers who live off of trial lawyer Fred Baron's largesse. Financing from Fred, Andrew's dad, got Andrew's Rocketboom videoblog off the ground. Add to that his contributions to the Edwards campaign, including paying to move Hunter to a new home in Santa Barbara, away from the limelight. And most damningly, Baron Sr. may have arranged for Baron Jr. to do video work for the Edwards campaign — simultaneously boosting his favored candidate and his son's business.Andrew Baron's involvement in the Edwards campaign has drawn notice before. The younger Baron failed to disclose that he was getting paid to do campaign videos which he packaged as interviews:
...Edwards tells Rocketboom's Joanne Colan — a former British MTV VJ — that places like Rocketboom.com are "one of the best ways to reach people" as part of his campaign to change America "from the ground up." But in the "interview," neither Edwards nor Colan disclose that there was a financial relationship between the Edwards campaign and Rocketboom.com, as [Washington Post's Howard] Kurtz reports.
But in their outrage over the undisclosed payments, no one stopped to ask how Baron, a relative unknown videoblog producer, got the gig in the first place. The notion that Edwards was buying blogger buzz satisfied even hardcore media reporters like Kurtz. It never occurred to them that the quid pro quo might be working in reverse. By crowning Andrew Baron a rising star among videobloggers, worthy of a ride in the Edwards campaign jet, Edwards was boosting a business in which one of his backers, Fred Baron, had a financial interest. What a win-win-win! Andrew Baron got a job and a hot interview; Edwards got promotion as the Internet's candidate of the moment; and Fred Baron got two of his causes advanced. The Edwards campaign may have foundered, but the interview gave Rocketboom the kind of credibility that eventually paid off in an exclusive, seven-figure distribution deal with Sony. (To cap it all off, we've heard rumors that the jet actually belonged to Fred Baron, who reportedly loaned his plane out to Edwards from time to time.) But Andrew Baron's credibility as a journalist is very much on the line now. Robert Scoble suggested that Baron had expressed relief that the affair was "out in the open." Did that mean the younger Baron knew about it at the time? The elder Baron certainly did. It was the money trail that Fred Baron laid which eventually led to Rielle Hunter's outing. We asked Chuck Olsen, Baron's Rocketboom shooter, who was aboard the blogger plane back in 2006 at the time of the Edwards' campaign announcement, what he thought of this theory. Here's what he said:
"It's certainly possible that Andrew knew about the possibility of the affair. But, I don't think Andrew has been involved with the Edwards campaign since it launched. I'd guess Andrew's face time with his dad concerned Rocketboom business, not Rielle Hunter."
If so, that's too bad. Andrew could have helped out dad by giving Rielle Hunter a gig on Rocketboom. Two birds, one stone. (Photo by Robert Scoble)