Blackridge Strategy clients react to smear campaign website details
Daryl Newcombe, CTV London
Published Friday, May 31, 2019 6:29PM EDT
The fallout continues from an online political smear campaign during the 2018 municipal election.
Past clients of Blackridge Strategy are distancing themselves from the consulting firm, which is run by Amir Farahi, one of the men whose name appears in website registration documents.
Ward 10 Councillor Paul Van Meerbergen says, “I just couldn't believe what was boiling away in terms of these accusations.
One of Van Meerbergen’s opponents, Virginia Ridley, was a target of the smear campaign, but he’s pushing back against accusations he benefitted from the campaign.
Website registration documents show the websites maureencassidy.ca and viriginaridley.ca registered under Farahi’s name and paid for with a credit card in the same name.
On the website Ridley is harshly criticized, including accusations of "child abuse" for bringing her son to a committee meeting at city hall.
Van Meerbergen defeated Ridley in the election, and says he hired Farahi's consulting firm Blackridge Strategy for a website and Facebook page.
When asked about whether they offered to do attack ads or negative campaigning on his behalf he says, “I did not hear of any of that. We were very clear in what we wanted and what was delivered, which was Facebook and our campaign ad.”
Van Meerbergen says he did not hear of the website controversy until he returned to London Friday morning.
“I'm not here to say they are guilty or not guilty. I don't know because I wasn't part of it. But we have had allegations come forward and this other evidence show up so I think frankly its incumbent that we hear something from them.”
So far, efforts to reach Farahi have been unsuccessful.
Jake Skinner, a business partner at Blackridge, says the company will respond, in time.
Another client of Blackridge, Merrymount Family Crisis Centre retained Blackridge earlier this year to help with communications when it turned to city hall to fill a funding shortfall.
Executive Director Paul Howarth tells CTV News, "Merrymount Family Support and Crisis Centre had no knowledge of anything that occurred during the election involving Blackridge Strategy and municipal candidates. Merrymount fully supports Maureen Cassidy and Virginia Ridley."