How TeamUterati Founders Fell for a Right Wing Con Artist

The following update has been added to The @Shoq Twitter Brigade Burn Notice.

Contrary to popular misconception, this story is not about defending a “Twitter cat.” Many people have been harassed, bullied, intimidated, and lost income since May. Using new information, this update will at last disclose answers to some of the bigger mysteries behind the “Shoq Twitter Brigade” as well as the relentless smearing of StopRush.

  • Imani Gandy (ABL) and Heather Chase tried to cut a side deal with Jason Wade Taylor (JWT), aka “Randy Hahn,” while StopRush was investigating and vetting him.
  • Believing JWT was a real progressive philanthropist, between May 16 and 23 ABL and Chase curried his favor by supplying him with internal StopRush emails and a recording that later showed up in right wing blogs.
  • Acting on ABL’s behalf, Chase was also a source for Breitbart.com blogger Lee Stranahan.
  • When “Randy Hahn” was exposed as a fake, ABL and Chase engaged in a character assassination campaign against @Shoq and StopRush rather than admit to their embarrassing roles in the fraud and their release of documents.
  • During the Summer, ABL escalated this harassment through surrogates and a whispering campaign.

Progressive philanthropists are notoriously tight-fisted. Because progressive social movements are challenged for funding, they are vulnerable to dirty tricks by right wing operators. The anti-abortion activist group Live Action recently tried this trick on Planned Parenthood. In 2012, a right wing con artist named Jason Wade Taylor aka “Randy Hahn” distracted and damaged two progressive social action movements by playing one against the other with false promises of future patronage.

In April, JWT approached @Shoq and asked him to direct a funding campaign that included StopRush and was expanded to include TeamU. After @Shoq and the StopRush team decided in May that “Randy Hahn” was a fake, ABL and Heather Chase continued to believe he was a genuine progressive philanthropist and pursued their own deal with him. In order to win his trust, they provided him with internal StopRush emails and a recorded phone conversation. As Chase told one source, “greed got the best of me.”

When they finally understood that “Randy” was a con man who didn’t have any money, they decided to discredit @Shoq and StopRush defenders rather than deal with the embarrassment of their complicity in a fraud. Charges of “abuser” and “misogynist” were leveled so as to paint any such revelation as retribution.

Con Artists Rely on the Shame and Silence of their Victims

Sources within TeamUterati have cast new light on a confusing phone conversation I had with ABL prior to May. She wanted her own deal with “Randy” for TeamU funding, but at the time she only told me that she wanted to have Chase meet the mysterious benefactor. Both ABL and Chase were fully aware that StopRush was actively investigating whether this person was anything he pretended to be. She did not tell me she had discussed going directly to “Randy” with @Shoq, who didn’t want her to “go rogue” while StopRush was still trying to vet him.

It was no secret that ABL had a $300,000 fundraising goal for her projects. She decided to negotiate financial contributions from Jason Taylor, aka “Randy Hahn,” separate from anything @Shoq and StopRush might be doing. Had StopRush known that Chase and ABL were dealing with “Randy” separately, both would have been cut out of all communications. This side deal has been confirmed by internal sources at TeamU who wish to remain anonymous:


TeamU had already secured highly-visible board members and/or advisers whose reputations were put at risk in this scheme. In fact, ABL overrode her board on May 23 to insist on pursuing a relationship with “Randy,” declaring that she would not turn away a potential source of funding over a “conspiracy theory.” ABL has also explained her participation in the StopRush smears as a matter of duress, with “Randy” learning that he was recorded during the StopRush investigation and pressing ABL to help him defend himself against possible extortion. As far as I can determine, the details of this “extortion scheme” have never been revealed to anyone, and the charge is just another preposterous element of his larger scam.

Since early June, ABL and Chase have systematically tried to cover up their own participation in that fraud. They minimized discussion of his ongoing harassment of StopRush volunteers while increasing their backchannel hostility toward @Shoq, who knew many key details of what they had been up to.

Breitbloggers Confirm Heather Chase Forwarded Stoprush & @Shoq Emails

To see the results of what ABL and Chase did to StopRush in pursuit of their own deal with “Randy Hahn,” just read his disgusting and defamatory “Texas Progressive Press” blog — if you can stomach it.

When the emails and recording she provided through Chase became public, ABL had to distance herself from @Shoq, StopRush, and her role in helping a right wing con artist smear the 1,500 volunteers of a successful netroots movement. JWT has claimed for months that Chase and ABL were his sources of information on StopRush, and that Chase has continued serving as his source. Furthermore, Chase has also been an informant for Breitbart.com blogger Lee Stranahan:

My Summer of discussing Stranahan makes more sense now, doesn’t it? The conversation above refers to an email I had sent ABL in September. You can read that email at Pastebin, where it was posted anonymously after Stranahan had the second DM conversation below. He revealed that Chase, not ABL, had forwarded the email to him:

Stranahan has played point man in the “@Shoq illegally recorded Randy” nontroversy since its inception at The Trenches.us. It is an extension of the ridiculous “extortion” tale Randy told ABL and Chase. StopRush internal emails were used in a fabricated narrative to embarrass movement volunteers, including MSNBC personality Krystal Ball. TeamU volunteers and contributors might now ask ABL and Chase why they were so willing to sell out the reputations and private information of prominent progressives and their causes.


There Was Never Any Money — or Solidarity

As should be clear by now, “Randy Hahn” is not a rich benefactor of any causes, least of all progressive ones. Chase and ABL appear to have maintained faith in him until June, when I told the world his real name. This was a neat trick in his long con, given that ABL had to ignore the StopRush emails cataloging his plagiarized blog, his fake credentials, his lies about ownership of a law firm in Houston, and clues to his real identity.

ABL chose to believe Chase, who met Randy at a Mexican restaurant on May 22 and called that “vetting.” TeamU sources indicate that ABL ignored staff objections to all this behavior, and that Chase cut them out of the loop in response, leading to staff departures in late May. Their escalating character assassination campaign against @Shoq since June has been a smokescreen to prevent any embarrassing revelation of the assistance they gave Randy.

Which brings us back to ABL’s good friend @vdaze, who brought this all to a climax in August, and the IM chat she sampled in her “response” to the first posting of this burn notice. As you can see in another selection from that chat included below, @vdaze is quite capable of pushing @Shoq around when she wants to. She uses ALL CAPS while trying to talk him into affirming the ABL-friendly right wing blog narrative about an “illegal recording” (the “me” here is @Shoq):

The narrative of this story now coheres in a number of friendships. Heather Chase has consistently interfered in @Shoq’s friendships and relationships (remember, just weeks after meeting him, Chase told @vdaze about flirtations she had encouraged). Meanwhile, Chase has given ABL terrible advice, especially in regards to Randy Hahn, while turning ABL’s friendship with @Shoq into a public hatred. (To see how ABL and @Shoq could still engage in friendly banter as he lent a hand in setting up TeamU, click here.)

JWT wanted to break up progressive alliances and friendships. Through Chase and ABL, he succeeded.

Imani’s Friends Rally to Her Flag

Because her role in the StopRush smear was suspected in May, ABL has been under a very quiet cloud of suspicion ever since. Her TeamU fundraising has reportedly been disappointing. How very convenient that ABL’s friend @vdaze, who had been pushing @Shoq to help the right wing blog narrative for months, should suddenly declare in August that he had “abused” her without ever explaining her incitement or why an 8 month old voice mail message was newsworthy. And how odd that she should respond to this burn notice by doubling down on that right wing blog narrative, “sending Shoq’s problem to the FBI.”

That story can only help one “progressive” on Earth: her friend ABL.

The timing of @vdaze’s outburst — two weeks after the IM chat discussing how ABL had seemingly had enough of me blogging on matters related to “Randy Hahn” — seems no accident now. In championing her friend’s outspoken denunciations of @Shoq, ABL damaged the reputation of the person most likely to reveal her complicity in the smearing of StopRush volunteers.

Darshann Padilla, ABL’s friend, former employer, and now a TeamU participant of some standing, suddenly reversed her opinion of @Shoq at the same time. All of them wanted to help their friend ABL escape accountability. All of them wanted TeamU to succeed, no matter the cost to anyone or anything else.

The highest art of the abuser is that victims become invested in defending them. Despite all the tweets and noise, one eight-month old recording is not a prima facie case for abuse. People screaming “abuse abuse abuse” are not proof of abuse. But there has indeed been actual, real, not-imaginary abuse happening all Summer.

The Continuing Harassment of StopRush Volunteers

Ironically, people in the outer circles of TeamU privately tell me they have already known about all this for some time, but don’t wish to speak up for fear of harassment. My sources also wish to avoid harassment by remaining anonymous. I have seen tweets that say ‘@Shoq is a big boy, he can take care of himself’ — as if his reputation was disposable, and as if he was the only person harmed by this campaign. Rest assured he is not. On Sunday night, “Randy” was helping his co-blogger incite violence against a StopRush volunteer. You can see the full picture of that event here; sample below:

Luckily, the address and phone number above are out of date, but you can see why StopRush has been very interested in finding out who helped JWT, an admirer of James O’Keefe, to smear and harass them. In fact, ABL has engaged in a Summer-long whispering campaign with various StopRush and @Shoq harassers. One of them is @FeminaziSlut, who took umbrage that they asked her to replace her “respect the cunt” avatar while they were clearing the #stoprush hashtag of JWT’s sock puppet accounts:

On Stranahan:

On @Shoq:

Contrary to what ABL has been telling everyone privately, until now neither I nor @Shoq had ever accused her of complicity in the smearing and harassment of StopRush, or cooperation with Breitbloggers. The fact that she was inoculating people to these charges by the first week of July speaks to her own guilty state of mind. As an officer of the court, ABL should know better.

There are in fact many parties who may be interested in legal discovery in this matter, and I plan to assist that process as much as possible if anyone does decide to move forward. My testimony will include the fact that during our strange conversation, ABL spoke of separating her affairs with @Shoq from her interests in TeamU, but was bizarrely cryptic about it. She wanted to have Heather meet “Randy” regardless of what @Shoq decided, and asked me not to tell him.

At the time, I did not understand she was trying to end-run StopRush for a side deal. All Summer, I have not understood that ABL was trying to cover up her embarrassing role in the “Randy Hahn” fiasco. The puzzle now fits together neatly, but the picture makes me sad. Chase and ABL simply don’t want to admit they fell for a con artist. Instead, they have whipped up hate against the people who didn’t fall for a stranger on the internet waving imaginary money at them.

This bonfire of Twitter vanities will update.

About Matt Osborne

Veteran blogging the culture wars from Alabama. Video journalist, mash-up artist, aspiring novelist, and metalhead. Expect bunnies, geekery, dark humor, and snarky empirical analysis to annoy idealists of all stripes. You can follow me on Twitter, but be ready 'cause it might get loud.
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