Tulsi Gabbard Has Enemies In High Places

How doing the right thing could be costing her everything

The morning of February 28, 2016, Tulsi Gabbard was in a pretty good spot. She was the rising-star Congresswoman from Hawaii, the darling of the Democratic party, whose anti-regime change platform was breathing fresh life into a stagnating institution. She was their future. But the revelations — revealed by Wikileaks through troves of leaked internal emails — that the Democratic National Committee was actively conspiring against Bernie Sanders in order to ensure Hillary Clinton won the nomination at that years convention changed everything. That day, Tulsi Gabbard took a stand. With her head held high and a smile on her face, she resigned her position as Vice-Chair of the DNC, and not only that, went against her party and publicly endorsed Sanders. The next day, she recieved this email:

Now, this email is hardly new. Wikileaks released it as part of their Podesta Emails series later in 2016. So why am I even bringing it back up? Because it’s relevant, or possibly, it’s consequences are.

Ever since Gabbard announced her bid for the Presidency, she has been subject to the occasional, yet predictable hit-piece. It’s usually an intentionally misrepresented version of her meeting with Syrian president Bashar Al Assad on a diplomatic fact finding mission in 2017, and her subsequent public opposition to US involvement in the conflict . Most accounts of this story either minimalize or omit completely her also meeting with leaders on the other side of their Civil War, which when coupled with her reluctance to go to war there, is done to make her seem as an “apologist” for a man accused of atrocious humanitarian abuses. The apologist label is untrue, of course, as she has called him a “brutal dictator” and even called for his execution if he were to ever be convicted of war crimes by an international court. Anyone with access to the internet and the desire to be informed can find this information, if they’re willing to search for it. Many either can’t or won’t be bothered. Who has time to read anymore?

Instead, many turn to cable news outlets and social media pundits for their research and information. People look to the press because, let’s face it, they’re supposed to know more than us about what goes on behind the curtain. Make no mistake, they certainly do. They also know that most people will believe what they’re told by the mainstream media. So when it comes to the easily debunked “Assad” smear hurled at Tulsi Gabbard, one you swear must be true because you’ve heard it a hundred times, how could they all be wrong? It’s almost like they’re all reading out of the same playbook. Maybe. More likely though, they’re all on the same e-mail list. This is why that infamous email matters.

The email at face value looks like nothing more than a couple of disgruntled Democrat fundraisers being salty at Gabbard for not falling in line with the DNC and backing Clinton, and telling her they’re taking their money elsewhere. But it’s the names that matter here, and not only that, but their positions at the companies they work for. The email is written by Darnell Strom on behalf of himself and a man named Michael Kives. Both men, at the time were executives at a global talent representation firm — Creative Artists Agency, or CAA. Let’s start there.

CAA presents itself as a “Nexus of talent, content, brands, technology, sports, and live events” creating “limitless opportunities for the storytellers, trendsetters, icons, and thought leaders who shape popular culture”. What does that mean? CAA represents thousands of clients across the entire mass media spectrum. From A-List movie stars and news anchors, to sports heroes and big tech CEOs. By putting so many influential and socially exhalted figures under one umbrella, it provides a pathway for ideas to inorganically seep into the cultural lexicon, ideas that can be instantly promoted by your favorite politician and your favorite NBA player simultaneously without the typical observer knowing they got that idea from the same person. It is the largest such agency of its kind in the world, though there are others like them, namely United Talent Agency, or UTA. UTA is another firm much like CAA with the same function and goals, and years after he authored that email, Darnell Strom would leave CAA to head up the newly launched “Culture and Leadership Division” there. His role is described as working with clients who “want to expand their diverse businesses and cultural influence at the intersection of entertainment, politics, the arts, and thought leadership” enabling clients to “connect and create big, bold, brave ideas…across all mediums”. He also described UTA as a “creative hub” for leading voices, helping them “build businesses and find global audiences in unexpected places”. Except, it’s completely expected. Wouldn’t it be easier to get an interview on CNN to promote your book when you and Chris Cuomo share an agent? Maybe get your up and coming football star on Jimmy Fallon? How about to promote a candidate on The View? Or simply a push talking point on all of the above?

See where this is going?

Michael Kives was a long time agent and executive at CAA, before which he worked on the staffs of both Bill and Hillary Clinton. He used his Hollywood connections as a tool for massive fundraisers for Hillary Clinton during her 2008 and 2016 bid for president, and why not? You have a rolodex full of millionaires you know on a first name basis, you might as well make the most of it. At no time was that more apparent than at Kives’ own wedding in November of 2018. The Hollywood Reporter’s headline read: “Wedding or Power Summit?”. It was an apt description. The ceremony was attended by Bill and Hillary Clinton, Cory Booker, Elon Musk, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Crown Prince Hussein of Jordan, and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg. Also, none other than Kamala Harris, who Kives donated $5,000 to, was supposed to attend but had to cancel according to THR’s sources. As a matter of fact, CAA employees were the 8th largest donor to Harris’ “Fearless for the People” leadership PAC, to the tune of $16,500 that year. CAA as a whole donated almost $479,000 to candidates and PACs in 2018, with Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, and Elizabeth Warren all getting donations of $11,000 or higher. Oh, and CAA represents all of Joe Biden’s interests. So, the next time you see a debate where you think Anderson Cooper is going easy on him, just remember they have the same agent, and he likely not only had a role in arranging and scheduling the debate, but also likely prepped both of them on a PR level beforehand. The real implications of these monopolistic relationships are frightening to think about. Kives has since left CAA to start his own advisory firm, K5 Global (with praise from Warren Buffett, no less), whose website is blank except a logo and an email address for inquiries. It seems K5 and CAA are still affiliated in some way, as a Glassdoor listing describes it as such, but K5 does not have a public client list, nor is there much more information available about the firm or its business activities.

The two men in that email are some of the most connected and powerful men in the country, and they have a grudge against Tulsi Gabbard that they have held since the day she stepped down from the DNC. Now, it could be the reason for her constant battle against slanted coverage, media smear jobs, and marginalized publicity.

While a massive network of elites may do well in the world of political fundraising, ask yourself another question: How well does it work in the world of information dissemination? An agent’s job is simple, really: find the most profitable outcome for your clients interests. If those interests get roasted on national television, you have to fight back, quickly, and with a vengeance.

At the second Democratic debate on CNN, Tulsi Gabbard took Kamala Harris to task on her polarizing record as California AG. The moment was a star turn for Gabbard, and a major blow for Harris on a national stage. Interests were threatened. Suddenly, that email from 2016 feels like it was written yesterday. Almost immediately the anti-Tulsi smears and hit pieces hit social media. Although Gabbard was by far the most searched candidate on Google after the debates (both debates she was in, mind you) the number one trend on Twitter that night was, you guessed it, #Assad. Anderson Cooper was asking about it in the CNN Spin Room. Ana Kasparian was tweeting ferociously about Tulsi being an apologist for dictators. Jake Tapper, Chris Cuomo, Bill Maher, Whoopi Goldberg all ask her about Assad over the ensuing days, trying to squeeze yet another denunciation that is neither warranted or necessary. It felt coordinated. For all we know, it may have been. All of those names can be connected to a handful of people, maybe even one person. Michael Kives and Darnell Strom told Tulsi Gabbard in no uncertain terms that she had made enemies out of them. When they said their company wouldn’t be helping her, can anyone argue they didn’t mean blacklist? The “company” as they call it is Hollywood. The “company” is the mainstream media. Big tech. The “company” is everything.

One phone call, one email, one Twitter DM — that’s all it would take for the most trusted brand handler and talent agent in the world to get his message on every cable news show. If that message is “candidate x is bad”, and it reaches 10’s of millions of people every single day, you will win the information war. People will believe it because it’s coming from multiple “reputable” sources. If ABC, CNN, and MSNBC are all reporting the same thing, it’s probably true, right? I mean, they’re competitors, and separate entities, there’s no way they could all be calling the same guy for advice, is there?

Well, they might be.

Here is a non exhaustive list of CAA and UTA clients in the Mainstream and Social Media news sphere. Yes, it is very possible all of these people are on the same email list:

CAA Clients:

  • Anderson Cooper
  • Alyssa Milano
  • Ana Navarro
  • Bette Midler
  • Bill Maher
  • Biz Stone (Twitter Co-Founder)
  • Bob Scheiffer
  • Bob Woodward
  • Carl Bernstein
  • Chris Cuomo
  • Charlamagne
  • Colin Jost
  • Connie Chung
  • Dan Pfieffer (Obama Advisor)
  • David Farenthold
  • David Kushner
  • Donna Brazile
  • Elizabeth Vargas
  • Frank Luntz
  • Gayle King
  • Ian Bremmer
  • James Corden
  • Jemele Hill
  • Jim Sciutto
  • Jimmy Fallon
  • Joe Biden
  • Katy Tur
  • Mark Cuban
  • Martha Raddatz
  • Rob Reiner
  • Seth Macfarlane
  • Stephanie Ruhle
  • Stephen Colbert
  • Susan Rice
  • Valerie Jarrett
  • Van Jones
  • Whoopi Goldberg

UTA Clients:

  • Ana Kasparian
  • Ben Shapiro
  • Cenk Uygur
  • Chuck Todd
  • Clint Watts
  • Dana Bash
  • Dan Abrams
  • Dan Harris
  • Don Lemon
  • George Takei
  • Gloria Borger
  • John Kasich
  • Harold Ford Jr.
  • Jake Tapper
  • Jeffrey Toobin
  • Jim Acosta
  • Max Boot
  • Matt Gutman
  • Malcolm Turnbull
  • Michael Moore
  • Poppy Harlow
  • Preet Bharara
  • Rod Rosenstein
  • Seth Meyers
  • Sir Howard Stringer (Sony Chairman of the Board)
  • Symone Sanders
  • Valerie Biden Owens

Like the late, great George Carlin said: “It’s a big club”. And Tulsi Gabbard ain’t in it.

Look at the names on that list. It’s a “who’s who” of mass media, and it’s but a fraction of the clientele these two companies represent. The influence these agencies and their executives hold is beyond the realm of imagination. One can only ponder the possibilities of the power of possessing access to a network of such size and scope. It’s information control, the power to seamlessly transfer ideas from one side of the societal spectrum to the other under the guise of genuine public response or outrage. What has happened to Tulsi Gabbard since she did the right thing and endorsed Bernie Sanders is a cautionary tale for those who dare to thumb their nose at the status quo and upset the establishment apple cart. It won’t stop with her. The machine will keep going. Watch how fast the media reacts to the Democratic party’s chosen few — Biden, Warren, Harris, Booker — whenever outside negativity starts to throw cold water on their records. The spin will come hard and fast, just like it did in 2016. Just like it always has.

The most disturbing part of the email from Strom and Kives was Kives’ own response to it after it was forwarded to him. It was two words: “Hamme(r) Dropped”. They hoped it was on the nail in Gabbard’s political coffin. The establishment will never back her. They will never let her win. They’ll always dismiss her. They’ll always fear her. She stands up for what’s right. She doesn’t just fall in line. She stands for the truth. She fights. Tulsi Gabbard’s strength as a candidate is only outweighed by her power as a voice of unity in a world that the elite want kept weak and divided. That’s why they need all of the Media and Hollywood’s help to take her down. If she were to gain traction, the game is over.

Many have called Gabbard an isolationist, and if that’s true, it’s only in the sense of doing the right thing, even if it means sacrificing her career, her future, and her personal goals. But that’s ok — she’s used to being on an island.

Independent Investigative Journalist. Sociopolitical Critic. Following The Money Down The Rabbit Hole And Back Again.