WASHINGTON — A member of Rep. Jim Hagedorn’s staff already under scrutiny over the office’s questionable spending has a history of controversial and conspiratorial posts online — including predicting a civil war.
John Brevard Sample, a part-time aide to Hagedorn, is the owner of Invocq Technologies, a company the office paid more than $100,000 during the past year. Social media accounts attached to an alias used by Sample have tweeted repeatedly, as recently as last month, that communists have infiltrated the highest levels of American government and society and that a war is coming. The tweets come from the online alias, “Quibbler.”
“They’re destroying America by controlling *every* functional piece of messaging: education, universities, media, Hollywood, journalism, judges, government agencies,” Quibbler tweeted in response to a TownHall.com article by trial attorney and columnist Marina Medvin. “War is coming.”
The tweet was accompanied by an image of the word “communism” slashed across a girdled, bleeding Tree of Liberty. That image appears to reference a 1787 letter from Thomas Jefferson, in which he wrote the now-famous line, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it’s natural manure.”
In June, in response to a tweet critical of the media by Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, the Quibbler Twitter account posted the same Tree of Liberty photo along with another screed alleging a communist conspiracy.
“It’s almost like the media is merely a communist propaganda network…” the post read. “Like it’s the same communists that control Hollywood, federal bureaucrats, our education system, DOJ, Social Media, and the judiciary. The tree of liberty is being girdled.”
A Google image search for the graphic doesn’t reveal any uses of it online other than on the Quibbler account, a sign the person behind that account likely created the image.
Sample did not respond to a request for comment, including questions about the Quibbler accounts.
Sample’s LinkedIn profile advertises his website Quibbler.com, which features Sample’s photo. The website links to a PDF of Sample’s resume, featuring another photo of Sample and his employment history, and describing him as a “digital media master” and “technology sage.” The resume lists his website, Quibbler.com.
Among his job skills, the resume lists, “political sensitivity: the hard-won, yet irreplaceable soft skill of recognizing public relations landmines before stepping on them.”
The Quibbler website also links to the Twitter profile, @Quibbler. The Twitter account for Invocq Technologies, meanwhile, only follows two accounts: Quibbler, and the account of the now-deceased former co-owner of the company. That Quibbler Twitter account, in turn, links to a Quibbler account on Gab.com, a social media site that has been described as a haven for alt-right and far-right racist, anti-Semitic users who’ve been banned from other social networks.
Shortly after the Minnesota Reformer began asking Sample and Hagedorn’s office for comment about questionable spending, the Quibbler Twitter and Gab accounts were made private. The Reformer preserved screenshots of the posts.
After the Reformer asked last week about the social media posts, a link to the resume was removed from Quibbler.com. Versions of the site preserved by the Internet Archive, however, still link to Sample’s resume.
Hagedorn’s spokesman, interim chief of staff and a lawyer Hagedorn hired to perform an inquiry into the office’s spending also did not respond to requests for comment.
Among Quibbler’s more than 3,000 posts on Gab.com, the account made fun of former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay candidate to win a presidential caucus or primary. The same day Buttigieg quoted a Bible verse during a Democratic debate to make the case for raising the minimum wage, Quibbler wrote:
“HAHAHAHA! BUTT-JIG is now quoting scripture?”
Misspelling or mispronouncing Buttigieg’s last name to make fun of his sexuality became a favorite pastime of conservative and homophobic social media users and commentators during this year’s presidential primary.
The Quibbler Gab account also made light of an article posted by another user about eight men who were arrested for patronizing a prostitute in Salt Lake City.
“Diversity is our strength!” Sample responded to the Gab post about the article, which prominently featured the mugshots of the men, who were mostly non-white.
Quibbler’s social media comments would not be out of place in Hagedorn’s orbit. On his now-defunct blog, “Mr. Conservative,” Hagedorn used slurs against gays and Native Americans, and referred to female Democratic senators as “undeserving bimbos in tennis shoes,” as first reported more than a decade ago by the blog Bluestem Prairie. The comments resurfaced during Hagedorn’s several runs for office over the past decade. In 2014, he apologized.
More recently, Hagedorn’s wife, Jennifer Carnahan, who is also the chairwoman of the Republican Party of Minnesota, also alleged a communist plot, writing on Twitter that by closing beaches for the summer, “The Democrats have turned Coronavirus into an excuse for extreme communist control. Wake up people!”
As the Reformer first reported earlier this month, Hagedorn’s unusual arrangement with Sample and his company, Invocq Technologies, has drawn scrutiny from ethics experts, who say the spending likely violates Congressional ethics rules barring conflicts of interest.
Hagedorn also paid a company called Abernathy West some $340,000 for printing costs. The ownership of that company is concealed behind Delaware incorporation papers.
Hagedorn, whose office has been the highest spending so far this year, has hired a high-profile Washington lawyer to conduct an investigation into the spending.
Sample remains employed by the office as of last week, according to a source familiar with the office’s personnel.
A Reformer public records request last week to review Invocq Technologies’ filings over the last decade was denied by the IRS.
Sample lists previous political experience on his resume, including working for the GOP campaigns of former Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Scott Brown of Massachusetts and ex-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.