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Flip-flop cop: Young video researcher keeping GOP candidates honest

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A screen capture of a video of Newt Gingrich and Hillary Rodham Clinton attending a 2005 policy forum is seen here. The video was uploaded to YouTube by Andrew Kaczynski.

Picture this: Newt Gingrich discussing national health care, arguing for wealth redistribution and an individual insurance mandate, all while sitting next to noted conservative stalwart Hillary Rodham Clinton, the whole discussion caught on videotape.

A sneaky, fact-fudging attack ad, unleashed by a rival presidential contender or enemy super PAC?

Not exactly.

The footage is real, recorded at a 2005 policy forum. Uploaded to YouTube last November, it caused a campaign stir — in part because it made Mr. Gingrich appear squirrelly, in part because it was one of a series of embarrassing candidate clips to come from an unlikely source.

“I knew he had supported an individual mandate in the past,” said Andrew Kaczynski, who posted the revealing Gingrich clip to his YouTube account. “I’ve put up four or five videos where he talks about that.

Andrew Kaczynski (Courtesy of BuzzFeed)

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Andrew Kaczynski (Courtesy of BuzzFeed) more >

“With Mitt Romney, there are multiple videos of him saying the same thing. With Rick Santorum, there are issues with earmarks and other things that Republican voters might find interesting, because it might not fit the traditional party orthodoxy. I love looking back on a candidate’s life, seeing how they turned into the person they are today.”

A 22-year-old student at St. John’s University in New York, Mr. Kaczynski is neither a seasoned journalist nor a professional political opposition researcher. Nevertheless, he has emerged as a flip-flop cop for the digital age, one of the Republican presidential primary campaign’s top chroniclers of candidate hypocrisy — excuse us, how they turned into the people they are today.

Beyond Mr. Gingrich’s surprising endorsement of what sounds suspiciously like Obamacare, Mr. Kaczynski has unearthed and posted videos in which:

• Mr. Romney, a 2002 Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate, declares that he is not a “partisan Republican” and that his views are “progressive”;

• Ron Paul — circa 1995, sporting jet-black hair and a bright white lab coat — brags about putting out political newsletters, the same newsletters he recently disavowed because they contain controversial statements about race, AIDS and international conspiracy theories;

• Mr. Santorum turns up in a pro wrestling ring to illustrate the importance of bipartisan compromise and touts the fact that he worked with both Mrs. Clinton and Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, on legislation, an ad produced by his failed 2006 Senate re-election campaign.

“Candidates really come to us the way their campaigns put them out there, so packaged,” Mr. Kaczynski said. “Something like the Romney campaign is so strict, run so well, that people have a hunger to see how candidates were in the past.

“It’s not just making them look bad. It’s things that might just be cool. I find this fun. Entertaining. I just love to do it.”

A political ‘nerd’

When Mr. Kaczynski posted the video of Mr. Romney dubbing himself “progressive,” a spokeswoman for the candidate assumed it was the work of a Democrat. Not so.

A self-professed Republican who has interned with two GOP congressmen and the Republican National Committee, Mr. Kaczynski describes himself as a “political nerd,” a young man who spends his free time studying, hanging out with his girlfriend and scouring the Internet for political news, information and videos.

Mr. Kaczynski acquired his love of politics from his father, Steve, a lawyer who began volunteering for candidates at age 12 and has an extensive collection of campaign memorabilia in the basement of his Cleveland home.

Mr. Kaczynski recalls the family television always featuring news programming; the first book he remembers reading was a Stephen Ambrose biography of President Eisenhower.

At the time, Mr. Kaczynski was 8 years old.

“Andrew is more of a political junkie than I am,” said Politico columnist and BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith. “He lives and breathes this stuff.”

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About the Author
Patrick Hruby

Patrick Hruby is an award-winning journalist who holds degrees from Georgetown and Northwestern. He also contributes to ESPN.com and The Atlantic Online, and his work has been featured in The Best American Sports Writing. Follow him on Twitter (@patrick_hruby) and contact him at PatrickHruby.net.

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