A Philadelphia man falsely told Wallace he ”(files) for Bucks County Courier” while questioning him on camera as a part-time tracker with Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick’s campaign, which cut ties with him after learning of his behavior. Five videos Ariel Benjamin Mannes shot at campaign events were uploaded to a YouTube channel housing more than 600 videos of Democratic candidates for dissection by opposition researchers.


In today’s high-stakes political landscape, trackers are there to catch politicians in their less-guarded moments. Both parties enlist trackers under the radar, hoping to cultivate and capture footage of their opponents off the stump speech. One memorable slip-up — highlighted in a campaign ad or a viral video — could swing an election.


Last month, “Ben Mendelson” [real name: Ariel Benjamin Mannes] showed up at a Falls event, where Scott Wallace touted the importance of food stamps in Bucks County, and asked the congressional candidate multiple off-topic questions on camera. Nearly a week later, Wallace’s answers surfaced in a Washington Examiner editorial and a press release from the National Republican Congressional Committee.


This news organization learned Wednesday that the videographer was working for Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick’s re-election campaign. But unbeknownst to campaign representatives until a reporter reached out, that man submitted a guest opinion to this news organization last month under a pen name, then weeks later falsely identified himself to Wallace as a Bucks County Courier Times reporter while shooting video.


The man can be heard telling Wallace, “I file for Bucks County Courier in Philadelphia” before trailing off, in a YouTube video shot at a campaign event Sept. 15. The video was uploaded Sept. 25 to the channel “Democrat Tracking,” an anonymous depository for footage that opposition researchers can mine for soundbites to use against candidates. Previous finds have been spotlighted in conservative media outlets and Republican campaign ads.


[Shane Fitzgerald, executive editor for the Courier Times] said neither Mannes nor a “Mendelson” had ever worked for the Courier Times. The newspaper’s editorial policy requires guest opinion authors to provide their real full names, hometowns and phone numbers to be considered for publication — a measure Fitzgerald said helps the paper keep accountable as well as provide the authenticity of the author. “But that’s obviously not foolproof,” he said.