Anti-Clinton Ad Maker Lived With Obama Staffer

The press secretary for Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., recently lived with the creator of the scathingly satirical YouTube video ad that attacked Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., a revelation that seems to undermine the senator's claim that he and his campaign had only "very attenuated" ties with the ad's creator.

Ben LaBolt, the recently named press secretary of Obama's Senate office in Washington, D.C., roomed with Philip de Vellis, the creator of the "1984" ad, in Ohio last year while the two worked together on the successful Senate campaign of then Rep. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.

The relationship does not serve as evidence that anyone on the Obama campaign knew de Villis had made the ad. The Obama campaign and its employees have said they have no knowledge of and had nothing to do with the creation of the ad, and de Villis has written as much on a blog.

But it does seem to belie statements by Obama and the campaign that implied a much more distant relationship between Obama's campaign and de Villis.

Until the Huffington Post Web site uncovered that de Villis was the anonymous poster of the YouTube video, which portrays Clinton as a futuristic dictator, de Villis worked for Blue State Digital, which does Internet work for the Obama campaign's Web site. After de Villis admitted he had made the video, he and Blue State Digital parted ways.

Wednesday evening the Obama campaign issued a statement saying, "The Obama campaign and its employees had no knowledge and had nothing to do with the creation of the ad. We were notified this evening by a vendor of ours, Blue State Digital, that an employee of the company had been involved in the making of this ad. Blue State Digital has separated ties with this individual and we have been assured he did no work on our campaign's account."

Thursday, Obama said of de Vellis that his campaign had "no way of knowing who this person was."

"If I have a phone contract with Verizon and an employee of a phone company does something that you know … we're not responsible for that," Obama said.

And when asked by ABC News if he knew de Villis -- since they had both worked on the Brown for Senate campaign in 2006 -- LaBolt said, "I knew everyone who worked on the Brown campaign" but implied that he didn't know de Villis well at all.

But Friday afternoon the liberal blog posted a photograph showing LaBolt and de Vellis relaxing with a mutual friend in Ohio last year.

The Obama campaign told ABC news that the two had been roommates, seeming to suggest that de Vellis was not, as Obama said, the equivalent of a contract employee with Verizon.

Even after this connection between LaBolt and de Vellis was first reported, Obama told The Associated Press, "At no point … did we even know who [de Villis] was."

When asked to explain the apparent discrepancy, the Obama campaign refused to comment. It was unclear if Obama had not been informed that his press secretary and de Villis had not only worked together last year but lived together.

Clinton's Response

Clinton herself has not publicly expressed any outrage at the controversy, saying instead, "I was a little bit tickled that it took attention away from my singing on Youtube," referring to a video of her off-key rendition of the national anthem. "So for that it was something of a positive development."

De Villis did not return ABC News' multiple e-mails and phone calls. But he posted on the Huffington Post that Obama's campaign knew nothing of his role in the ad.

"The specific point of the ad was that Obama represents a new kind of politics, and that Sen. Clinton's 'conversation' is disingenuous," de Vellis wrote of the critical ad that uses an Apple computer TV ad to make Clinton appear like Big Brother.

"And the underlying point was that the old political machine no longer holds all the power," de Vellis continued.

"This ad was not the first citizen ad, and it will not be the last," de Vellis wrote ominously. "The game has changed."

Clinton seems to agree, saying, "This is a new era of campaigning. There's new ways of communicating, I think it's exciting that it is democratizing the process. You know, there may be some issues that will be raised that we have to look at down the road. But anything which brings people, particularly young people, to the political process I think is a net positive."

Asked if a political operative like de Villis posting such videos counts as "democratizing" the process, Clinton said, "Well, I'll have to leave that to the other campaign to comment on."

Obama Pledges Positive Campaign

Obama has repeatedly promised to run a positive campaign that embraces a "different kind of politics."

Yet on Friday, in the same interview with The Associated Press, Obama refused to denounce the anti-Clinton ad.

"If you scroll down YouTube there are actually probably about a hundred ads of this sort, many of them directed toward me," he said. "But I guess this just captured the public's imagination a little more."

By Friday afternoon, the ad had been viewed on YouTube nearly 2.5 million times.

Obama Camp Denies Responsibility for Ad

Throughout the week, Obama and his campaign have tried to distance themselves from the ad's creation.

Monday, Obama told Larry King in an interview that the ad was "not something that we had anything to do with or were aware of, and that frankly, given what it looks like, we don't have the technical capacity to create something like this."

After de Villis' role became known, Thomas Gensemer, managing director of Blue State Digital, issued a statement distributed by the Obama campaign saying, "Pursuant to company policy regarding outside political work or commentary on behalf of our clients or otherwise, Mr. de Vellis has been terminated from Blue State Digital effective immediately. … Mr. de Vellis created this video on his own time. It was done without the knowledge of management, and was in no way tied to his work at the firm or our formal engagement with the Obama campaign."

Friday, The Associated Press reported that de Vellis sent an e-mail in February telling friends he had worked on components that are in use on Obama's Web site.

"I designed the MyBarackObama toolbox that is on the front page and all the sidebar pages," wrote de Vellis.

Blue State Media told the AP that despite his e-mail, de Villis did no direct work for Obama's campaign.