A Florida Republican political operative who solicited and received stolen Democratic documents from an accused Russian hacker during the last election has a new target: The Southold Town Board.
On the Facebook page “Stronger Southold,” Aaron Nevins posts critiques and displays campaign mailers aimed at Republican Southold Supervisor Scott Russell and the board, made up of three Republicans and a Conservative, for their policies on spending, garbage and tax hikes.
Nevins, a 36-year-old former Florida State Senate aide, gained a dash of national attention when he surfaced in May as the subject of a Wall Street Journal story involving alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
The May 25 story revealed that Nevins, who runs the political gossip webpage HelloFLA.com, had received the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s voter-turnout analyses from hacker “Guccifer 2.0.”
U.S. officials believe Guccifer 2.0 is linked to Russian military intelligence; Guccifer 2.0 denies the assertion.
After learning that the hacker had tapped into the DCCC, which helps the party’s House candidates, Nevins wrote to Guccifer 2.0: “Feel Free to send any Florida based information,” the Journal reported.
“I just threw an arrow in the dark,” Nevins told the Journal. He said he later shared that information with Roger Stone, a former informal adviser to Republican Donald Trump during his successful presidential campaign.
Southold officials say they are perplexed by Nevins’ appearance in the town.
Nevins’ identity was revealed by the online news site SoutholdLocal.com in January. He initially said he was a part-time resident there. Later, he told community members he was hired for the work, although he will not say who is paying him.
Nevins confirmed his identity to Newsday and the fact that he visited Southold in late May, but declined to be interviewed. “Nothing personal, but I’m not giving media interviews at this time,” he said.
Community members said that over at least a week, Nevins approached residents at bars and civic breakfasts, and arranged meetings with some political leaders in an attempt to join forces with them.
Art Tillman, chairman of the Southold Democratic Party, said Nevins wanted to partner with the party in town elections in November and met with two members of the committee. Democrats declined.
“By consensus, we don’t have anything to do with the guy,” Tillman said. “He appears to have a hidden agenda — an agenda we’re not quite sure of.”
StrongerSouthold.com was registered anonymously on Nov. 14, but Nevins later migrated all activity to a Facebook page.
Posts on the site are a mix of criticism of town tax increases, spending and garbage-collection policy, as well as aggregation of local community news from news outlets.
His most recent post, from July 13, attacked Russell’s plan to address beach overcrowding blamed on to day-trippers, and featured a burning hundred dollar bill.
He also posted a July 10 Newsday story about a potential town plan to use quail to eat ticks. “Seriously?!? Why not try this cockamamie experiment? It’s just YOUR money!” Nevins commented.
Other posts are less pointed. In April and May, Nevins reposted a call for a women’s softball page sign-up, along with an offer to sponsor a team. The league did not respond to a request for comment.
Louise Harrison, a member of the Preserve Plum Island Coalition, with 81 members, recalled meeting Nevins while she was passing out postcards about preserving Plum Island as a wildlife refuge. The federally owned property in Southold, which houses an animal disease research facility, is up for auction.
Harrison said Nevins told her he wanted Stronger Southold to join the coalition. He posted on his website, “Stronger Southold intends to join the Preserve Plum Island Coalition.”
“He followed up with a call a couple of days later,” but told her he had no board, no organization and no membership, Harrison said. She said his one-mangroup is not part of the coalition and declined to comment further about him.
Russell, the supervisor, isn’t up for re-election until 2019. He said he doesn’t know who is attacking him, but “I am too focused on getting my job done than getting caught up in little distractions.”
Southold Republican chairman Pete McGreevy, acknowledged that figuring out who is behind the effort has become a minor local pastime, but said Nevins’ operation is “specious at best.”
“Southold’s too local for something like this to gain traction here. Most everyone is familiar with everyone else on some level; most everyone is familiar with the issues, and nobody has ever heard of the person who’s paid to create this Facebook page,” he said.