AFTRA trustee David Browde stands accused of operating pro-merger website; org launches an investigation
In response to questions from TheWrap, AFTRA said Tuesday that it had launched an investigation into whether David Browde, one of its former national board members and a current trustee, has been operating a watchdog website that is often critical of Screen Actors Guild, Sagwatch.net.
The operation of the site could be a direct violation of AFTRA's policy of not disparaging other labor organizations.
The labor org stated in a release on Tuesday:
"AFTRA takes the No-Raiding Agreement very seriously, and president (Rebecca) Reardon has repeatedly notified all AFTRA elected officials that they are expected to uphold the highest standards of integrity and union solidarity. With this in mind, we are investigating this matter. If it turns out that there have been any violations of the No-Raiding Agreement, or of AFTRA's confidentiality policies, we will take swift and appropriate action."
According to one Membership First official, Browde has been on the coalition's short list of suspected operators for Sagwatch.net for some time.
The official also said detailed information from joint SAG/AFTRA meetings routinely pops up on the site minutes after they happen. "It's almost like someone is IM-ing during meetings," said the official.
Reached at his Chappaqua, New York, law office, Browde referred all comments to AFTRA. SAG had no immediate comment.
"This concerns me greatly," Anne-Marie Johnson, the guild's outgoing 1st VP, as well as a member of the Membership First coalition, told TheWrap.
A frequent target of the three-year-old Sagwatch.net, Johnson noted that terse remarks she made about ongoing DVD discussions during a joint SAG/AFTRA meeting last summer showed up on the site minutes after she spoke them. "They've even disclosed how I've voted on certain occasions," she said.
About three weeks ago, Johnson said she received a note from an anonymous tipster, who claims to have proof that the domain Sagwatch.net is registered to Browde. Johnson then forwarded the tip onto senior staff for both SAG and AFTRA.
The domain Sagwatch.net is anonymously registered and under the care of online services provider 1 & 1 Internet Inc. of Germany — the same service that registers and hosts the site for Browde's law practice, www.browdelaw.com.
So does that mean Sagwatch.net is registered to Browde, too?
Documenting his/her evidence via YouTube video, the anonymous tipster claims to have a smoking gun, purporting to get a Far East-based tech-support worker for web-hosting service JustHost to confirm that his company actually runs the site (even though it's registered to 1&1) and that Browde owns it.
Research conducted by TheWrap Tuesday, however, indicates the site is — at least now — hosted by IT company SingleHop, a Chicago-based boutique web-hosting service that assigns accounts to specific agents. That company is prohibited from disclosing who owns the site.
Browde served on the AFTRA's national board from 1989-2009 and has been an organization trustee since 2007. In addition to his law practice, he is a veteran broadcast reporter and still serves as a correspondent for CBS News.