Washington’s Dark Climate and the Death of Rove’s Computer Guru

Michael Connell. Photo courtesy of The Raw Story.

Reporter Larisa Alexandrina thought that Mike Connell, who died in a mysterious palne crash, was about to talk. She said, ‘Mr. Connell has confided that he was being threatened, something that his attorneys also told the judge in the Ohio election fraud case.’

By Sherman DeBrosse / The Rag Blog / January 14, 2009

Michael Connell was a Republican activist in Ohio and an information technology expert. He operated New Media Incorporated, a firm that created Republican web sites. His other firm was GovTech Solutions. Both firms were very important providers of IT services to Republican Congressmen, state committees, the RNC, and candidates. He was Karl Rove’s IT guy.

Michael “Mike” Louis Connell died when his single-engine Piper Saratoga crashed near the Akron-Canton airport on December 19, 2008. He was getting ready to land, and it was said that he ran out of fuel. Connell was returning from College Park, Maryland. He left behind a wife and four children.

An unnamed source said Connell had twice cancelled flights because of threats to his life.

On September 22, 2008 he was served with a subpoena in the King Lincoln Bronzeville Neighborhood Association v. Blackwell case, in which plaintiffs claimed there had been vote tampering in 2004. The original suit was subsequently amended to include events in 2006. J.Kenneth Blackwell was Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State and head of the George W. Bush campaign in 2004. It also involved the purging of minority people from voter lists and sending faulty and too few voting machines to minority precincts.

Plaintiffs additionally claimed that Connell had been paid hundreds of thousands to provide an election returns server system for Ohio election returns in 2004 and 2006. However it was claimed that Connell diverted raw results to SmarTech in Chatanooga, Tennessee in both elections. The Ohio results appeared on servers hosted by SmarTech, not Connell’s firms. One reason for sending all the Ohio raw data to a partisan location in Tennessee was to have the data hacked.

There is no air-tight proof of wrong doing, but it raises many questions. SmarTech hosted many Republican sites and was also involved with domains on which a great deal of White House e-mail had been lost. One domain seemed to be used by White House people to evade the Freedom of Information Act when corresponding about the firing of US Attorneys. It might be recalled that this e-mail involved many matters Congress was unsuccessfully probing.

In 2006, Connell had fought efforts to compel him to produce records regarding the 2004 and 2006 elections. At an Oct. 11, 2008 meeting he asked an expert about how to destroy hard drives. This could have been a reference to hard drives containing White House e-mails.

On Sept. 17, 2008, Stephen Spoonamore, a Republican and an expert witness in the case, filed a sworn affadavit in which he said that “that he (Connell) is afraid some of the more ruthless partisans of the GOP may have exploited systems he in part worked on for this purpose [fixing election results].” Spoonamore went on to add:
“I believe however he knows who is doing that [election rigging] work, and has likely turned a blind eye to this activity. Mr. Connell is a devout Catholic. He has admitted to me that in his zeal to “save the unborn” he may have helped others who have compromised elections. He was clearly uncomfortable when I asked directly about Ohio 2004.
Spoonamore and Connell had worked together on improving election technology abroad.

Allegedly, Connell was advised to take the fall, and that failure to comply could mean that his wife, Heather, might be prosecuted for illegal lobbying.

Earlier, on July 24, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs had asked U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey to provide protection for Connell because his life had been threatened.
We have been confidentially informed by a source we believe to be credible that Karl Rove has threatened Michael Connell, a principal witness we have identified in our King Lincoln case in federal court in Columbus, Ohio, that if he does not agree to “take the fall” for election fraud in Ohio, his wife Heather will be prosecuted for supposed lobby law violations.
Jennifer Brunner, Ohio Attorney General, also asked the US Attorney General to protect Connell. One source suggested that a tip came from the McCain campaign that Rove had threatened Connell.

Protection was not provided. Connell appeared in federal Court on Oct. 31, 2008, where he was ordered to reappear to give a deposition on Nov. 3. That first deposition was to be limited to two hours. By then, he had first-rate representation and did not seem as nervous as previously about testifying. He even agreed to appear before the House Judiciary Committee, but committee staff did not reply to his offer. He appeared to give the deposition, and an attorney who was present told a McClatchy-Tribune reporter that Connell said he knew of no efforts to rig the 2004 election.

Reporter Larisa Alexandrina, who knew Connell, thought he was getting ready to talk. She added that Mike and his wife Heather were good people, caught up in a bad situation. Alexandrovna became aware of Connell when she was investigating the political prosecution of Governor Don Siegelman in Alabama. Connell has some connection to the e-mail system Rove was using to avoid full disclosure in that case. She wrote that “Mr. Connell has confided that he was being threatened, something that his attorneys also told the judge in the Ohio election fraud case.”

This is probably another plane crash — like those of John Heinz and Paul Wellstone — that will remain a mystery. Some remember April 26, 2003, when Wesley Vance, a senior Diebold executive and devout Mormon, died in another Ohio plane crash. Still another coincidence –The Mel Carnahan crash — occurred in very bad weather, and the family thinks it can identify the mechanical failures that caused the accident.

We are inclined to ask questions about the Wellstone crash because of the dark climate in Washington and the character of leading figures like Karl Rove, George W. Bush, and Dick Cheney. Who could trust any of them?

So many ugly and unexplainable things have happened. People in the NSA and CIA who disagreed with this crew have had their lives ruined. A whistle-blower in the Justice Department has had his wife, children, and family harassed. Honest US Attorneys who refused to abuse their offices for political purposes are fired. A former FBI employee with evidence of massive graft as well as useful information on terrorist activities is muzzled, and an important covert operative whose husband criticized White House policy is outed. (In this case, however, one could build a strong argument that there were reasons to derail the anti-proliferation program that was beginning to work.)

Who can forget the string of political prosecutions, the worst of which was that of Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. President Obama would do well to appoint a special legal counsel with the task of addressing as many of these matters as possible.

It has been a grim and disastrous period for our beloved institutions. Government should quietly, painstakingly investigate all abuses of power and thoroughly document what is learned. The demands of national unity in this time of crisis would prevent prosecutions and we can only hope that historians will document it fully, following the footsteps of the ancient historians Tacutus and Dio.

[Sherman DeBrosse, the pseudonym for a retired history professor, is a regular contributor to The Rag Blog and also blogs at Sherm Says and on DailyKos.]

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1 Response to Washington’s Dark Climate and the Death of Rove’s Computer Guru

  1. So add the names of others like John Mitchell; Brown – JFK, Jr., and a few more if you want to chase down the ruthlessness of the GOP party; their cronies/killers, and you could write an encyclopedia about these tragedies….

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