-By Andrew Kreig
Recent events show why election theft deserves much more scrutiny than it receives from either government officials or news reporters. Most dramatically, a federal judge has released the 2008 testimony of GOP IT guru Michael Connell, right. The Ohio resident died in a mysterious plane crash that year after anonymous warnings he would be killed if he testified about his work with Karl Rove and others helping the Bush-Cheney ticket win in 2000 and 2004.
Other recent news includes claims by both major parties of irregularities in last week’s Wisconsin state senate recall elections. In a pattern familiar nationally, Democrats suspect vote hiding by a partisan GOP elections supervisor and Republicans allege illegal inducements by Democrats to encourage voting. Elsewhere, Fox News played up a report about how a county judge in Nevada called the community-organizing group ACORN “reprehensible” on Aug. 10 and ordered a $5,000 fine for the defunct group because it paid a bonus to workers who registered voters.
To cut through the confusion on such disputes, the non-partisan Justice Integrity Project provides below a research guide to important recent allegations and landmark research. It is weighted to materials provided by critics since they face the burden of challenging authority and are typically ignored by corporate-controlled media. But our guide includes also commentaries by Fox News (whose analyst Rove is at left) and author John Fund. They have been leaders in fostering public fears that election fraud largely involves ineligible, poor and largely Democratic voters who may distort results.
In general, the evidence shows that electronic voting fraud, voter suppression and similar dirty tricks by public officials pose a serious threat to the democratic process. But this research is difficult because officials control the information. Also, research into official wrongdoing tends to be sporadic, under-funded and so controversial as to be career-threatening for researchers. Major news organizations are reluctant to report even allegations of official fraud and other wrongdoing, especially in the most important elections. So, reporters and other researchers need courage and skill, as well as management support.
Statistics professor Steven Freeman, right, and In These Times editor Joel Bleifuss devote an entire chapter to journalistic cover-up in their book, Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen? The book argues that exit polls and other clues prove massive election fraud flipping the election — and that leading news organizations not only downplayed the evidence but suppressed much of it outright or misreported results.The paperback edition of New York University professor Mark Crispin Miller's book, Fooled Again, contains a 100-page Afterword summarizing how the mainstream media avoids the issue.
One prominent national reporter assigned to such matters privately explained to me recently the thinking of his editors: They want rock-solid proof of conspiracy before even mentioning claims of misconduct for fear of ruining public confidence in the campaign and elections process. Yet by that standard, readers would learn little about any public issue. The Washington Post’s 1970s Watergate investigation, for example, was a series of reports that incrementally moved the story forward. Similarly, our Project’s exposé of the Justice Department frame-up of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman had its roots in brief news reports in Alabama newspapers a decade ago that helped show the ethics lapses of the jurist who later became Siegelman's trial judge, helping the Bush DOJ convict the state's most prominent Democrat on corruption charges.
Fortunately, concerned citizens of varied political views have stepped forward to research the problem of electronic election fraud and organize grassroots groups fighting for honest elections. Ohio resident James J. Condit, Jr., for example, pioneered protests decades ago against electronic voting fraud. Condit, a conservative who unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2010 as a Constitution Party candidate, illustrates also that popular anger on the issue can be non-partisan.
Ohio’s 2004 Election
The big case in the field of electronic elections fraud involves Ohio returns in the 2004 Presidential race between incumbent Republican George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the Democrat.
Connell’s testimony on Nov. 3, 2008 was a pre-trial deposition in a suit by Ohio voters alleging an election fraud conspiracy led by Republicans running the state government and the election. Defendants in the King Lincoln Bronzeville v. Blackwell case include then-Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, below right, Rove and other officials and contractors. Defendants deny impropriety in the Ohio voting, where Bush’s reported margin was 118,775 votes. This enabled him to win the state’s 20 electoral votes and the presidency by an electoral vote of 286 to 251.
Connell described a mind-boggling electronic system whereby Blackwell — who counted the votes as Secretary of State but also chaired the Ohio Bush-Cheney campaign — hired Connell's company, GovTech Solutions. GovTech then linked Ohio’s 2004 Presidential election returns on Election Day to the computers of the partisan GOP contractor called SmarTech in Tennessee. Connell denied any wrongdoing, or any fear of retribution for his testimony.
But Bob Fitrakis and Clifford Arnebeck, two of the most prominent attorneys for the plaintiffs, held a press conference in July 2008, three months before their deposition, to say that supporters of the suit had received multiple anonymous warnings that Connell would be killed if he proceeded with his deposition. They released a letter to then-Attorney Gen. Michael Mukasey, other authorities and the news media asking for protection for Connell. Fitrakis is a political science professor at Columbus State Community College in Columbus, OH, and an editor of The Free Press, a civil rights group. He has co-authored four books and many articles alleging that Connell’s work helped President Bush’s team steal the 2004 Presidential election. Arneback is legal affairs director of Common Cause branch in Ohio and national co-chair of the Alliance for Democracy.
The attorneys later said Connell’s testimony on Nov. 3, 2008 turned out to be so valuable that he would be their star witness at trial along with Stephen Spoonamore another Republican IT consultant. Spoonamore is a former IT director for GOP senator and 2008 Presidential nominee John McCain. He has said the system Connell set up enabled massive fraud that decided the nation’s 2004 Presidential election. Connell, a longtime Republican activist, was suspected also of helping enable Bush-Cheney malfeasance in Florida in 2000. After elections created a Republican majority in Congress House Republicans awarded Connell contracts to set up the email system serving both Congress and various partisan Republican organizations. SmarTech, whose clients included the anti-Kerry group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004, ran a private system for the Bush White House that enabled its users to bypass a government-run system subject to more rigorous oversight by Congress, the courts or other watchdogs. It has been reported that Rove used the SmarTech system for about 95% of his emails.
Connell’s 2008 testimony has been the subject of much speculation in voting rights circles. An expert pilot, he died at age 45 in a single-plane crash six weeks after his testimony. His Piper Saratoga plane took off from a Maryland airfield for a trip to Ohio. A preliminary federal NTSB investigation failed to determine a cause but found no signs of mischief.
Excerpted below are several of the most prominent commentaries on the likelihood of foul play in his death. One is by investigative reporter Wayne Madsen, who photographed the take-off airfield in College Park to show how easy it could have been for a saboteur to have slipped into the vicinity. Madsen, a former Navy investigator and NSA analyst, has written extensively about on how small planes used by political figures are vulnerable to sabotage, including ground-to-air interference difficult for official investigators later to detect. A similar view was voiced in a 2009 column by Rebecca Abrahams, Mike Connell's Family Copes With His Mysterious Death, Tipsters, Legal Options.
Blackwell has taken a lead in denouncing accusers as sore losers. Like other defendants, he has denied wrongdoing both in court papers and in other public statements. But few reporters dare ever press for details or other comments, and Rove does not even bother mentioning the Ohio claims in his 2010 memoir, Courage and Consequence.