Sunday, January 10, 2010

Witness Mike Connell dies before testifying; Democrat Arnebeck had asked the government to protect Connell

'Karl Rove's IT guru' Mike Connell dies in plane crash
December 20, 2008

UPDATE AT THIS LINK: GOP consultant killed in plane crash was warned of sabotage

A top level Republican IT consultant who was set to testify in a case alleging GOP election tampering in Ohio died in a plane crash late Friday night.

Michael Connell -- founder of Ohio-based New Media Communications, which created campaign Web sites for George W. Bush and John McCain -- died instantly after his single-prop, private aircraft smashed into a vacant home in suburban Lake Township, Ohio.

"The plane was attempting to land around 6 p.m. Friday at Akron-Canton Airport when it crashed about three miles short of the runway," reports the Akron Beacon Journal.

Connell's exploits as a top GOP IT 'guru' have been well documented by RAW STORY's investigative team.

The interest in Mike Connell stems from his association with a firm called GovTech, which he had spun off from his own New Media Communications under his wife Heather Connell’s name. GovTech was hired by Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell to set up an official election website at to presented the 2004 presidential returns as they came in.

Connell is a long-time GOP operative, whose New Media Communications provided web services for the Bush-Cheney ’04 campaign, the US Chamber of Commerce, the Republican National Committee and many Republican candidates. This in itself might have raised questions about his involvement in creating Ohio’s official state election website.

However, the alternative media group ePlubibus Media further discovered in November 2006 that was hosted on the servers of a company in Chattanooga, TN called SmarTech, which also provided hosting for a long list of Republican Internet domains.

“Since early this decade, top Internet ‘gurus’ in Ohio have been coordinating web services with their GOP counterparts in Chattanooga, wiring up a major hub that in 2004, first served as a conduit for Ohio's live election night results,” researchers at ePluribus Media wrote.

A few months after this revelation, when a scandal erupted surrounding the firing of US Attorneys for reasons of White House policy, other researchers found that the gwb43 domain used by members of the White House staff to evade freedom of information laws by sending emails outside of official White House channels was hosted on those same SmarTech servers.

Given that the Bush White House used SmarTech servers to send and receive email, the use of one of those servers in tabulating Ohio’s election returns has raised eyebrows. Ohio gave Bush the decisive margin in the Electoral College to secure his reelection in 2004.

IT expert Stephen Spoonamore says the SmartTech server could have functioned as a routing point for malicious activity and remains a weakness in electronic voting tabulation.

"...I have reason to believe that the alternate accounts were used to communicate with US Attorneys involved in political prosecutions, like that of Don Siegelman," said RAW STORY's Investigative News Editor, Larisa Alexandrovna, on her personal blog Saturday morning. "This is what I have been working on to prove for over a year. In fact, it was through following the Siegelman-Rove trail that I found evidence leading to Connell. That is how I became aware of him. Mike was getting ready to talk. He was frightened...

GOP consultant killed in plane crash was warned of sabotage

John Byrne, David Edwards and Stephen Webster
December 22, 2008

The Republican consultant accused of involvement in alleged vote-rigging in Ohio in 2004 was warned that his plane might be sabotaged before his death in a crash Friday night, according to a Cleveland CBS affiliate.

45-year-old Republican operative Michael Connell was killed when his single-passenger plane crashed Friday into a home in a suburb of Akron, Ohio (PREVIOUS REPORT). The consultant was called to testify in federal court regarding a lawsuit alleging that he took part in tampering with Ohio's voting results in the 2004 election.

Without getting into specific details, 19 Action News reporter Blake Renault reported Sunday evening that 45-year-old Republican operative and experienced pilot had been warned not to fly his plane in the days before the crash.

"Connell...was apparently told by a close friend not to fly his plane because his plane might be sabotaged," Renault said. "And twice in the last two months Connell, who is an experienced pilot, cancelled two flights because of suspicious problems with his plane."

...The National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration are now investigating the crash. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, no new information has been made available since the incident occurred.

Connell was the subject of a lawsuit by liberal lawyer Clifford Arnebeck, perhaps most well known for suing on behalf of 37 Ohio residents to block Bush's electoral college victory in 2004. Arnebeck had alleged Connell's involvement in a ploy to "flip" votes from then Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry to then-President George W. Bush.

Connell was ordered to testify in the suit in October, and told a federal court that he had no involvement and knew of no plan to switch votes in Ohio in 2004.

The Plain Dealer made no mention at all of the suit in their article Monday...

Arnebeck warned the Justice Department that Connell's safety was in jeopardy earlier this year. In July, he wrote an email to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, requesting witness protection for the GOP operative, which was carbon copied to Democratic Congressmen John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), who were sympathetic to his 2004 lawsuit over Ohio's electoral votes.

"I have informed court chambers and am in the process of informing the Ohio Attorney General's and US Attorney's offices in Columbus for the purpose, among other things, of seeking protection for Mr. Connell and his family from this reported attempt to intimidate a witness," Arnebeck wrote...

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