12. Mysterious Death of Mike Connell—Karl Rove’s Election Thief

by Project Censored
Published: Last Updated on

The Raw Story, September 29, 2008
Title: “Republican IT consultant subpoenaed in case alleging tampering with 2004 election”
Authors: Larisa Alexandrovna and Muriel Kane

The Brad Blog, December 22, 2008
Title:  “OH Election Fraud Attorney Reacts to the Death of Mike Connell“
Author: Brad Friedman

Democracy Now! December 22, 2008
Title: “Republican IT Specialist Dies in Plane Crash”
Interviewee:  Mark Crispin Miller

Student Researchers: Ashleigh Hvinden, Christine Wilson and Alan Grady
Community Evaluator: Mary Ann Walker
Sonoma State University

Karl Rove’s chief IT consultant, Mike Connell—who was facing subpoena in connection with 2004 Presidential election fraud in Ohio—mysteriously died in a private plane crash in 2008.  Connell was allegedly the central figure in a longstanding plot to electronically flip votes to Republicans.

In July 2008, Connell was named as a key witness in the case known as King Lincoln Bronzeville Neighborhood Association v. Blackwell, which was filed against Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth J. Blackwell on August 31, 2006 by Columbus attorneys Clifford Arnebeck and Robert Fitrakis. It initially charged Blackwell with racially discriminatory practices—including the selective purging of voters from the election rolls and the unequal allocation of voting machines to various districts—and asked for measures to be taken to prevent similar problems during the November 2006 election.

On October 9, 2006, an amended complaint added charges of various forms of ballot rigging as also having the effect of “depriving the plaintiffs of their voting rights, including the right to have their votes successfully cast without intimidation, dilution, cancellation or reversal by voting machine or ballot tampering.” A motion to dismiss the case as moot was filed following the November 2006 election, but it was instead stayed to allow for settlement discussions.

The case took on fresh momentum in July 2008 when Arnebeck announced that he was filing to “lift the stay in the case and proceed with targeted discovery in order to help protect the integrity of the 2008 election.” The new filing was inspired in part by the coming forward as a whistleblower of GOP IT security expert Stephen Spoonamore, who said he was prepared to testify to the plausibility of electronic vote-rigging having been carried out in 2004. The stay was lifted September 19, 2008 and Connell was served a subpoena on September 22.

Spoonamore, a conservative Republican who works for big banks, international governments, and the Secret Service as an expert in the detection of computer fraud, found evidence that Karl Rove, with the help of Mike Connell and his company GovTech Solutions, electronically stole the Ohio 2004 election for Bush.

Spoonamore testified that the “vote tabulation system [which Connell designed] allowed the introduction of an additional single computer between computer A and computer B.” This is called a “man in the middle” attack. According to Spoonamore, “This centralized collection of all incoming statewide tabulations would make it easy for a single operator, or a preprogrammed ‘force balancing computer’ to change the results in any way desired by the team controlling the Computer C.” Spoonamore further testified that the only purpose for such man in the middle architecture is to commit crime.
Despite Connell’s efforts to quash his subpoena to testify, he was ordered to appear for a two-hour, closed-door deposition on November 3, 2008, just eighteen hours before the 2008 national election. Though Connell had expressed willingness to testify, he was reticent after receiving threats from Rove.

Arnebeck presents evidence that Karl Rove threatened Connell, cautioning that if Connell didn’t “take the fall” for election fraud in Ohio, Connell would face prosecution for supposed lobby law violations.  After this threat, Arnebeck sent letters to the Department of Justice, as well as messages to high-ranking members of the department, seeking protection for Connell and his family from attempts to intimidate. Despite Connell’s elite status as a top-rung Republican consultant for years, whose firm New Media Communications provided IT services for the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign, the US Chamber of Commerce, the Republican National Committee, and many Republican candidates and campaigns, witness protection requests went unheeded.

Election fraud analyst and author Mark Crispin Miller notes that the timing and circumstances of Connell’s death—between deposition and trial—are too suspicious and convenient for Rove and the Bush administration, not to merit a thorough investigation. Arnebeck and Fitrakis intended to both further depose and call Connell to testify as key witness in the federal conspiracy case. Connell was also to be questioned about his key role in the disappearance of thousands of White House-RNC email transactions. These emails are believed likely to have shed light on the White House role in the political firings of US Attorneys, as well as decisions to prosecute former Alabama Democratic Governor Don Siegelman.  Attorneys in the case said that Connell’s testimony would likely lead to the subpoenaing and under-oath questioning of Karl Rove.

Connell was an experienced pilot. His plane had been recently serviced. He had been in the nation’s capital on still-unknown business before his single engine plane crashed December 22, 2008 on the way home, just three miles short of the runway in Akron, Ohio.  The cause of the crash remains unknown.

Timing of Connell’s deposition may have saved the 2008 presidential elections from electronic theft. However, Bev Harris at Black Box Voting notes that man in the middle systems are still in place in Illinois, Colorado, Kentucky, and likely across the nation.1

Bev Harris, “Man in the Middle Attacks to Subvert the Vote,” Black Box Voting, November 2008.

Update by Larisa Alexandrovna

The extreme vulnerability of electronic voting systems to systematic fraud has fallen out of public awareness because it did not become a major issue during the 2008 elections, but the problem has never been resolved or even seriously examined by any official body.  Questions about alleged vote count irregularities in Ohio during the 2004 election remain the strongest indication of the potential for large-scale tampering with these systems.  The lawsuit, which sought testimony from GOP information technology expert Michael Connell as to any personal knowledge he might have had of those irregularities, has represented the most determined effort to get at the truth beyond these allegations.

Michael Connell testified under subpoena in November 2008 but died the following month, when his single-engine plane crashed as he was attempting to land at an Ohio airport near his home.  At the time of his death, the only mainstream news outlet to even mention Connell’s death and the controversies surrounding his involvement in electronic voting was a single CBS/AP story.
However, there appears to have been no direct response in the mainstream press to the articles on Connell published by Raw Story. In fact, a deafening silence on his alleged relationship with the Bush White House has prevailed, even after his sudden and tragic death in December of 2008.

The case of King Lincoln Bronzeville Neighborhood Association v. Blackwell is still ongoing.
Additional information on the King Lincoln case can be obtained here:
An organization that has taken a pro-active role in making public both the case of King Lincoln and the various articles on it is Velvet Revolution. See http://velvetrevolution.us/.

Update by Brad Friedman
Little of note has changed since the death of Mike Connell as this book goes to press.  The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is still investigating, but is likely not to release a final report until mid to late 2010. They released a preliminary report, however, indicating decreasing visibility at the Akron airport, with visibility still at 2.5 miles at the time of the crash and temperatures just above freezing.  According to the NTSB report, and confirmed via transcripts and tapes received via FOIA requests, Connell radioed to ask “whether there were any reports of icing, to which air traffic control [ATC] responded that there were no reports.”

The tapes and transcripts indicate that something suddenly happened up there, as his last words to ATC, recorded on tape, were a declaration of emergency followed quickly by “Oh, fuck,” before he was not heard from again.

Curiously, for a man as well connected to the very top echelons of the Republican Party as Connell was, no GOP officials, or George W. Bush, or John McCain, or Karl Rove, to my knowledge, ever issued a public statement upon his tragic death.

For the time being, the Ohio voting rights case has been stalled since Connell’s death. Cliff Arnebeck continues to investigate how he plans to move forward, and is considering broader subpoenas in hopes of taking depositions from, among others, Karl Rove, as he widens the scope of his conspiracy case.