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Why Al Franken Should NOT Be Riding Private Planes

by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
December 23, 2008

The tragic and suspicious death of Karl Rove’s election thief in chief should send a clear message to Al Franken and other key liberals: don’t be riding in any small private planes.

Death by air crash now seems to be the favored means of ridding the Rovian right of troublesome characters.

The most recent is Michael Connell, who died Friday night when his private plane crashed near his northern Ohio home. Connell was the information techology whiz kid who helped Rove steal the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, along with a few in between—possibly including the 2002 senatorial campaign in Minnesota that followed the death of Paul Wellstone.

Connell was an expert pilot whose plane crashed in clear weather. He held virtually all the secrets to how George W. Bush was illegally foisted on the American people—and the world—for eight horrifying years. By manipulating computerized results in Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004 Connell made history. By some accounts, he was about to tell the attorneys in the on-going King-Lincoln-Bronzeville federal civil rights lawsuit how he did it. He also approached expressed a willingness to appear under oath before Congress. But now he is dead.

Current cover stories include the possibility that his plane ran out of fuel. But its crash was accompanied by a very large fireball explosion that burned for more than ten minutes. A trooper on the scene immediately identified Connell, but newspaper accounts say his body was charred beyond recognition.

Connell told various sources that he was being threatened by Rove. He canceled at least two previous flights due to mechanical failure. A father of four, his decision to fly from a highly restricted airport in Maryland remains a mystery. Connell reportedly did contract work for security-industrial agencies, like the CIA. Connell also openly acknowledged that he was the first IT contractor to move his servers behind the firewall of the US House of Representatves where he oversaw the websites of the House Judiciary Committee, Intelligence Committee, Ways and Means Committee, and Administrative Committee, arguably the four most powerful committees in the House.

He now joins such critical players as Paul Wellstone, Mel Carnahan, Ron Brown, Mickey Leland, John Tower, John F. Kennedy, Jr., and many more critical public figures who have died in small plane crashes at questionable moments.

In all cases there are non-nefarious potential explanations for their deaths. Conspiracy theories can, indeed, be frivolous.

But so can their out-of-hand dismissal by coincidence theorists. Both Wellstone and Carnahan died two weeks before critical Senatorial elections they were favored to win in a divided Senate. In 2000, Carnahan’s Missouri seat was taken by his wife, who subsequently lost it.

Wellstone, the leading liberal light in the US Senate, had been personally threatened by Dick Cheney for opposing the Iraq war. Wellstone’s plane crashed under dubious circumstances, carrying himself, his wife and daughter. In an extremely questionable outcome, Norm Coleman got his seat.

Coleman was hand-picked by Karl Rove to run against Wellstone. His ensuing victory over stand-in candidate Walter Mondale was the highly unlikely outcome of a messy, manipulated election that coincided with equally dubious senatorial vote counts in Georgia and Colorado.

Al Franken may now be poised to take back the Wellstone seat for the Democratic Party. As an Air America talk host, he repeatedly mocked those who were investigating the theft of the 2004 election.

But he now owes the possibility of being elected to the diligent work of election protection activists who have fought all these years for fair, open and reliable vote counts. Had former Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell been in charge of this year’s Minnesota election, Franken would not even be in the running.

Ironically, a brutal right-wing hate campaign is now being waged against Franken, charging him with election theft. Among other things, it claims he “went to Hollywood” for money to steal his way into the Senate.

Were it not for the deaths of so many others before him, such talk could be dismissed out of hand.

But under the circumstances, we would strongly urge Al Franken not to be flying in any small planes.


Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman have co-authored four books on election protection, including HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA’S 2004 ELECTION…, and AS GOES OHIO, available at www.freepress.org, where this article was first published. They are attorney and plaintiff in the King-Lincoln civil rights lawsuit pursuing Michael Connell. This article originally appeared at https://freepress.org.

The Suspicious, Disturbing Death Of Election Rigger Michael Connell

The suspicious, disturbing death of election rigger Michael Connell
by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
December 20, 2008

Michael Connell, the crucial techno- lynch pin in the theft of the 2004 election, and much more, is dead at the age of 45. His unnatural, suspicious death raises serious questions about the corruption of the American electoral process that now may never be answered.

Connell died Friday, December 19 when his Piper Saratoga plane crashed near his northern Ohio home. He was flying himself home from the College Park, Maryland airport. An accomplished pilot, flying in unremarkable weather, his death cuts off a critical path to much of what may never be known about how the 2004 election was shifted from John Kerry to George W. Bush in the wee hours of November 2. His plane crashed between two houses in an upscale neighborhood, one vacant, just 2.5 miles from the Akron-Canton airport.

A long-time, outspokenly loyal associate of the Bush family, Connell created the Bush-Cheney website for their 2000 presidential campaign. Connell may have played a role in various computer malfunctions that helped the GOP claim the presidency in 2000. As a chief IT consultant and operative for Karl Rove, Connell was a devout Catholic and the father of four children. In various interviews and a deposition Connell cited his belief that abortion is murder as a primary motivating factor in his work for the Republican Party.

Connell recently wrote the following in his New Media Communications newsletter, regarding Barack Obama’s election: “In our 230 year history, our democracy has suffered worse fates. It’s just that none come to mind right now.” Connell wrote: “This is just a moment in time and this too shall pass. Enduring is the fact that 2000 years ago, a babe was born in Bethlehem. When our Lord God sent his only Son for our salvation,…In spite of the current economic and political conditions, salvation is eternal.”

Ohio Republican Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell hired Connell in 2004 to create a real-time computer data compilation for counting Ohio’s votes. Under Connell’s supervision, Ohio’s presidential vote count was transmitted to private, partisan computer servers owned by SmartTech housed in the basement of the Old Pioneer Bank building in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Connell’s company, New Media Communications worked closely with SmartTech in building Republican and right-wing websites that were hosted on SmartTech servers. Among Connell’s clients were the Republican National Committee, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and gwb43.com. The SmartTech servers at one point housed Karl Rove’s emails. Some of Rove’s email files have since mysteriously disappeared despite repeated court-sanctioned attempts to review them.

In 2001, Michael Connell’s GovTech Solutions, LLC was selected to reorganize the Capitol Hill IT network, the only private-sector company to gain permission from HIR [House Information Resources] to place its server behind the firewall, he bragged.

At 12:20 am on the night of the 2004 election exit polls and initial vote counts showed John Kerry the clear winner of Ohio’s presidential campaign. The Buckeye State’s 20 electoral votes would have given Kerry the presidency.

But from then until around 2am, the flow of information mysteriously ceased. After that, the vote count shifted dramatically to George W. Bush, ultimately giving him a second term. In the end there was a 6.7 percent diversion—in Bush’s favor—between highly professional, nationally funded exit polls and the final official vote count as tabulated by Blackwell and Connell.

Until his death Connell remained the IT supervisor for six Congressional committees. But on the day before the 2008 election, Connell was deposed by attorneys Cliff Arnebeck and Bob Fitrakis about his actions during the 2004 vote count, and his continued involvement in IT operations for the GOP, including his access to Rove’s e-mail files and the circumstances behind their disappearance.

Various threats have been repeatedly reported involving Connell and other IT experts close to the GOP. On July 24, 2008, Arnebeck emailed Attorney General Michael Mukasey, stating: “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,….”

Connell’s death comes at a moment where election protection attorneys and others appeared to be closing in on critical irregularities and illegalities. In his pre-election deposition, Connell was generally evasive, but did disclose key pieces of information that could prove damaging to Karl Rove and the GOP. Examining attorneys in the King-Lincoln-Bronzeville civil rights lawsuit, stemming from the 2004 election theft, were confident Connell had far more to tell.

There is widespread concern that this may be the reason he is now dead.

Revised December 21, 2008

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Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman have co-authored four books on election protection, including AS GOES OHIO and HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICAS 2004 ELECTION…, available at www.freepress.org, where this article first appeared. They are attorney and plaintiff in the King- Lincoln-Bronzeville civil rights lawsuit which subpoenaed and was deposing Michael Connell.

Bob Bytes Back Archive: 9/16/1996 Who’s Farah Majidzadeh?

9/16/1996

by Bob Fitrakis

We all know that the Wolfe Family Newsletter, aka The Columbus Dispatch, has other relatives in the industry. There’s the staid uncle who secretly reads Hustler, who publishes The Ohio Magazine, the bastard stepchildren who put out This Week, and the flashy niece who flaunts herself over at Today’s Columbus Woman.

So, when you see Farah Majidzadeh’s splashy cover photo on July’s Today’s Columbus Woman, you can bet that she’s a Wolfe Family fave and politically connected. Her air-brushed, spin-doctored puff piece sent more than one investigative reporter running to their “deep throat” sources and their “top-secret” data banks. The Wolfe spin portrays Ms. Majidzadeh as one of Columbus’ leading female entrepreneurs, the head of Resource International, Inc., a Columbus-based engineering and construction-testing firm. Lest we suspect that Farah could be a female Tommy Banks-you know, one of those ersatz affirmative action front owners-Today’s Columbus Woman points out that Farah owns 67 percent of the business, while her husband Kamran owns the remaining 33 percent.

What the article doesn’t mention is that Resource International is a leading pay-to-play firm in Ohio politics. Between 1990 and 1994, the Majidzadeh family and in-laws gave at least $8,250 to Governor George V. Voinovich’s campaign coffers. Like Banks, the Majidzadeh bunch have gotten more than their share of state contracts, and not just in the construction field.

Recall that the Dispatch’s best investigative reporter, Bob Ruth, was hot on the trail of Farah’s daughter, Marcia, two years ago, when the Big D powers that be muzzled him. Marcia Majidzadeh and her husband owned Nationwide Equipment Enterprises. Ring a bell? The company that allegedly bilked a program to aid the blind out of some $253,900. In March 1993, Nationwide Equipment received a six-month contract from the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission to operate vending machines at rest stops. Thirty-seven-and-a-half percent of the gross receipts were to go to the state of Ohio to be used to help blind people establish their own food and beverage businesses at state rest stops. Ruth broke the story on July 24, 1994 that state records showed that Nationwide Equipment owed $120,395 in underreported receipts, had bounced $104,588 worth of checks, and had failed to pay the state $28,917 for cleaning bills at the 13 rest stops. On July 30, Ruth reported that the company had failed to “post a performance bond” even though their state contract called for it. And at the same time the state canceled her contract, in her zeal to serve the disabled, Marcia changed the name of her company to Consult-Systems, Inc. and signed a false name on another state Rehabilitation Services Commission contract bid application. Now she was the more waspy-sounding “Marsha May.”

But, Marcia had a pretty good explanation. You see, “people often had trouble pronouncing and spelling her real name,” particularly when they’ve been reading it in the paper in relationship to someone allegedly stealing from the blind. Marsha, Marsha, Marsha! Things got so bad that the Department of Aging canceled a contract that she and her husband were scheduled to sign to cater meals to senior citizens at the Ohio State Fair. Let’s see, the blind…the elderly…no doubt handicapped children breathed a sigh of relief after that.

Here’s the story of a lovely lady, who was building up a business of her own. And then one day when that lady met the governor, she knew that it was much more than a hunch. That if she gave him a lot of money, he could probably help her business out a bunch. Damage control time. Farah and Kamran pulled a George Voinovich and wept openly about their bum son-in-law, Ali Sharifrazi (aka Ali S. Razi), who deceived their daughter and allegedly forged her name. Actual quote: “Majidzadeh’s parents fought back tears as they described their surprise…” They were “shocked,” shocked, I say! The distraught parents failed to explain how their poor, duped, 30-year-old daughter who had nothing to do with any wrongdoing, not only submitted a bid in the name of Marsha May, but showed up for a “coin-toss ceremony” at the Ohio Division of Purchasing. The coin toss broke a tie between “Marsha May” and another bidder over the state contract.

Poor Marcia; she emerged a double loser. Not only did she lose the toss, but state officials realized that Marsha May was a fraud. Now, we know who Marsha May really is and we know her game. The question remains, who is Farah Majidzadeh and what is her financial relationship, if any, with the disgraced former Chief of Staff Paul Mifsud? Let’s toss a coin: heads-it’s contract steering, tails-it’s just another one of those funny Voinovich coincidences.

Bob Bytes Back Archive: 9/04/1996 The High Price Of Bucking The System

9/04/1996
by Bob Fitrakis

All evidence suggests that since the onset of the George Voinovich administration in January 1991, the governor’s recently resigned chief of staff, Paul Mifsud, systematically engineered the steering of contracts and public funds to political backers and Voinovich family members.

The firing of Joseph Gilyard on July 22, 1991 by the Voinovich administration was a clear harbinger of the governor’s current problems. Gilyard, who had been director of the Office of Criminal Justice Services and a long-time loyal supporter of the state’s Republican machine, was canned shortly after he alleged that he was under political pressure to give the governor’s brother’s company valuable state prison construction contracts.

The firing paved the way for Mifsud, formerly vice president of the Voinovich Cos., to operate with virtually no restraints within the governor’s administration. As chief of staff, Mifsud was put in charge of the Ohio Department of Transportation, the Commerce Department and the Development Department, and used that position of power to serve the interests of political backers and personal favorites.

Recent allegations that contracts were steered towards the Banks-Carbone Construction Company may be just the tip of the iceberg. It’s an open secret in the local construction and architecture industry that over the last five years most major design and construction management contracts have been awarded in a blatantly partisan manner. Many contractors believe that the state’s Department of Administrative Services has repeatedly gone through a charade of soliciting proposals and later interviewing qualified architectural construction management companies for state projects prior to steering the contracts to what appeared to be predetermined winners. According to construction industry insiders, projects that seem to fit this pattern include:

· Five prison contracts totaling $150 million awarded to Knowlton Construction Company to build or renovate five state prisons, despite the company having little or no previous experience as a prison construction manager.
· The $80 million Max Fisher Business School, the $85 million Schottenstein Arena at Ohio State, and the $110 million Hilltop Office Complex to the Gilbane Building Company. In all three cases, the Banks-Carbone Construction Company was selected as the minority partner.
· The $65 million new COSI building to the Ruscilli Construction Company.
· The $20 million reconstruction of the riot-damaged Lucasville prison to the Sherman R. Smoot Company.
· Various contracts to the Voinovich Cos. and Voinovich-Sgro to build and renovate jails, including the Franklin County jail.

Following George Voinovich’s electoral victory in November 1990, Lieutenant Governor Michael DeWine appointed Gilyard director of the Governor’s Office of Criminal Justice Services in January 1991. Gilyard’s previous experience included being executive assistant to George Forbes, Cleveland City Council president; chief of staff for Cuyahoga County Commissioner Virgil Brown; court administrator for Chief Justice Thomas Moyer; and director of the Ohio Court of Claims. As director of the Office of Criminal Justice Services, Gilyard’s tasks were to coordinate planning and funding for all of Ohio’s criminal justice agencies and dispense state funds for area jail construction projects. Over the eight-year period from 1983 to 1991, the Office of Criminal Justice Services awarded some $200 million in jail construction monies.

Within six months of his hiring, Gilyard was disgraced and hounded by several charges-theft in office, lying to the Voinovich administration about his past, and allegations of sexual harassment-that were later all summarily dismissed. Gilyard’s termination and public humiliation served as a head on a spike to all who dared cross Mifsud.

Gilyard’s tenure turned tenuous immediately after an early “get acquainted” meeting with lobbyist Phil Hamilton, head of the Voinovich transition team and former executive vice president of Voinovich Cos.; and Bennett J. Cooper, Gilyard’s predecessor in the administration of Governor James A. Rhodes.

“[Hamilton] had been bugging me and bugging me to come over,” Gilyard said in an interview with Columbus Alive. When he walked up to the office at 8 E. Long Street, Gilyard said he noticed a plaque over the door. “In gold leaf it says ‘Hamilton and Associates, The Voinovich Cos.’ I about passed out.”

In fact, Candace Peters, a criminal justice administrator, had warned Hamilton during the 1990 campaign that the Voinovich Cos. was facing a potential conflict-of-interest situation over the building of local jails in Ohio.

Despite the warning, the pressure from Hamilton and his associates was “never-ending,” Gilyard insists. For example, he says, at “a reception for all the Voinovich criminal justice people, Hamilton is bothering me again. Cooper’s coming over [to his office] every other two, three days. He’s calling me. He’s going on trips with me,” Gilyard recalls.

Both Cooper and Hamilton are on record denying having pressured Gilyard to receive jail construction grants and contracts.

In a memo to DeWine dated February 1, 1991, Gilyard outlined his problems with the initial meeting with Cooper, Hamilton, and his wife, Patricia Hamilton. According to Gilyard, the talk immediately turned to jail construction contracts and Gilyard said he felt he had to excuse himself. Gilyard said he believed the meeting “raised a significant question as to its propriety” since there was a 1987 Attorney General’s opinion that jail construction grants were state contracts and candidate George Voinovich had pledged that his brother Paul’s company would receive no state contracts.

Patricia Hamilton was soon thereafter appointed the chairperson of State Board of Personnel Review, the board that would later approve Gilyard’s ouster as director.

While others mulled the memo, Gilyard’s attention was drawn to Sheriff Earl Smith. In late March, early April, Gilyard began investigating allegations of impropriety surrounding Sheriff Smith’s Franklin County Drug Enforcement Network (DEN). Gilyard’s now-famous April 12, 1991 memo to DeWine basically summarized various allegations of illegal activity by DEN agents. DeWine froze the funding for the program and, Gilyard later claimed, ordered him to “destroy the memo.” The DEN missive-together with the February 1 memo-unwittingly set the stage for Gilyard’s later dismissal.

At about this time, Sharon Downs, an assistant deputy director of Administrative Services-and wife of John Downs, then-personnel director for Earl Smith and a protege of Voinovich transition director Hamilton-accessed a computer file on Gilyard’s personnel history. Prior to accepting his position, Gilyard had interviewed with Secretary of State Bob Taft’s office where he talked openly about a 1975 incident at Indian River School, a juvenile detention facility where he was fired from the staff and convicted for hitting a youth. The misdemeanor conviction was later overturned. Despite the fact that Gilyard made no secret of the incident, DeWine claimed that Gilyard had failed to disclose the incident during his background check and subsequently he fired Gilyard in July of 1991, even though he later conceded that he was aware of the 1975 incident when Gilyard was hired.

As Gilyard recalls, he was originally offered the job to protect DeWine because, like Mifsud, he was raised in the hardball political scene in Cleveland. Gilyard said he was told: “You were in Cleveland politics, and Mike’s afraid that those guys are going to eat him alive.” Gilyard claims that early on, Mifsud surrounded himself with ambitious “young Republicans….We used to call them ‘brown shirts’ like in Germany.” Politically, you couldn’t make any mistakes in dealing with Mifsud, according to Gilyard: “Mifsud would cut your throat off.”

In June, Smith, angered at Gilyard for freezing his drug task force funds, met with Mifsud about instituting a thaw. Smith gave Mifsud an investigation file on Gilyard. In a two-pronged strategy, Hamilton-who was on Smith’s payroll as a $1,000 a month management contractor-met with DeWine and offered to mediate the dispute between Smith and DeWine over task force funding.

In the meantime, pressure from Hamilton and Cooper mounted, Gilyard claims, adding that he felt compelled to approach Mifsud about the Voinovich Cos.’ apparent conflict of interest. He said he went early to a Cabinet meeting. “I said ‘Paul, you have to do something about this jail stuff….I’m telling him this story and literally…he put his hands over his ears like a little kid. ‘I don’t want to know, get away from me, stay away from me,’ and he ran around the Cabinet table to the other side and turned his back on me.”

Around the first of July, Paul Voinovich sent his brother 14 pages of material-including copies of Gilyard’s personnel history-with handwritten comments to the effect that there were problems with Gilyard. It was virtually the same package Smith had given Mifsud in June.

Gilyard had confronted Sheriff Smith about the allegations against the DEN agents. While Smith denied them and insisted that he get his funding back, both he and Gilyard have confirmed that, during the conversation, Smith made Gilyard aware of illegal campaign contributions that the trash haulers had made to the 1990 Voinovich campaign.

Gilyard claims Smith “sent a direct threat to the governor” to back off his drug task force, and immediately Smith began to crack down on overloaded garbage trucks in Franklin County. “Now, what actually happened was, when Earl had told me about the illegal campaign contributions, he actually was making trash trucks dump their trash in the city streets of Columbus. There’s pictures in the Dispatch. Nobody could understand why. I, of course, knew why, and I’m telling the governor and I’m telling these people why and Mifsud’s pooh-poohing me, although he knew better,” Gilyard explained.

In what even he describes as an end run to get to the governor the information about the activities of his brother Paul, Hamilton and Mifsud, Gilyard said he arranged a meeting with David B. Bailey, a Cleveland Republican Ward Committeeman and Voinovich confidante for over 30 years; and former Cuyahoga County Republican Party Chair, Robert Hughes.

Hughes, one of the state’s most powerful Republicans, had recently formed his own political consulting company. “We met with Hughes in Hughes’ basement. It was Hughes, Hughes’ wife, Bailey, my wife and myself. Bob took prodigious notes. Five pages of notes on a yellow pad. He agreed to see the governor, and I believe he made a phone call to Columbus that night,” recalled Gilyard.

Whether or not the governor got the information is unknown. Hughes died in November of 1991 under mysterious circumstances, the victim of carbon monoxide poisoning.

On July 15, 1991, Gilyard sent another troubling memo to DeWine questioning the propriety of the Voinovich Cos.’ lobbying efforts. Within a week, he was suspended and then fired by DeWine, who accused him of withholding information about the 1975 Indian River incident. DeWine also claimed that he hadn’t received any memo from Gilyard regarding the Voinovich Cos.’ intense lobbying efforts. Earl Smith had in the meantime filed theft-in-office charges against Gilyard.

On August 7, Curt Steiner, chief spokesman for Voinovich, stated that DeWine was aware of the 1975 Indian River incident when he first interviewed Gilyard in December. Late in August, a nearly 1,000-page Ohio Highway Patrol report substantially supported Gilyard’s claim that he had sought to repeatedly warn Mifsud of ethical problems.

A little more than a week after Gilyard’s departure, the Columbus Dispatch reported that, “Two well-connected Statehouse lobbyists- one with ties with Governor George V. Voinovich’s brother and another appointed by Voinovich to a state commission-helped clients land unbid contracts as part of a $350 million state bond issue.” Hamilton was the lobbyist for Goldman Sachs & Co., which, along with Lehman Brothers, received the unbid contracts to handle about $175 million in bond issues on behalf of the Ohio Housing Finance Agency.

On October 3, Franklin County Judge Richard Ferrell dismissed Smith’s charges against Gilyard, citing “no probably cause.” On October 18, after months denying its existence, DeWine turned over a copy of Gilyard’s July 15 memo, claiming that he had recently discovered it in a desk at his second home. DeWine dismissed Gilyard’s thoughtful memo as “a goofy, long narrative.” The memo remains a must-read for anyone seeking to understand the current contract-steering allegations against Mifsud.

After Hughes’ death in November 1991, the Ohio Ethics Commission-with new Voinovich appointees-ruled that it wasn’t a conflict of interest for the governor’s brother to take state jail construction funds.

One monument to the political machine that steamrolled over Gilyard stands in Franklin County: the renovated Franklin County jail, built in 1970 by Pringle and Pratt. According to former Sheriff Smith, now running again for his old job, the Voinovich Cos. originally did the architectural assessment for the renovation at the Franklin County jail. They were paid $75,000, and received another $18,000 for their estimate that the jail could be renovated for $2 million. The $2 million renovation has turned into an $11 million-plus project.

Smith said that the Voinovich Cos. recently renovated a kitchen at the jail that had already been renovated “down to leveling the floors” in 1990.

“There was no bid from the Voinovich Cos. They said that since the Voinovich Cos. had done the original architectural assessment, that constituted a bid,” Smith said.