By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!
Amy Goodman: A top Republican internet strategist who was set to testify in a case alleging election tampering in 2004 in Ohio has died in a plane crash. Mike Connell was the chief IT consultant to Karl Rove and created websites for the Bush and McCain electoral campaigns. He also set up the official Ohio state election website reporting the 2004 presidential election returns.
Connell was reportedly an experienced pilot. He died instantly Friday night when his private plane crashed in a residential neighborhood near Akron, Ohio.
Michael Connell was deposed one day before the election this year by attorneys Cliff Arnebeck and Bob Fitrakis about his actions during the 2004 vote count and his access to Karl Rove's e-mail files and how they went missing.
Velvet Revolution, a non-profit investigating Connell's activities, revealed this weekend that Connell had recently said he was afraid George Bush and Dick Cheney would "throw [him] under the bus." Cliff Arnebeck had also previously alerted Attorney General Michael Mukasey to alleged threats from Karl Rove to Connell if he refused to "take the fall."
Well, Mark Crispin Miller joins us now, a professor of media culture and communication at New York University, the author of several books, including Loser Take All: Election Fraud and the Subversion of Democracy, 2000-2008 and Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election & Why They'll Steal the Next One Too. Mark Crispin Miller us now in our firehouse studio.
Welcome to Democracy Now!
Mark Crispin Miller: It's good to be here, Amy. Thank you.
AG: Alright, well, we had you on right before the election, because that's when Mike Connell was being deposed. This news that came out of his death in a plane crash on Friday night, talk about what you understand has happened.
MCM: Well, I cannot assert with perfect confidence that this was no accident, but I will say that the circumstances are so suspicious and so convenient for Rove and the White House that I think we're obliged to investigate this thing very, very thoroughly. And that means, first of all, taking a close look at some of the stories that were immediately circulated to account for what happened, that it was bad weather. That was the line they used when Wellstone's plane went down. There had been bad weather, but it had passed two hours before. And this comes from a woman at the airport information desk in Akron. We're told that his plane was running out of gas, which is a little bit odd for a highly experienced pilot like Connell, but apparently, when the plane went down, there was an explosion, a fireball that actually charred and pocked some of the house fronts in the neighborhood. People can go online and see the footage that news crews took. But beyond the, you know, dubiousness of the official story, we have to take a close look at -- and a serious look at all the charges that Connell was set to make.
AG: Now, he had asked the Attorney General Mukasey for protective custody, because of threats to him and his wife?
MCM: He reported threats to his lawyer, Cliff Arnebeck, and Arnebeck -- also, Velvet Revolution heard from tipsters, as well, tipsters who also claimed that Connell's life was at risk. Stephen Spoonamore, the whistleblower who was the first -- who was the one to name Connell in the first place, also had an ear to the inside. He's also very connected. And all these people were saying Rove is making threats, the White House is very worried about this case.
Having heard all this, Arnebeck contacted Mukasey, he contacted Nancy Rogers, who is the Ohio Attorney General, and he wrote a letter to the court, telling all of them that "This man should be in protective custody. He is an important witness in a RICO case. Please do something to look after him." And they didn't respond to this.
AG: So, explain what this case is all about and exactly what Mike Connell has been doing over these last years. What does it mean to be Karl Rove's IT guru?
MCM: Well, the lawyers in the case refer to him as a high-IQ Forrest Gump, by which they mean that he seems to have been present at the scene of every dubious election of the last eight years. We're talking about Florida in 2000. We're talking about Ohio in 2004. We're talking about Alabama in 2002. He seems to have been involved in the theft of Don Siegelman's re-election for governor. There's some evidence that links him with the Saxby Chambliss-Max Cleland Senate race in Georgia in 2002. To be Karl Rove's IT guru seems to have meant basically setting it up so that votes could be electronically shaved to the disadvantage of the Democrats and the advantage of Republicans.