Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

FTR #742 Body Count (Sweet Home Alabama)


Dave Emory’s entire life­time of work is avail­able on a flash dri­ve that can be obtained here. (The flash dri­ve includes the anti-fas­cist books avail­able on this site.)

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Intro­duc­tion: A series of haunt­ing, polit­i­cal­ly-relat­ed deaths in Alaba­ma have been ruled “sui­cides,” in spite of evi­dence to the con­trary. All of the vic­tims of these so-called “sui­cides” are linked to what one inci­sive blog has termed “Karl Rove’s Alaba­ma.”

Linked to the polit­i­cal skul­dug­gery that appears to have engulfed for­mer Alaba­ma Gov­er­nor Don Siegel­man, these deaths exem­pli­fy an unpleas­ant real­i­ty that Amer­i­cans have cho­sen to ignore: polit­i­cal mur­der is an estab­lished tra­di­tion in the Unit­ed States.

The pro­gram reviews the untime­ly death of for­mer Bush White House IT chief Mike Con­nell in a plane crash (fol­low­ing death threats against Con­nell [alleged­ly made by Karl Rove] and warn­ings that his plane might be sab­o­taged.)

Con­nel­l’s tes­ti­mo­ny in ongo­ing inves­ti­ga­tions might have shed light on the theft of the 2000 and 2004 elec­tions, as well as the destruc­tion of White House e‑mails. At least five alleged sui­cides and mur­ders in Alaba­ma involve peo­ple con­nect­ed to the GOP pow­er struc­ture that ele­vat­ed Gov­er­nor Bob Riley, a pow­er struc­ture forged by Karl Rove. These deaths also appear linked to the oper­a­tions of con­vict­ed felon Jack Abramoff in Alaba­ma.

The broad­cast relates the incred­i­ble cir­cum­stances of the death of Major Bashin­sky, whose corpse was found dead of a gun­shot wound on the bot­tom of a golf course pond.

  • . . . Author­i­ties say [Major] Bashin­sky wrapped rope around parts of his body and attached a bot­tle that con­tained a copy of the note they found in his car. He stuck a label from a Gold­en Flake bag in the roof of his mouth and loose­ly bound his mouth with duct tape and his hands with rope. He then walked into the [golf course] pond and shot him­self. . . .

Bashin­sky’s cousin, Charles “Bub­ba” Major (a for­mer pro at the golf club on whose course Bashin­sky’s corpse was dis­cov­ered) expressed dis­be­lief at the offi­cial account of the death:

  • “. . .You prob­a­bly did not know that I [Charles “Bub­ba” Major] ran High­land Golf Course for 15 yrs 83–98 and thought it was iron­ic that they found Major’s body at High­land Golf Course, still have not heard the cause of death, but guess it will come out soon. For the record there is no way the body could have been there sev­er­al days, with­out being seen because Hoot­ers had a golf tour­ney there Sat and had over 120 peo­ple going by that pond every 3 min­utes. . .”

Major was found dead of an appar­ent­ly self-inflict­ed gun­shot wound after mak­ing the above state­ment.

After not­ing the alleged sui­cides of a cou­ple of for­mer and active FBI agents, the pro­gram ana­lyzes aspects of the shoot­ing of Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Gabrielle Gif­fords in Ari­zona, and the mys­te­ri­ous death that same week­end of Ash­ley Tur­ton, the wife of Dan Tur­ton, Oba­ma’s liai­son to the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

End­ing with dis­cus­sion of one of this coun­try’s major polit­i­cal assas­si­na­tions, the pro­gram notes that Sirhan Sirhan has recalled key details of the assas­si­na­tion of Robert F. Kennedy under hyp­not­ic regres­sion.

Pro­gram High­lights Include: The alleged sui­cide of Ralph Sta­cy; the alleged sui­cide of Bob Cavi­ness; the mur­der of Zoa White; the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a sec­ond sus­pect in the shoot­ing of Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Gif­fords; the pos­si­bil­i­ty that the pri­ma­ry tar­get of the Gif­fords shoot­ing may have been a fed­er­al judge with drug task force expe­ri­ence; a recount­ing of the “girl in the pol­ka-dot dress”–a key aspect of the inves­ti­ga­tion into the assas­si­na­tion of Robert F. Kennedy; Sirhan’s hyp­not­ic rec­ol­lec­tion of a sec­ond gun being fired at the Ambas­sador Hotel; Ash­ley Tur­ton’s work for Rudy Giu­lian­i’s law firm; that fir­m’s suc­cess­ful nego­ti­a­tion of the merg­er of Duke and Progress Ener­gy, to form the world’s largest util­i­ty.

1. Begin­ning with review of the appar­ent mur­der of Michael Con­nell, the broad­cast notes his links to the events under­ly­ing the inves­ti­ga­tion into a series of high­ly sus­pi­cious deaths in Alaba­ma.

Con­nel­l’s tes­ti­mo­ny in ongo­ing inves­ti­ga­tions might have shed light on the theft of the 2000 and 2004 elec­tions, as well as the destruc­tion of White House e‑mails (the scan­dal sur­round­ing the e‑mails over­laps the issue of Rove’s manip­u­la­tion of U.S. attor­neys and the con­tro­ver­sy sur­round­ing Don Siegel­man in Alaba­ma). Note the reports of Con­nell hav­ing been threat­ened by Karl Rove.

Michael Con­nell, the Bush IT expert who has been direct­ly impli­cat­ed in the rig­ging of George Bush’s 2000 and 2004 elec­tions, was killed last night when his sin­gle engine plane crashed three miles short of the Akron air­port. Vel­vet Rev­o­lu­tion (“VR”), a non-prof­it that has been inves­ti­gat­ing Mr. Con­nel­l’s activ­i­ties for the past two years, can now reveal that a per­son close to Mr. Con­nell has recent­ly been dis­cussing with a VR inves­ti­ga­tor how he can tell all about his work for George Bush. Mr. Con­nell told a close asso­ciate that he was afraid that George Bush and Dick Cheney would “throw [him] under the bus.”

A tip­ster close to the McCain cam­paign dis­closed to VR in July that Mr. Con­nel­l’s life was in jeop­ardy and that Karl Rove had threat­ened him and his wife, Heather. VR’s attor­ney, Cliff Arnebeck, noti­fied the Unit­ed States Attor­ney Gen­er­al , Ohio law enforce­ment and the fed­er­al court about these threats and insist­ed that Mr. Con­nell be placed in pro­tec­tive cus­tody. VR also told a close asso­ciate of Mr. Con­nel­l’s not to fly his plane because of anoth­er tip that the plane could be sab­o­taged. Mr. Con­nell, a very expe­ri­enced pilot, has had to aban­don at least two flights in the past two months because of sus­pi­cious prob­lems with his plane. On Decem­ber 18, 2008, Mr. Con­nell flew to a small air­port out­side of Wash­ing­ton DC to meet some peo­ple. It was on his return flight the next day that he crashed.

On Octo­ber 31, Mr. Con­nell appeared before a fed­er­al judge in Ohio after being sub­poe­naed in a fed­er­al law­suit inves­ti­gat­ing the rig­ging of the 2004 elec­tion under the direc­tion of Karl Rove. The judge ordered Mr. Con­nell to tes­ti­fy under oath at a depo­si­tion on Novem­ber 3rd, the day before the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Vel­vet Rev­o­lu­tion received con­fi­den­tial infor­ma­tion that the White House was extreme­ly con­cerned about Mr. Con­nell talk­ing about his ille­gal work for the White House and two Bush/Cheney 04 attor­neys were dis­patched to rep­re­sent him.

An asso­ciate of Mr. Con­nel­l’s told VR that Mr. Con­nell was involved with the destruc­tion of the White House emails and the set­ting up of the off-grid White House email sys­tem.

Mr. Con­nell han­dled all of John McCain’s com­put­er work in the recent pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. VR has received direct evi­dence that the McCain cam­paign kept abreast of the legal devel­op­ments against Mr. Con­nell by read­ing the VR ded­i­cat­ed web­site, www.rovecybergate.com. . . .

“Bush Insid­er Who Planned to Tell All Killed in Plane Crash: Non-Prof­it Demands Full Fed­er­al Inves­ti­ga­tion”; Yahoo.com; 12/20/2008.

2. The lethal­i­ty man­i­fest­ing in Alaba­ma appears to be con­nect­ed to Karl Rove’s machi­na­tions in that state–gambits that appar­ent­ly result­ed in the pros­e­cu­tion of Alaba­ma Gov­er­nor Don Siegel­man on cor­rup­tion charges, this in the wake of Siegel­man’s sus­pi­cious defeat in the 2002 elec­tions.

Note, in par­tic­u­lar, the pres­ence of Leu­ra Canary and her hus­band Bill in this sce­nario. Both names crop up in con­nec­tion with the events appar­ent­ly sur­round­ing the vio­lent deaths in Alaba­ma.

Note, also, the vio­lence to which whistle­blow­er Jill Simp­son was sub­ject­ed, after dis­clos­ing alle­ga­tions of Rove’s inten­tion to destroy Don Siegel­man polit­i­cal­ly.

Don Eugene Siegel­man (born Feb­ru­ary 24, 1946) is an Amer­i­can Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty politi­cian who held numer­ous offices in Alaba­ma. He was the 51st Gov­er­nor of Alaba­ma for one term from 1999 to 2003. Siegel­man is the only per­son in the his­to­ry of Alaba­ma to be elect­ed to serve in all four of the top statewide elect­ed offices: Sec­re­tary of State, Attor­ney Gen­er­al, 26th Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor and Gov­er­nor. He served in Alaba­ma pol­i­tics for 26 years.
After the expi­ra­tion of his gov­er­nor­ship, two of Alaba­ma’s Unit­ed States Attor­neys began a crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tion against him on accu­sa­tions of cor­rup­tion while in office. Indict­ments came in 2004 and again in 2005, and in 2006 he was con­vict­ed on cor­rup­tion charges.[1] Since then there have been counter-accu­sa­tions by var­i­ous for­mer attor­neys gen­er­al and offi­cials that his pros­e­cu­tion was inten­tion­al­ly wrong­ful, engi­neered by pres­i­den­tial advi­sor Karl Rove and offi­cials of the U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice to gain polit­i­cal advan­tage. . . .

. . . Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Bob Riley defeat­ed Siegel­man’s Novem­ber 2002 reelec­tion bid by the nar­row­est mar­gin in Alaba­ma his­to­ry: approx­i­mate­ly 3,000 votes. The result was con­tro­ver­sial, as on the night of the elec­tion, Siegel­man was ini­tial­ly declared the win­ner by the Asso­ci­at­ed Press. Lat­er, a vot­ing machine mal­func­tion in a sin­gle coun­ty, Bald­win Coun­ty, was claimed to have pro­duced the votes need­ed to give Siegel­man the elec­tion. When the mal­func­tion was cor­rect­ed, Riley emerged the win­ner. Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty offi­cials object­ed, stat­ing that the recount had been per­formed by local Repub­li­can elec­tion offi­cials after Demo­c­ra­t­ic observers had left the site of the vote count­ing, thus ren­der­ing ver­i­fi­ca­tion of the recount results impossible.[9] The state’s Attor­ney Gen­er­al, Repub­li­can Bill Pry­or, affirmed the recount­ed vote totals, secur­ing Riley’s elec­tion. Large­ly as a result of this con­tro­ver­sy, the Alaba­ma Leg­is­la­ture amend­ed the elec­tion code to pro­vide for auto­mat­ic, super­vised recounts in close races. . . .

. . . Siegel­man has stat­ed that he wants to see Karl Rove held in con­tempt for refus­ing to tes­ti­fy before a House com­mit­tee that is inves­ti­gat­ing Siegel­man’s conviction.[18] Although Siegel­man was con­vict­ed, his argu­ment is he may not have been inves­ti­gat­ed if not for Rove. . .

. . . Wit­ness Nick Bai­ley, who pro­vid­ed the cor­ner­stone tes­ti­mo­ny upon which the con­vic­tion was based, was sub­se­quent­ly con­vict­ed of extor­tion; upon being giv­en 10 years in prison Bai­ley coop­er­at­ed with pros­e­cu­tors to light­en his own sen­tence. Although he engaged in over 70 inter­views with the pros­e­cu­tion against Siegel­man, none of the notes detail­ing these inter­views were shared with the defense. In addi­tion, after the case was tried it was con­firmed that the check he tes­ti­fied he saw Scrushy write for Siegel­man was actu­al­ly writ­ten days lat­er, when he was not actu­al­ly present. . . .

. . . Alle­ga­tions that Siegel­man was pros­e­cut­ed at the insis­tence of Bush-appoint­ed offi­cials at the Jus­tice Depaont­gomery whose hus­band was Alaba­ma’s top Repub­li­can oper­a­tive and who had for years worked close­ly with Karl Rove, led fed­er­al courts to release the accused on bail.[22] In June 2007, a Repub­li­can lawyer, Dana Jill Simp­son of Rainsville, Alaba­ma, signed a sworn state­ment that, five years ear­li­er, she had heard that Karl Rove was prepar­ing to neu­tral­ize Siegel­man polit­i­cal­ly with an inves­ti­ga­tion head­ed by the U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice.[23] Simp­son lat­er told The Birm­ing­ham News that her affi­davit’s word­ing could be inter­pret­ed in two ways, and stat­ed that she had writ­ten her affi­davit her­self, where­as in her Con­gres­sion­al tes­ti­mo­ny she had admit­ted to hav­ing help from a Siegel­man supporter.[24]

Accord­ing to Simp­son’s state­ment, she was on a Repub­li­can cam­paign con­fer­ence call in 2002 when she heard Bill Canary tell oth­er cam­paign work­ers not to wor­ry about Siegel­man because Canary’s “girls” and “Karl” would make sure the Jus­tice Depart­ment pur­sued the Demo­c­rat so he was not a polit­i­cal threat in the future.[23] “Canary’s girls” sup­pos­ed­ly includ­ed his wife, Leu­ra Canary, who is Unit­ed States Attor­ney for the Mid­dle Dis­trict of Alaba­ma, and Unit­ed States Attor­ney for the North­ern Dis­trict of Alaba­ma Alice Martin.[23] Leu­ra Canary did not sub­mit vol­un­tary recusal paper­work until two months after Siegel­man attor­ney David Cromwell John­son’s press con­fer­ence in March 2002.[25][26][27]

In inter­views with the press, Simp­son has empha­sized that she heard Rove’s name men­tioned in a phone con­ver­sa­tion in which the dis­cus­sion turned to Siegel­man, clar­i­fied that she heard some­one involved in a 2002 con­fer­ence call refer to a meet­ing between Mr. Rove and Jus­tice Depart­ment offi­cials on the sub­ject of Siegel­man, and revealed that Karl Rove ordered her to “catch Siegel­man cheat­ing on his wife.”[20] The Annis­ton Star pub­lished an edi­to­r­i­al stat­ing that, “If that’s his sto­ry, then Rove should not hes­i­tate to go under oath and answer ques­tions before a con­gres­sion­al committee.”[28] . . .

. . . On the oth­er hand, Raw Sto­ry reports that Karl Rove advised Bill Canary on man­ag­ing Repub­li­can Bob Riley’s guber­na­to­r­i­al cam­paign against Siegel­man in the elec­tion fraud con­tro­ver­sy of 2002, based on the tes­ti­mo­ny of “two Repub­li­can lawyers who have asked to remain anony­mous for fear of retal­i­a­tion,” one of whom is close to Alaba­ma’s Repub­li­can Nation­al Committee.[29]

Simp­son’s house burned down soon after she began whistle­blow­ing, and Simp­son’s car was dri­ven off the road by a pri­vate investigator[30] and wrecked. As a result of the tim­ing of these inci­dents, Simp­son said, “Any­time you speak truth to pow­er, there are great risks. I’ve been attacked,” explain­ing she felt a “moral oblig­a­tion” to speak up. . . .

“Don Siegel­man”; Wikipedia.

3. Ana­lyz­ing those sus­pi­cious deaths in Alaba­ma, the pro­gram begins by high­light­ing the alleged sui­cide of Charles “Bub­ba” Major.

For the fourth time in rough­ly a year, a per­son with ties to Alaba­ma’s corporate/political elites has com­mit­ted sui­cide under mys­te­ri­ous cir­cum­stances. This time, the deceased had fam­i­ly ties to a man who com­mit­ted a most pub­lic “sui­cide” in March 2010.

Charles “Bub­ba” Major died on Mon­day at age 59, and his funer­al will be at 3 p.m. today at Moun­tain Brook Bap­tist Church. Bub­ba Major was a first cousin of promi­nent Birm­ing­ham attor­ney Major Bashin­sky, whose body was found float­ing in a golf-course pond last March and lat­er was ruled a sui­cide, a find­ing we have report­ed is dubi­ous, at best.

Bub­ba Major was quot­ed pub­licly as say­ing the sto­ry of Major Basin­sky’s death did not add up. Now, sources are telling Legal Schnau­zer this morn­ing that Bub­ba Major’s death has been ruled a suicide–and that has been con­firmed with today’s post from goodmorningfloridakeys.com, a blog writ­ten by Sloan Bashin­sky Jr., Major’s old­er broth­er.

This brings to four the num­ber of curi­ous sui­cides in rough­ly the past year in Alaba­ma, all involv­ing indi­vid­u­als with ties to the state’s con­ser­v­a­tive rul­ing elites? We know about Major Bashin­sky and Bub­ba Major. The oth­ers are Ralph Sta­cy, an exec­u­tive with the Busi­ness Coun­cil of Alaba­ma, and Bob Cavi­ness, an inves­ti­ga­tor in the office of for­mer Attor­ney Gen­er­al Troy King. That list does­n’t include Zoa White, a woman who worked in the Riley admin­is­tra­tion and was found beat­en to death in her Mobile home. That has been ruled a homi­cide.

Both Major Bashin­sky and Bub­ba Major had round­about ties to a law­suit brought by the estate of Sloan Bashin­sky Sr. against the Birm­ing­ham firm W and H Invest­ments. The “H” stands for William Cobb “Chip” Hazel­rig, an entre­pre­neur with ties to the Alaba­ma gam­ing com­mu­ni­ty. Hazel­rig is a part­ner in Paragon Gam­ing, a com­pa­ny head­ed by Robert Sigler, of Tuscaloosa. Paragon is pur­su­ing a major gam­bling resort in Cana­da, and Rob Riley, the son of for­mer Alaba­ma Repub­li­can Gov­er­nor Bob Riley, used to be involved in Paragon.

Bub­ba Major was known as one of the finest golfers in Alaba­ma and was a long-time mem­ber of the pres­ti­gious Coun­try Club of Birm­ing­ham. And how is this for irony? An Inter­net search reveals that Bub­ba Major worked in sales at South­line Steel, a com­pa­ny based in Besse­mer, Alaba­ma. Who has a promi­nent inter­est in South­line Steel? None oth­er than Chip Hazel­rig.

Peo­ple with ties to the law­suit styled Estate of Sloan Bashin­sky v. W and H Invest­ments have a curi­ous way of turn­ing up as sui­cide vic­tims. Is that because Chip Hazel­rig has ties to Alaba­ma’s Repub­li­can machine, built large­ly by Karl Rove in the 1990s and run by the Riley fam­i­ly in the 2000s? And is this ugli­ness dri­ven part­ly because of the GOP’s under-the-table ties to the gam­bling indus­try?

We know for sure that Chip Hazel­rig took some curi­ous actions last March, while Major Bashin­sky was miss­ing. Why would he show up for a vis­it with Sloan Bashin­sky Jr. in Key West, Flori­da?

What about Hazel­rig’s ties to the Alaba­ma GOP? Rob Riley dis­tanced him­self from Paragon Gam­ing only after a con­tri­bu­tion from Hazel­rig to Bob Riley’s guber­na­to­r­i­al cam­paign was revealed to have come from some­one with ties to gam­bling. Bob Riley returned the con­tri­bu­tion, claim­ing that he was staunch­ly anti-gam­bling, and he went on to launch a cru­sade against elec­tron­ic bin­go in the last year of his reign as gov­er­nor.

The Riley fam­i­ly’s pub­lic stance on gam­bling, of course, rep­re­sents breath-tak­ing hypocrisy. Bob Riley, it has been wide­ly report­ed, was elect­ed with mas­sive finan­cial assis­tance from Mis­sis­sip­pi Choctaw gam­ing inter­ests fun­neled through con­vict­ed GOP felon Jack Abramoff. And it has been well doc­u­ment­ed that Rob Riley has ties to Chip Hazel­rig, Robert Sigler, and their gam­ing inter­ests.

Now, two peo­ple with ties to the Bashin­sky fam­i­ly, which was seek­ing an account­ing of $37 mil­lion invest­ed with Chip Hazel­rig’s com­pa­ny, have turned up dead. Both have been ruled a sui­cide, but we have shown there are sig­nif­i­cant rea­sons to doubt the find­ing in the Major Bashin­sky case. The Bub­ba Major sto­ry is in its ear­ly stages, but we’ve seen signs that he was con­cerned about what had hap­pened to his cousin. Did that con­cern cost him his life? We would not be sur­prised if the answer is yes. . . .

“Anoth­er ‘Sui­cide’ Dark­ens the Polit­i­cal Land­scape in Karl Rove’s Alaba­ma”; Legal Schnau­zer; 3/31/2011.

4. Exhibit­ing the para­me­ters of the so-called “sui­cides” in Alaba­ma are the pre­pos­ter­ous cir­cum­stances of the alleged “sui­cide” of Charles “Bub­ba” Major’s cousin Major Bashin­sky.

Note that Major was a golf pro at the club where Bashin­sky’s body was found. Major felt it was impos­si­ble for his cous­in’s body not to be dis­cov­ered. He was found dead rough­ly a year lat­er.

. . . Author­i­ties say Bashin­sky wrapped rope around parts of his body and attached a bot­tle that con­tained a copy of the note they found in his car. He stuck a label from a Gold­en Flake bag in the roof of his mouth and loose­ly bound his mouth with duct tape and his hands with rope. He then walked into the pond and shot him­self.

If he wad­ed into the water, obvi­ous­ly the water was shal­low. Being in Alaba­ma in ear­ly March, the water prob­a­bly was not ter­ri­bly cold. This was on a pub­lic golf course where many peo­ple come and go. And yet the body remained sub­merged and unno­ticed for rough­ly 12 days?

I don’t pre­tend to be a foren­sic pathol­o­gist, but this seems unlikely–and offi­cials gave no indi­ca­tion that the body was weight­ed down by any object. . . .

. . .You prob­a­bly did not know that I ran High­land Golf Course for 15 yrs 83–98 and thought it was iron­ic that they found Major’s body at High­land Golf Course, still have not heard the cause of death, but guess it will come out soon. For the record there is no way the body could have been there sev­er­al days, with­out being seen because Hoot­ers had golf tour­ney there Sat and had over 120 peo­ple going by that pond every 3 min­utes. . .

. . . Back­ground note: Major’s body was spot­ted by golfers Mon­day fol­low­ing the Hoot­ers tour­na­ment. He went miss­ing 12 days before his body was found. He was alive most of that time. There was no ran­som demand. There was no note to law enforce­ment or the fam­i­ly or the media. There was only silence. . . .

“Should We Doubt a Find­ing of Sui­cide in Major Bashin­sky’s Death?”; Legal Schnau­zer; 3/25/2010.

5. Bob Cavi­ness was yet anoth­er of the mys­te­ri­ous deaths in “Karl Rove’s Alaba­ma.”

An inves­ti­ga­tor in the office of Alaba­ma Attor­ney Gen­er­al Troy King recent­ly died under mys­te­ri­ous cir­cum­stances, adding to a grow­ing list of sus­pi­cious deaths in the final 12 months or so of Gov­er­nor Bob Riley’s two terms.

Robert William “Bob” Cavi­ness died on Novem­ber 15 in Alexan­der City, Alaba­ma, where he lived. Mul­ti­ple sources have told Legal Schnau­zer that Cavi­ness died from a gun­shot wound to the head, and his death appar­ent­ly is being con­sid­ered a sui­cide.

Sources also say that Cavi­ness was friends with Ralph Sta­cy, a Busi­ness Coun­cil of Alaba­ma (BCA) exec­u­tive who was found dead in his office in Sep­tem­ber from an appar­ent self-inflict­ed gun­shot wound. Cavi­ness and Sta­cy report­ed­ly shared a com­mon faith and both were lay min­is­ters.

An obvi­ous ques­tion: Was Bob Cavi­ness inves­ti­gat­ing his friend’s death and did he get too close to the truth for some­one’s com­fort?

Anoth­er ques­tion: Is this tox­ic envi­ron­ment a nat­ur­al by-prod­uct of efforts by Karl Rove and the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce to take over Alaba­ma courts in the 1990s–which served as a pre­cur­sor to the Don Siegel­man pros­e­cu­tion and oth­er nasty events in our state?

Cavi­ness was 46 years old, with a wife and two sons. He had worked for the Mont­gomery Police Depart­ment, most­ly in drug inves­ti­ga­tions, for 20 years before going to work for the Attor­ney Gen­er­al’s Office. . . .

. . . The Cavi­ness case marks at least four sus­pi­cious deaths that we know of in 2010, all involv­ing peo­ple with some con­nec­tions to the Riley admin­is­tra­tion or its activ­i­ties. Cavi­ness’ boss, Attor­ney Gen­er­al Troy King, is a Repub­li­can and once was a Riley ally. But the two have had a very pub­lic and ugly falling out over gam­bling-relat­ed issues. King has stat­ed that elec­tron­ic bin­go gen­er­al­ly is legal in Alaba­ma, while Riley launched a cru­sade to shut down gam­ing facil­i­ties in Alaba­ma.

Eleven lob­by­ists, leg­is­la­tors, and gam­ing figures–including the high-pro­file Mil­ton McGre­gor and Ron­nie Gilley–are under indict­ment on charges relat­ed to gam­bling leg­is­la­tion. The inves­ti­ga­tion has been led by U.S. Attor­ney Leu­ra Canary, a Riley ally and George W. Bush appointee who, inex­plic­a­bly, has remained in office through­out the Barack Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion.

What are the oth­er sus­pi­cious deaths? We have writ­ten sev­er­al posts about Major Bashin­sky, Zoa White, and Ralph Sta­cy:

* Major Bashinsky–The 63-year-old son of one of the state’s best-known busi­ness­men was report­ed miss­ing in ear­ly March. About two weeks lat­er, his body was found float­ing in a golf-course pond on Birm­ing­ham’s South­side, and his death was ruled a sui­cide. His father, the late Sloan Bashin­sky Sr., was the CEO of Gold­en Enter­pris­es, the mak­er of Gold­en Flake pota­to chips and snack foods. In the months lead­ing up to Major Bashin­sky’s dis­ap­pear­ance, the Estate of Sloan Bashin­sky was involved in a law­suit with W and H Invest­ments of Birm­ing­ham, seek­ing an account­ing of some $37 mil­lion the elder Bashin­sky had invest­ed with the firm–mostly in oil wells. A set­tle­ment was approved in the law­suit on March 1, two days before Major Bashin­sky was report­ed miss­ing. One of the part­ners in W and H Invest­ments is William Cobb “Chip” Hazel­rig, who once had a cam­paign con­tri­bu­tion to Bob Riley returned when it was dis­cov­ered that Hazel­rig was a found­ing part­ner of a com­pa­ny called Paragon Gam­ing. Both Hazel­rig and Rob Riley, the gov­er­nor’s son, had ties to a com­pa­ny called Crim­son­i­ca, which is based in Tuscaloosa and run by a man named Robert Sigler.

* Zoa White–A for­mer Riley cam­paign work­er, the 69-year-old White was found dead in her mid­town Mobile home on June 28. News reports have said she was beat­en to death with a ham­mer. White had worked in the Alaba­ma Depart­ment of Eco­nom­ic and Com­mu­ni­ty Affairs (ADECA) under Bill John­son, who went from being a mem­ber of the Riley admin­is­tra­tion to one of the gov­er­nor’s harsh­est crit­ics. John­son was so close to White and her fam­i­ly that he helped noti­fy friends about funer­al arrange­ments. Mobile police recent­ly made an arrest in White’s mur­der, but they have said lit­tle about evi­dence found in the case. The pros­e­cu­tion will be led by Mobile Coun­ty Dis­trict Attor­ney John Tyson, who is com­man­der of Riley’s anti-gam­bling task force. Sus­pect Car­los Edward Kennedy has been denied bond in the case and is rep­re­sent­ed by a court-appoint­ed lawyer.

* Ralph Stacy–He was in charge of strate­gic com­mu­ni­ca­tions and was a chief lieu­tenant to BCA pres­i­dent Bill Canary. Canary, who is Leu­ra Canary’s hus­band, is a long-time asso­ciate of Karl Rove and U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce Pres­i­dent Tom Dono­hue. Mont­gomery police have released few details about Sta­cy’s death, and the Mont­gomery Adver­tis­er has writ­ten almost noth­ing about it. Sta­cy was 53, with a wife, Angel, and a daugh­ter, Savan­nah. Friends and col­leagues described him as a jovial man who was a pop­u­lar pub­lic speak­er. Before mov­ing under the BCA ban­ner ear­li­er this year, Sta­cy had served as direc­tor of the Cham­ber of Com­merce Asso­ci­a­tion of Alaba­ma, which rep­re­sent­ed the state’s 120 Cham­bers of Com­merce and had some 60,000 dues-pay­ing mem­bers. The BCA, with about 5,000 mem­bers, report­ed­ly had long cov­et­ed the siz­able mem­ber­ship over which Sta­cy ruled.

Is it coin­ci­dence that these deaths hap­pened in 2010, as Bob Riley’s term was wind­ing down and the gov­er­nor was engaged in a high-pro­file cru­sade against gam­bling inter­ests? Is it coin­ci­dence that these deaths occurred as ques­tions con­tin­ued to rise about Riley’s finan­cial sup­port from the Mis­sis­sip­pi Choctaw Indi­ans, report­ed­ly laun­dered through GOP felon Jack Abramoff? Is it a coin­ci­dence that Bob Riley has strong ties to Bill Canary, Karl Rove, and the U.S. Cham­ber of Commerce–and Riley’s term is end­ing amidst a dis­turbing­ly high body count? It could be. Is it pos­si­ble that there is noth­ing sus­pi­cious about any of these deaths?. . .

“Anoth­er Mys­te­ri­ous Death Dark­ens the Polit­i­cal Land­scape in Karl Rove’s Alaba­ma”; Legal Schnau­zer; 12/21/2010.

6. One of the “sui­cides” had been harassed by the FBI.

Alaba­ma deputy attor­ney gen­er­al before he com­mit­ted sui­cide last November–all because the agents mis­tak­en­ly thought the deputy AG was try­ing to help gam­bling mag­nate Mil­ton McGre­gor.

Robert William “Bob” Cavi­ness died from an appar­ent self-inflict­ed gun­shot wound on Novem­ber 15, as FBI agents Kei­th Bak­er and John H. McEachren III were con­duct­ing a harass­ment cam­paign against him, accord­ing to a report in The Mont­gomery Inde­pen­dent. Bak­er and McEachren were involved in an inves­ti­ga­tion of McGre­gor, which led to the ongo­ing pros­e­cu­tion of 11 indi­vid­u­als con­nect­ed to gam­bling-relat­ed mea­sures in the Alaba­ma Leg­is­la­ture.

We have report­ed on the Cavi­ness sto­ry as one of sev­er­al mys­te­ri­ous Alaba­ma deaths that seem con­nect­ed rough­ly to the last year of Gov. Bob Riley’s admin­is­tra­tion. The most recent such death came just last week, when Birm­ing­ham busi­ness­man Charles “Bub­ba” Major report­ed­ly com­mit­ted sui­cide in Moun­tain Brook. Major was a first cousin to promi­nent attor­ney Major Bashin­sky, whose death in March 2010 was ruled a sui­cide. Bub­ba Major had expressed doubts about the offi­cial cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing his cous­in’s death, which came just days after the set­tle­ment in a law­suit the Bashin­sky fam­i­ly brought against an invest­ment firm with ties to the Riley fam­i­ly and the gam­bling indus­try.

How did Bob Cavi­ness incur the wrath of the FBI? Bob Mar­tin, edi­tor and pub­lish­er of The Mont­gomery Inde­pen­dent, reports:

The Deputy AG, Robert William “Bob” Cavi­ness, was in the process of con­duct­ing a back­ground check on an indi­vid­ual with the last name of McEach­ern, who lived in the Auburn-Ope­li­ka area. It was a mat­ter involv­ing worker’s comp fraud.

The Inde­pen­dent was told by the AG’s office that Agents Bak­er and McEach­ern became sus­pi­cious when they found out through the state’s com­put­er data base that some­one in the Attor­ney General’s office was con­duct­ing the search involv­ing McEachern’s name.

“They went bal­lis­tic” accord­ing to a source at the AG’s office, “and began harass­ing Bob and accus­ing him of try­ing to help Mr. McGre­gor,” AG offi­cials told us.

What was the fall­out?

An inter­nal inves­ti­ga­tion was con­duct­ed by the AG’s office, which, at that time was under the direc­tion of Atty. Gen. Troy King.

The inves­ti­ga­tion com­plete­ly cleared Cavi­ness of doing any­thing improp­er.

“He was just doing his job but those idiots at the FBI wouldn’t let him alone. They (the FBI) were bound and deter­mined to tie Bob in with try­ing to help McGre­gor,” one AG offi­cial told our reporters. Bak­er and McEach­ern were the agents who arrest­ed McGre­gor at his home.

Mar­tin reports that the AG’s office con­firmed that Cavi­ness’ death was a sui­cide. But a num­ber of ques­tions remain, in our mind. Did the AG’s office, now under Luther Strange, pro­vide any doc­u­ments to sup­port the sui­cide find­ing? Did the AG’s office con­duct an inves­ti­ga­tion of its own into Cavi­ness’ death?
What about Cavi­ness’ pos­si­ble ties to Ralph Sta­cy, the Busi­ness Coun­cil of Alaba­ma exec­u­tive who report­ed­ly com­mit­ted sui­cide in his office last Sep­tem­ber. Mul­ti­ple sources have told Legal Schnau­zer that Sta­cy and Cavi­ness were friends, that they shared a com­mon faith and were lay min­is­ters. . . .

“FBI Harass­ment Pre­ced­ed Alaba­ma Offi­cial’s Sui­cide”; Legal Schnau­zer; 4/4/2011.

7. Some FBI agents and for­mer agents have also become “sui­cides” late­ly, also vic­tims of appar­ent­ly self-inflict­ed gun­shot wounds. What was he work­ing on?

The FBI wasn’t say­ing much last week about the sui­cide of an FBI agent, who shot him­self  in the Port­land, Maine area over the week­end of April 24, accord­ing to sources.

The agent was in his ear­ly 50s, one source said.

FBI agent Greg Com­cowich, a spokesman for the Boston FBI Divi­sion, which includes Maine,  told the ticklethewire.com:

“The type of ques­tion which you are inquir­ing (about)is not some­thing the FBI would com­ment on.”

Last year, an FBI agent assigned to Quan­ti­co com­mit­ted sui­cide.

“FBI Agent Com­mits Sui­cide in Maine”; ticklethewire.com; 4/27/2011.

8. Anoth­er for­mer FBI agent allegdly shot her­self to death in the Hous­ton area. What had she been work­ing on?

The body of a miss­ing for­mer FBI agent from Har­ris Coun­ty was found Thurs­day near her car in Waller Coun­ty just north of Rolling Hills.

Patri­cia Dur­ney, who had been report­ed miss­ing the day before, was retired from the Fed­er­al Bureau of Inves­ti­ga­tion and work­ing in the pri­vate sec­tor. Her car was found Thurs­day morn­ing in a clear­ing off Wig­gins Road, which set off a mul­ti-agency search for her. A law enforce­ment heli­copter and air­plane cir­cled the area while law enforce­ment offi­cers searched on the ground with the air of dogs.

Agents from the FBI, Texas Rangers, Texas Depart­ment of Pub­lic Safe­ty and Waller and Har­ris coun­ty sher­iff offices respond­ed.

“The inves­ti­ga­tion con­tin­ues, how­ev­er the ini­tial inves­ti­ga­tion does not reveal any evi­dence of foul play,” the Waller Coun­ty Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.

Her body has been tak­en to the Har­ris Coun­ty Med­ical Examiner’s Office. Uncon­firmed, pub­lished reports indi­cate Dur­ney died of a sin­gle gun­shot wound to the head.

On Thurs­day, Sher­iff Glenn Smith said they were wait­ing for crime scene inves­ti­ga­tors to exam­ine the area to help deter­mine if the death was mur­der or sui­cide.

“Body of For­mer FBI Agent Found in Waller Coun­ty” by Joe South­ern; yourhoustonnews.com; 2/19/2010.

9. The pro­gram high­lights some of the con­sid­er­a­tions at the core of the inves­ti­ga­tion of the shoot­ing Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Gif­fords in Ari­zona. (These will be dealt with at greater length in a future pro­gram.)

10. Quite apart from ques­tions as to the ide­o­log­i­cal moti­va­tion of Jared Lee Lough­n­er, the media have quick­ly dropped reports of a sec­ond pos­si­ble sus­pect in the case.

. . . With the local sheriff’s office and the FBI inves­ti­gat­ing, sus­pi­cions that the sus­pect­ed gun­man, Jared Lee Lough­n­er, had an accom­plice would com­pli­cate the the­sis that the shoot­ing was the work of a lone and men­tal­ly unbal­anced young man lash­ing out at the gov­ern­ment. The exis­tence of a co-con­spir­a­tor could point to a more cal­cu­lat­ed plot, and per­haps shed more light on the motive for the attack.

“We are not con­vinced that [the man in cus­tody] act­ed alone. There is some rea­son to believe he came to this loca­tion with anoth­er indi­vid­ual, and that indi­vid­ual is involved,” said Clarence Dup­nik, Pima Coun­ty sher­iff, at a press con­fer­ence Sat­ur­day. . . .

“Gabrielle Gif­fords Case: Sec­ond Man Sought in Mass Ari­zona Shoot­ing” by Cheryl Sul­li­van; Chris­t­ian Sci­ence Mon­i­tor; 1/9/2011.

11. A hor­ri­fy­ing polit­i­cal­ly-relat­ed death occurred the same week­end that Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Gif­fords was shot. The fiery death (mur­der?) of Ash­ley Tur­ton, wife of Dan Tur­ton, Pres­i­dent Oba­ma’s liai­son to the now GOP-con­trolled House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives received lit­tle atten­tion, and was read­i­ly dis­missed as an unfor­tu­nate acci­dent.

Of course, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Gif­fords is a mem­ber of that same House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, due to con­vene short­ly after that dead­ly week­end.

Was a mes­sage being send to the Oba­ma White House?

The car fire that led to the sud­den death of Ash­ley Tur­ton was caused by the impact after a low-speed crash, accord­ing to the major crash inves­ti­ga­tion unit of the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Police Depart­ment.

“It’s quite pos­si­ble that the vic­tim was maneu­ver­ing the car and came in con­tact with some kind of flam­ma­ble chem­i­cal mate­ri­als,” D.C. Fire spokesman Pete Piringer said.

Tur­ton, 37, was the for­mer chief of staff to Rep. Rosa DeLau­ro (D‑Conn.) and wife of White House liai­son to the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Dan Tur­ton. She worked as a lob­by­ist for the Raleigh, N.C.-based util­i­ty giant Progress Ener­gy.

Tur­ton was found dead in her car Mon­day morn­ing, which was dis­cov­ered ablaze in a row house garage, pre­sum­ably the Tur­ton home, in the 800 block of A Street South­east near East­ern Mar­ket.

Police said there was a heavy fire in the garage at 4:45 a.m. that caused sig­nif­i­cant dam­age to the 2008 BMW X5, which was par­tial­ly backed out into the dri­ve­way and looked singed. Fire dam­age could also be seen on a cor­ner of the brick home Mon­day.

When the fire was extin­guished, fire­fight­ers dis­cov­ered Turton’s body inside the car. . . .

“Tur­ton Car Fire Caused by Low-Speed Crash, Police Say” by Rachel Blade, Jes­si­ca Brady and Ann Palmer; Roll Call; 1/10/2011.

12a. Ms. Tur­ton worked for Rudy Giu­lian­i’s law firm, which had just suc­cess­ful­ly nego­ti­at­ed the merg­er of Duke Ener­gy with Pro­gres­sive Ener­gy, to form the largest U.S. util­i­ty.

In the con­text of Ms. Tur­ton’s lob­by­ing activ­i­ties, it is impor­tant to remem­ber that K Street lob­by­ists have, as a mat­ter of cus­tom, giv­en gen­er­ous­ly to both par­ties. Under the influ­ence of GOP big­wig Grover Norquist, how­ev­er, lob­by­ists have increas­ing­ly been favor­ing the GOP. Might Ms. Tur­ton’s work have threat­ened that dynam­ic?

The Bureau of Alco­hol, Tobac­co, Firearms and Explo­sives is now assist­ing D.C. Fire and EMS and D.C. Police with an inves­ti­ga­tion of a dead­ly fire that killed a key Wash­ing­ton lob­by­ist.

37-year-old Ash­ley Tur­ton was killed in a fire as she backed out of her garage ear­ly Mon­day morn­ing.

A spokesman for D.C. Fire and EMS says the ATF rou­tine­ly helps out on most fire inves­ti­ga­tions because they bring in valu­able resources. At this point, they are eval­u­at­ing all pos­si­ble sce­nar­ios, but have not deter­mined a cause. Offi­cials are also await­ing an autop­sy report to deter­mine the cause of death.

Offi­cials do believe the BMW SUV that Tur­ton was in ini­tial­ly had a low-impact crash which was fol­lowed by a fire. The airbags did not deploy.

Inves­ti­ga­tors say they’re look­ing at all pos­si­ble sce­nar­ios and are check­ing the vehi­cle main­te­nance records as well as whether the garage door was work­ing. . . .

. . . In the tough world of pol­i­tics, she made her pres­ence known with her insight and a smile. Tur­ton worked as a lob­by­ist and had close ties to the White House. But if you talk to friends, she was the excep­tion.

The 37-year-old was one half of a well-known and well-liked Wash­ing­ton pow­er cou­ple who accom­plished a lot. Ash­ley’s hus­band, Dan Tur­ton, is the point per­son for the White House when it comes to mov­ing leg­is­la­tion through Con­gress.

“She nev­er let that change her per­son­al­i­ty. She was still a very reg­u­lar per­son. The kind of per­son that if you met, you’d would think was a nice per­son and a smart per­son, but you would­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly sus­pect that she had sub­stan­tial con­nec­tions to cor­ri­dors of pow­er,” said Scott Segal, a lob­by­ist with Bracewell & Giu­liani.

From Capi­tol Hill to K Street, she stood out first as a top staffer on the Hill, then as a lob­by­ist for Progress Ener­gy. . . .

“Friends Remem­ber DC Lob­by­ist, Ash­ley Tur­ton, Killed in Mys­te­ri­ous Fire” by Roby Chavez; myfoxdc.com; 1/13/2011.

12b. More about the Duke, Progress merg­er:

Merg­er mania in the util­i­ty indus­try con­tin­ues with the grand­dad­dy of them all–at least so far. Duke Ener­gy and Progress Ener­gy have announced their intent to merge in a deal that would cre­ate the largest util­i­ty in the Unit­ed States and among the largest in the world with a $37 bil­lion mar­ket cap­i­tal­iza­tion, $65 bil­lion enter­prise val­ue, and $20 bil­lion in rev­enue. . . .

“Duke, Progress Ener­gy to Cre­ate Largest U.S. Util­i­ty” by Travis Miller; Toron­to Star; 1/10/2011.

13. The pro­gram con­cludes with exam­i­na­tion of an aspect of the inves­ti­ga­tion into the assas­si­na­tion of Robert F. Kennedy.

Con­vict­ed assas­sin Sirhan Sirhan was manip­u­lat­ed by a seduc­tive girl in a mind con­trol plot to shoot Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, and his bul­lets did not kill the pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, lawyers for Sirhan said in new legal papers.

The doc­u­ments filed this week in fed­er­al court and obtained by The Asso­ci­at­ed Press detail exten­sive inter­views with Sirhan dur­ing the past three years, some done while he was under hyp­no­sis.

The papers point to a mys­te­ri­ous girl in a pol­ka-dot dress as the con­troller who led Sirhan to fire a gun in the pantry of the Ambas­sador Hotel. But the doc­u­ments sug­gest a sec­ond per­son shot and killed Kennedy while using Sirhan as a diver­sion.

For the first time, Sirhan said under hyp­no­sis that on a cue from the girl he went into “range mode” believ­ing he was at a fir­ing range and see­ing cir­cles with tar­gets in front of his eyes.

“I thought that I was at the range more than I was actu­al­ly shoot­ing at any per­son, let alone Bob­by Kennedy,” Sirhan was quot­ed as say­ing dur­ing inter­views with Daniel Brown, a Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty pro­fes­sor and expert in trau­ma mem­o­ry and hyp­no­sis. He inter­viewed Sirhan for 60 hours with and with­out hyp­no­sis, accord­ing to the legal brief. . .

. . . The sto­ry of the girl has been a lin­ger­ing theme in accounts of the events just after mid­night on June 5, 1968, when Kennedy was gunned down in the hotel pantry after claim­ing vic­to­ry in the Cal­i­for­nia Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry.

Wit­ness­es talked of see­ing such a female run­ning from the hotel shout­ing, “We shot Kennedy.” But she was nev­er iden­ti­fied, and amid the chaos of the scene, descrip­tions were con­flict­ing.

Through the years, Sirhan has claimed no mem­o­ry of shoot­ing Kennedy and said in the recent inter­views that his pres­ence at the hotel was an acci­dent, not a planned des­ti­na­tion.

Under hyp­no­sis, he remem­bered meet­ing the girl that night and becom­ing smit­ten with her. He said she led him to the pantry.

“I am try­ing to fig­ure out how to hit on her.... That’s all that I can think about,” he says in one inter­view cit­ed in the doc­u­ments. “I was fas­ci­nat­ed with her looks .... She nev­er said much. It was very erot­ic. I was con­sumed by her. She was a seduc­tress with an unspo­ken unavail­abil­i­ty.” . . .

. . . Sirhan main­tained in the hyp­not­ic inter­views that the mys­tery girl touched him or “pinched” him on the shoul­der just before he fired then spun him around to see peo­ple com­ing through the pantry door.

“Then I was on the tar­get range ... a flash­back to the shoot­ing range ... I did­n’t know that I had a gun,” Sirhan said.

Under what Brown called the con­di­tion of hyp­not­ic free recall, he said Sirhan remem­bered see­ing the flash of a sec­ond gun at the time of the assas­si­na­tion. With­out hyp­no­sis, he said, Sirhan could not remem­ber that shot. . . .

“Con­vict­ed RFK Assas­sin Says Girl Manip­u­lat­ed Him” by Lin­da Deutsch [AP]; Yahoo News; 4/28/2011.


7 comments for “FTR #742 Body Count (Sweet Home Alabama)”

  1. One of my favorite under­ap­pre­ci­at­ed details in this sto­ry:

    The use of anti-gam­bling FAKE “oppo­nents” by gam­bling pro­po­nents.

    Of course, staged oppo­nents are a tac­tic as old as polit­i­cal mur­der. US ally Colom­bia has been employ­ing Hitler’s old trick, in a major nation­al scan­dal: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8038399.stm

    But would these same crim­i­nals ele­vate this tac­tic to plant Vichy polit­i­cal can­di­dates with­in the polit­i­cal process? Not mere­ly “mys­tery dud” can­di­dates like South Car­oli­na’s Alvin Greene (the strange, brain-dam­aged vet can­di­date who ensured far-right dement­ed Jim DeM­int’s vic­to­ry). But even black­mailed can­di­dates? Or even “Like a Duck In A Noose” hyp­no­sis can­di­dates (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/10/24/national/main526811.shtml)?

    Maybe next time, the next Sirhan could do more dam­age by run­ning as a Demo­c­rat, and then mak­ing inex­plic­a­ble deci­sions at key moments, while oth­er­wise appear­ing to behave as a loy­al Demo­c­rat? Just a far-fetched thought.


    Legal Schnau­zer recaps with a recent fol­lowup on the 4 killings:


    Posted by R. Wilson | May 28, 2011, 11:05 pm
  2. @R. Wil­son: Very inter­est­ing stuff.......thanks for putting it up.

    Posted by Steven | May 29, 2011, 11:21 pm
  3. The Great Grift goes on:

    GOP’s “tox­ic” laun­der­ing scheme: How echoes of Jack Abramoff are emerg­ing
    Group of GOP pow­er bro­kers demon­strates the par­ty’s pen­chant for fleec­ing Indi­an tribes and Chris­t­ian con­ser­v­a­tives
    Heather Dig­by Par­ton
    Tues­day, Aug 5, 2014 11:06 AM CST

    If there’s one thing Repub­li­cans have learned over the years it’s to nev­er let legal­i­ties stand in the way of a good fundrais­ing scam. And one of their best cons ever was Jack Abramoff and Ralph Reed’s bril­liant scheme to con mil­lions from Indi­an tribes to run a sup­pos­ed­ly reli­gious-based anti-gam­bling cam­paign against the tribes’ rivals in order to gain exclu­sive gam­bling rights. And even bet­ter was the rev­e­la­tion that they were rip­ping off their own Chris­t­ian clients as well. What’s not to like? Pub­licly appeas­ing reli­gious con­ser­v­a­tives at the expense of Indi­an tribes on behalf of oth­er Indi­an tribes for whom they have noth­ing but con­tempt? It’s beau­ti­ful. Only Iran-Con­tra comes to mind as a sim­i­lar­ly ele­gant ille­gal scheme.

    Unfor­tu­nate­ly for them, the whole thing unrav­eled when oth­er ille­gal behav­iors involv­ing Abramoff and his cohorts were revealed as part of an ongo­ing cor­rup­tion probe by the Depart­ment of Jus­tice. The rev­e­la­tion of the emails involv­ing a Mis­sis­sip­pi Indi­an tribe were par­tic­u­lar­ly ugly. Abramoff and his cronies referred to the tribes as “troglodytes,” “mon­keys,” “morons” and “f’ing idiots” and laughed at the rubes who were pay­ing them tens of mil­lions of dol­lars to deliv­er basi­cal­ly noth­ing of val­ue. As you would imag­ine, the tribes were not amused. The reli­gious right groups were defraud­ed in a dif­fer­ent way, by being led to believe that good Chris­t­ian gen­tle­men like Abramoff’s bud­dy Ralph Reed real­ly shared their belief that gam­bling is a sin only to find out that his activ­i­ties were actu­al­ly help­ing to pro­mote it. (Elmer Gantry was writ­ten all the way back in 1927, so it’s not as if this con-man theme is any­thing new in such cir­cles.) Still, it had to be a dis­ap­point­ment to see one of their young, evan­gel­i­cal stars tar­nished with such crude pecu­niary cor­rup­tion.

    The tri­umvi­rate of Jack Abramoff, Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist went all the way back to the ear­ly ’80s when they were young Repub­li­can Rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies. Each in their own way rep­re­sent­ed one of the big tent poles of the mod­ern con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment: Reed was the reli­gious right, Norquist was the no tax pledge, and Abramoff was the big mon­ey lob­by­ist. They were a jug­ger­naut dur­ing the Gin­grich and Bush eras, pulling togeth­er a coali­tion of small gov­ern­ment con­ser­v­a­tive Chris­tians and wield­ing tremen­dous influ­ence in the Repub­li­can Par­ty and on Capi­tol Hill. Norquist man­aged to keep his hands fair­ly clean and escaped the denoue­ment, but in the end, Abramoff plead­ed guilty to a num­ber of crimes and went to jail as did some oth­ers impli­cat­ed in the schemes. Sev­er­al politi­cians lost their seats. Ralph Reed was chas­tised by the vot­ers of Geor­gia when he lat­er ran for lieu­tenant gov­er­nor and lost deci­sive­ly.

    So, one might think that as unseem­ly as the whole episode was, in the end the sys­tem worked.

    But it didn’t.

    Yes­ter­day, Politi­co revealed that the lat­est GOP group of pow­er bro­kers, the Repub­li­can State Lead­er­ship Com­mit­tee, best known for its huge­ly suc­cess­ful cam­paigns around the coun­try to turn state­hous­es into GOP majori­ties in order to redraw the con­gres­sion­al maps in their favor, has been run­ning sim­i­lar schemes as recent­ly as 2010 in the state of Alaba­ma. They report­ed:

    At the height of its polit­i­cal emer­gence, the RSLC was impli­cat­ed in a risky cam­paign finance scheme that an inter­nal report warned could trig­ger “pos­si­ble crim­i­nal penal­ties” and “ulti­mate­ly threat­en the organization’s con­tin­ued exis­tence,” accord­ing to a con­fi­den­tial doc­u­ment POLITICO obtained from a source.

    Nev­er dis­closed until now, the doc­u­ment detailed an inves­ti­ga­tion into alleged mis­con­duct by mul­ti­ple RSLC offi­cials dur­ing the cru­cial 2010 elec­tion cycle: It charged that nation­al RSLC lead­ers con­spired improp­er­ly with the leader of the Alaba­ma Repub­li­can Par­ty to use the RSLC as a pass-through for con­tro­ver­sial Indi­an tribe dona­tions, essen­tial­ly laun­der­ing “tox­ic” mon­ey from the gam­ing indus­try by rout­ing it out of state and then back into Alaba­ma.

    They under­stood that the Mis­sis­sip­pi con­ser­v­a­tives don’t approve of Indi­an tribes and their filthy gam­bling:

    It is … com­mon knowl­edge and wis­dom in Alaba­ma that tak­ing a con­tri­bu­tion direct­ly from the tribe is polit­i­cal sui­cide for a Repub­li­can can­di­date or pub­lic offi­cial,” the report stat­ed. “Here RSLC appears to have served as both a recip­i­ent of the funds in ques­tion and as a donor of the funds back to Alaba­ma, there­by per­mit­ting Mike Hub­bard to do indi­rect­ly that which he could not do direct­ly.”

    They even used some of Abramoff’s old mon­ey-laun­der­ing ser­vices:

    It also sent $100,000 to a group, Cit­i­zens for a Bet­ter Alaba­ma, that the report describes as “the renamed ‘Cit­i­zens Against Legal­ized Lot­tery’ (‘CALL’), one of the Chris­t­ian groups through which Jack Abramoff fun­neled Choctaw Indi­an-mon­ey.”

    The RSLC reports that the peo­ple respon­si­ble are no longer with the com­mit­tee and those who were kicked out say there wasn’t any­thing ille­gal about what they were doing any­way, all of which might be true. At the heart of this mat­ter is more of the South­ern goth­ic Mis­sis­sip­pi pol­i­tics we’ve been observ­ing ever since the McDaniel-Cochran pri­ma­ry — a Repub­li­can Par­ty in the midst of a ruth­less fam­i­ly quar­rel. This sto­ry indi­cates that the dimen­sions of that argu­ment are more com­pli­cat­ed than was pre­vi­ous­ly known. It’s falling apart at the seams.


    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 6, 2014, 2:52 pm
  4. It looks like the appar­ent sui­cide of Mis­souri Audi­tor Tom Schwe­ich, a ris­ing star in Mis­souri pol­i­tics with an unusu­al rep­u­ta­tion for being gen­uine­ly non-cor­rupt, is going to be left at that: just a sui­cide and not some­thing else. And that means the head-scratch­ing over why on earth he shot him­self moments ater request­ing a news­pa­per inter­view is under­stand­ably going to be focused on the whis­per cam­paign about Schwe­ich being Jew­ish. Hence the mes­sage from for­mer Sen­a­tor John Dan­forth at Schwe­ich’s eulo­gy today: words can kill:

    TPM Livewire
    Ex-US Sen­a­tor Calls Out Mis­souri GOP Leader Dur­ing Funer­al: ‘Words Can Kill’

    By Cather­ine Thomp­son
    Pub­lished March 3, 2015, 1:07 PM EST

    Eulo­gies are a cel­e­bra­tion of the life of the deceased. But in his remem­brance of Mis­souri Audi­tor Tom Schwe­ich ® on Tues­day, for­mer U.S. Sen. John Dan­forth (R‑MO) com­bined high praise for the dead with force­ful­ly harsh words for the state GOP chair­man who has been linked to Schwe­ich’s sui­cide.

    Speak­ing at the funer­al in Clay­ton, Mo., for Schwe­ich, who had been a lead­ing Repub­li­can guber­na­to­r­i­al can­di­date until his sui­cide last week, Dan­forth addressed head-on an alleged anti-Semit­ic “whis­per cam­paign”.

    In the days lead­ing up to his sui­cide on Thurs­day, Schwe­ich told those close to him that state GOP chair­man John Han­cock had been off-hand­ed­ly telling peo­ple he was Jew­ish even though he attend­ed an Epis­co­pal church.

    “Tom called this anti-Semi­tism, and of course it was,” Dan­forth said dur­ing the eulo­gy on Tues­day, as quot­ed by the St. Louis Post-Dis­patch.. “The only rea­son for going around say­ing that some­one is Jew­ish is to make polit­i­cal prof­it from reli­gious big­otry.”

    Han­cock repeat­ed­ly denied the accu­sa­tions of anti-Semi­tism. But he acknowl­edged last week to the Post-Dis­patch that he thought Schwe­ich was Jew­ish, and so might have men­tioned as much to anoth­er per­son in the way one might say, “I’m Pres­by­ter­ian and some­body else is Catholic.”

    Dan­forth is him­self an ordained Epis­co­pal priest who offi­ci­at­ed for­mer Pres­i­dent Ronald Rea­gan’s funer­al. He scoffed at Han­cock­’s sug­ges­tion that he might have called Schwe­ich a Jew­ish man mere­ly in pass­ing with­out men­tion­ing him by name.

    “Some­one said this was no dif­fer­ent than say­ing a per­son is a Pres­by­ter­ian,” the for­mer sen­a­tor said, as quot­ed by the Post-Dis­patch. “Here’s how to test the cred­i­bil­i­ty of that remark: When was the last time any­one sidled up to you and whis­pered into your ear that such and such a per­son is a Pres­by­ter­ian?”

    The pol­i­tics of the Repub­li­can guber­na­to­r­i­al pri­ma­ry lead­ing up to Schwe­ich’s sud­den death were pret­ty nasty. Dan­forth said that con­tentious intra-par­ty cli­mate was proof that “pol­i­tics has gone so hideous­ly wrong,” adding that “the death of Tom Schwe­ich is the nat­ur­al con­se­quence of what pol­i­tics has become.”

    The for­mer sen­a­tor then brought up a radio ad that an out­side polit­i­cal action com­mit­tee with ties to Schwe­ich’s pri­ma­ry oppo­nent had been run­ning against him. Dan­forth described the ad, which mocked Schwe­ich’s appear­ance and cast him as a cor­rupt pawn of Democ­rats in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., as “bul­ly­ing.”

    “We often hear that words can’t hurt you ... well how about anti-Semit­ic whis­pers?” Dan­forth said. “And how about a radio ad that calls some­one a ‘lit­tle bug,’ and that is run anony­mous­ly over and over again?”

    “Words do hurt. Words can kill,” he added. “That has been proven right here in our home state.”


    Those were some strong words from for­mer Sen­a­tor Dan­worth on the state Mis­souri’s pol­i­tics and there were a lot more strong words in his full eulo­gy, includ­ing a call to fun­da­men­tal­ly change the vicious nature of Mis­souri’s pol­i­tics:

    St. Louis Post-Dis­patch
    Dan­forth’s eulo­gy for Tom Schwe­ich: ‘Words do hurt. Words can kill.’

    3/3/2015 • By John C. Dan­forth

    (The fol­low­ing are remarks pre­pared for deliv­ery by for­mer U.S. Sen. John C. Dan­forth at the funer­al Tues­day for state Audi­tor Thomas A. Schwe­ich at The Church of St. Michael and St. George in Clay­ton. They have been light­ly edit­ed.)

    Blessed are the poor in Spir­it.

    Blessed are those who mourn.

    Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for right­eous­ness.

    Blessed are those who are per­se­cut­ed for right­eous­ness sake.

    Blessed are you when peo­ple revile you and per­se­cute you and utter all kinds of evil against you on my account. Amen.

    Kathy, Emi­lie, Thomas. We who cared so much for your hus­band and your dad enfold you in our love, just as our Lord enfolds you and Tom in his love. We want you to know that we are with you to offer what­ev­er strength and com­fort we can.

    Tom Schwe­ich was an excep­tion­al­ly able pub­lic ser­vant. He grad­u­at­ed from Har­vard Law School, and spent most of his career as a tri­al lawyer, metic­u­lous­ly mar­shal­ing facts and mas­ter­ing the law in com­plex lit­i­ga­tion involv­ing gov­ern­ment con­tracts.


    Half a dozen years ago, Tom told me he want­ed to run for pub­lic office. His first thought was the U.S. Sen­ate but he final­ly decid­ed on state audi­tor. He was a per­son eas­i­ly hurt and quick­ly offend­ed, and I told him I didn’t think he had the tem­pera­ment for elec­tive pol­i­tics, but Tom didn’t eas­i­ly accept advice, and he was offend­ed by mine. It was his deci­sion, and he was my friend, and I was for him, what­ev­er he chose to do.

    He ran, won elec­tion, and became uni­ver­sal­ly acknowl­edged as a great audi­tor, zeal­ous­ly uncov­er­ing cor­rup­tion, attack­ing slop­pi­ness whether of Democ­rats or Repub­li­cans, and prais­ing good work where he saw it. He was so suc­cess­ful that he faced no seri­ous oppo­si­tion for his sec­ond term.

    Tom was the mod­el for what a pub­lic ser­vant should be. He was excep­tion­al­ly bright, ener­getic and well orga­nized. He was high­ly eth­i­cal, and like the indig­nant prophets of Bib­li­cal times, he was pas­sion­ate about his respon­si­bil­i­ty for right­ing wrongs.

    We spoke often about the call­ing to pub­lic ser­vice, and what we said was always the same. The objec­tive should be always to take the high ground and nev­er give it up.

    I last spoke with Tom this past Tues­day after­noon. He was indig­nant. He told me he was upset about two things, a radio com­mer­cial and a whis­per­ing cam­paign he said were being run against him. He said the com­mer­cial made fun of his phys­i­cal appear­ance and won­dered if he should respond with his own ad.

    But while the com­mer­cial hurt his feel­ings, his great com­plaint was about a whis­per­ing cam­paign that he was Jew­ish. And that sub­ject took up 90 per­cent of a long phone call. This was more than an expres­sion of per­son­al hurt as with the radio ad, this was right­eous indig­na­tion against what he saw as a ter­ri­ble wrong. And what he saw was wrong is anti-Semi­tism.

    He said he must oppose this wrong, that he must con­front it pub­licly by going before the media where he would present sev­er­al wit­ness­es. He said that they would ver­i­fy that there were sev­er­al times when the rumor had been spread.

    Tom called this anti-Semi­tism, and of course it was. The only rea­son for going around say­ing that some­one is Jew­ish is to make polit­i­cal prof­it from reli­gious big­otry. Some­one said this was no dif­fer­ent than say­ing a per­son is a Pres­by­ter­ian. Here’s how to test the cred­i­bil­i­ty of that remark: When was the last time any­one sidled up to you and whis­pered into your ear that such and such a per­son is a Pres­by­ter­ian?

    Tom told me of his Jew­ish grand­fa­ther who taught him about anti-Semi­tism, and told him that any­time Tom saw it, he had to con­front it. So Tom believed that that was exact­ly what he must do.

    There was no hint by Tom that this was about him or his cam­paign. It was about con­fronting big­otry.

    I told Tom that it is impor­tant to com­bat any whiff of anti-Semi­tism, but I said that he should not be the pub­lic face of doing that. I told him that if he were to go pub­lic, the sto­ry would be all about him, and not about the evil he want­ed to fight. I said that I was con­cerned about his polit­i­cal future, that his focus should be on win­ning elec­tion as gov­er­nor, and that the best approach would be to have some­one feed the sto­ry to the press and let the press run with it.

    Tom said that the press would only run with the sto­ry if he went pub­lic, and that if he didn’t make an issue out of anti-Semi­tism, no one would.

    That was the phone call, except at the end he seemed angry with me.It’s impos­si­ble to know the thoughts of anoth­er per­son at such a dire time as sui­cide, but I can tell you what haunts me. I had always told him to take the high ground and nev­er give it up, and he believed that, and it had become his life. Now I had advised him that to win elec­tion he should hope some­one else would take up the cause.

    He may have thought that I had aban­doned him and left him on the high ground, all alone to fight the bat­tle that had to be fought.

    I think there are two mes­sages in this, one for Tom’s chil­dren, the oth­er for the rest of us.

    Emi­lie and Thomas, always be proud of your father. He has left you a lega­cy, a tra­di­tion to take up in your own lives. You will have to be very brave to do this, as he was brave, and it will require ener­gy and devo­tion to the task, as he was ener­getic and devot­ed to his task. The lega­cy your father has passed on to you is this: to fight for what is right; to always seize the high ground and nev­er give it up.

    The mes­sage for the rest of us reflects my own emo­tion after learn­ing of Tom’s death, which has been over­whelm­ing anger that pol­i­tics has gone so hideous­ly wrong, and that the death of Tom Schwe­ich is the nat­ur­al con­se­quence of what pol­i­tics has become. I believe deep in my heart that it’s now our duty, yours and mine, to turn pol­i­tics into some­thing much bet­ter than its now so mis­er­able state.

    Sure, pol­i­tics has always been com­bat­ive, but what we have just seen is com­bat of a very dif­fer­ent order. It used to be that Labor Day of elec­tion years marked the begin­ning of cam­paigns.

    This cam­paign for gov­er­nor start­ed two years in advance of the 2016 elec­tion. And even at this ear­ly date, what has been said is worse than any­thing in my mem­o­ry, and that’s a long mem­o­ry. I have nev­er expe­ri­enced an anti-Semit­ic cam­paign. Anti-Semi­tism is always wrong and we can nev­er let it creep into pol­i­tics.

    As for the radio com­mer­cial, mak­ing fun of someone’s phys­i­cal appear­ance, call­ing him a “lit­tle bug”, there is one word to describe it: “bul­ly­ing.” And there is one word to describe the per­son behind it: “bul­ly.”

    We read sto­ries about cyber­bul­ly­ing, and hear of young girls who killed them­selves because of it. But what should we expect from chil­dren when grown ups are their exam­ples of how bul­lies behave?

    Since Thurs­day, some good peo­ple have said, “Well that’s just pol­i­tics.” And Tom should have been less sen­si­tive; he should have been tougher, and he should have been able to take it.

    Well, that is accept­ing pol­i­tics in its present state and that we can­not do. It amounts to blam­ing the vic­tim, and it cre­ates a new nor­mal, where pol­i­tics is only for the tough and the crude and the cal­loused.

    Indeed, if this is what pol­i­tics has become, what decent per­son would want to get into it? We should encour­age nor­mal peo­ple — yes, sen­si­tive peo­ple — to seek pub­lic office, not dri­ve them away.


    There is no mys­tery as to why politi­cians con­duct them­selves this way. It works. They test how well it works in focus groups and opin­ion polls. It wins elec­tions, and that is their objec­tive. It’s hard to call hold­ing office pub­lic ser­vice, because the day after the elec­tion it’s off to the next elec­tion, and there’s no inter­lude for ser­vice. It’s all about win­ning, win­ning at any cost to the oppo­nent or to any sense of com­mon decen­cy.

    The cam­paign that led to the death of Tom Schwe­ich was the low point of pol­i­tics, and now it’s time to turn this around. So let’s make Tom’s death a turn­ing point here in our state.

    Let’s decide that what may have been clever pol­i­tics last week will work no longer. It will back­fire. It will lose elec­tions, not win them.

    Let’s pledge that we will not put up with any whis­per of anti-Semi­tism. We will stand against it as Amer­i­cans and because our own faith demands it. We will take the bat­tle Tom want­ed to fight as our own cause.

    We will see bul­lies for who they are. We will no longer let them hide behind their anony­mous pseu­do-com­mit­tees. We will not accept their way as the way of pol­i­tics. We will stand up to them and we will defeat them.

    This will be our memo­r­i­al to Tom: that pol­i­tics as it now exists must end, and we will end it. And we will get in the face of our politi­cians, and we will tell them that we are fed up, and that we are not going to take this any­more.


    Well that was def­i­nite­ly a great eulo­gy by Tom Schwe­ich’s men­tor John Dan­forth. And you can’t real­ly argue with him when he says things like:

    Since Thurs­day, some good peo­ple have said, “Well that’s just pol­i­tics.” And Tom should have been less sen­si­tive; he should have been tougher, and he should have been able to take it.

    Well, that is accept­ing pol­i­tics in its present state and that we can­not do. It amounts to blam­ing the vic­tim, and it cre­ates a new nor­mal, where pol­i­tics is only for the tough and the crude and the cal­loused.

    Indeed, if this is what pol­i­tics has become, what decent per­son would want to get into it? We should encour­age nor­mal peo­ple — yes, sen­si­tive peo­ple — to seek pub­lic office, not dri­ve them away.

    Sure, pol­i­tics is always going to be filled with some degree of nas­ti­ness giv­en what’s often at stake. But that ques­tion Dan­forth rais­es real­ly gets the heart of one of the biggest can­cers fac­ing not just Amer­i­can democ­ra­cy but polit­i­cal estab­lish­ments every­where: “Indeed, if this is what pol­i­tics has become, what decent per­son would want to get into it?” It’s a great ques­tion and let’s hope Dan­forth’s calls for clean­ing out the nas­ti­ness from Mis­souri’s pol­i­tics is part of the answer.

    But it’s also going to be impor­tant to include more than just the bul­ly­ing cam­paign­ing tac­tics used we want to see more decent peo­ple enter­ing pub­lic office, as Tom Schwe­ich was well aware of. You’re also going to have to get rid of the bul­lies’ big mon­ey back­ers:

    The Kansas City Star

    Los­ing Tom Schwe­ich: A set­back for reform as a brave voice is stilled in Mis­souri


    02/28/2015 12:15 PM

    02/28/2015 12:44 PM

    Before his appar­ent­ly self-inflict­ed death on Thurs­day, Tom Schwe­ich was the Mis­souri polit­i­cal establishment’s worst night­mare.

    He wasn’t part of it and he couldn’t be drawn in. He loathed it, in fact. The win­ing and din­ing. The enor­mous cam­paign dona­tions. The way lob­by­ists and polit­i­cal oper­a­tives and out-of-state groups write laws and set pol­i­cy and turn the cit­i­zens of Mis­souri into just bystanders to the establishment’s games.

    Schwe­ich knew the estab­lish­ment. He’d spent four years watch­ing it as state audi­tor.

    He’d seen a cit­i­zen bal­lot ini­tia­tive tor­pe­doed by the prof­li­gate spend­ing of the pay­day loan indus­try — a group that Schwe­ich reviled because of its exploita­tion of the poor.

    He’d watched his own pro­posed leg­is­la­tion crash into the jut­ted rocks of a pow­er­ful lob­by. Schwe­ich had want­ed the Gen­er­al Assem­bly to require school dis­tricts to save mon­ey by seek­ing com­pet­i­tive bids on bond under­writ­ing. The bond com­pa­nies swooped in like sharks for the kill.

    In par­tic­u­lar, Schwe­ich abhorred what he called “the Sin­que­field machine.” He accused Rex Sin­que­field, the retired invest­ment banker from St. Louis, of under­min­ing democ­ra­cy in Mis­souri by giv­ing can­di­dates mil­lions of dol­lars and bankrolling a vast polit­i­cal appa­ra­tus to impose his “free mar­ket” will on the state.

    Schwe­ich was right about all of that and he intend­ed to make his case as he ran for the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion to be gov­er­nor of Mis­souri.

    But Schwe­ich was a flawed mes­sen­ger. He was volatile, prone to fits and out­bursts. He took things too per­son­al­ly.

    Schweich’s oppo­nents in the polit­i­cal estab­lish­ment knew this, of course. And they knew that one out­burst, caught on cam­era, would dri­ve a stake through Schweich’s cam­paign.

    Why else pro­duce the bot­tom-feed­ing radio ad that hit the air­ways days before the Mis­souri Repub­li­can Party’s annu­al meet­ing last week­end in Kansas City?

    The ad was paid for by an incon­gru­ous­ly named group called “Cit­i­zens for Fair­ness in Mis­souri.” Its trea­sur­er is Seth Shu­mak­er, a Kirksville, Mo., lawyer once sus­pend­ed for unpro­fes­sion­al con­duct.

    Until recent­ly the trea­sur­er was James C. Thomas III, a Kansas City lawyer with close ties to cam­paign con­sul­tant Jeff Roe. Roe is work­ing for Cather­ine Han­away, a Repub­li­can can­di­date for gov­er­nor who has received more than $1 mil­lion from Sin­que­field.

    In oth­er words, the Mis­souri polit­i­cal estab­lish­ment at work.

    The ad ridiculed Schweich’s appear­ance, called him a weak can­di­date and said he could “be manip­u­lat­ed,” a lie that was sure to get the auditor’s blood boil­ing.

    That ad was pro­duced for an audi­ence of one — Tom Schwe­ich. It was designed to pro­voke a blowup, although cer­tain­ly not in the way events played out.

    Before last week, Schwe­ich seemed to be at the top of his game. But he left the Kansas City meet­ing dis­traught about the Mis­souri Repub­li­can Party’s selec­tion of John Han­cock as its chair­man. Schwe­ich believed Han­cock was false­ly telling peo­ple he was Jew­ish. Han­cock has denied that.

    With a year and a half to go until the 2016 Repub­li­can pri­ma­ry, it was clear that run­ning for gov­er­nor of Mis­souri was going to be a nasty busi­ness.

    Schwe­ich was a frag­ile can­di­date who held out a shin­ing hope — that Mis­souri pol­i­tics and gov­ern­ment can be bet­ter than they are. I don’t know if he could have been elect­ed, or how good a gov­er­nor he would have been. I just know that many of us who are sick­ened by what goes on in Jef­fer­son City cher­ished that hope and appre­ci­at­ed the man who car­ried it.


    As the arti­cle puts it, “That ad was pro­duced for an audi­ence of one — Tom Schwe­ich. It was designed to pro­voke a blowup, although cer­tain­ly not in the way events played out.” And it sure looks that way.

    And as the arti­cle also point­ed out, it was “the Mis­souri polit­i­cal estab­lish­ment at work” and that estab­lish­ment basi­cal­ly works for one guy at this point: Rex Sin­que­field, a mul­ti­mil­lion­aire that moved back Mis­souri in 2005 after a four decade absence with all sorts of fan­cy ideas about how cut­ting his tax­es and pri­va­tiz­ing the schools are what Mis­souri needs. And with those ideas came mon­ey. Lots of mon­ey. And lots more bad ideas:

    Show Me the Mon­ey: Meet the Mul­ti­mil­lion­aire Squeez­ing Mis­souri’s Schools

    — by Bren­dan Fis­ch­er and Lisa Graves, The Pro­gres­sive

    You’ve prob­a­bly heard of the bil­lion­aire Koch Broth­ers by now, and their sin­is­ter push to dis­tort our democ­ra­cy. But you may not have heard of Rex Sin­que­field.

    Unlike the Koch Broth­ers, who made their mon­ey the old-fash­ioned way, by inher­it­ing it, Sin­que­field is a self-made man, who earned a for­tune in the stock mar­ket by invest­ing in index funds.

    He’s a major fun­der of the Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Exchange Coun­cil (ALEC), and he has also bankrolled the Club for Growth.

    Though he was born in Mis­souri, he did­n’t move back there until 2005, after being away near­ly four decades.

    Now he claims to know how to “fix” the state. To an aston­ish­ing degree, over the last few years, Mis­souri’s polit­i­cal land­scape has been dom­i­nat­ed by the wish list of just this one man.

    Sin­que­field is doing to Mis­souri what the Koch Broth­ers are doing to the entire coun­try. For the Koch Broth­ers and Sin­que­field, a lot of the action these days is not at the nation­al but at the state lev­el.

    By exam­in­ing what Sin­que­field is up to in Mis­souri, you get a sober­ing glimpse of how the wealth­i­est con­ser­v­a­tives are con­duct­ing a low-pro­file cam­paign to destroy civ­il soci­ety.

    Sin­que­field told The Wall Street Jour­nal in 2012 that his two main inter­ests are “rolling back tax­es” and “res­cu­ing edu­ca­tion from teach­ers’ unions.”

    His anti-tax, anti-labor, and anti-pub­lic edu­ca­tion views are com­mon fare on the right. But what sets Sin­que­field apart is the sys­tem­at­ic way he has used his mil­lions to try to push his pri­vate agen­da down the throats of the cit­i­zens of Mis­souri.

    Our review of fil­ings with the Mis­souri Ethics Com­mis­sion shows that Sin­que­field and his wife spent more than $28 mil­lion in dis­closed dona­tions in state elec­tions since 2007, plus near­ly $2 mil­lion more in dis­closed dona­tions in fed­er­al elec­tions since 2006, for a total of at least $30 mil­lion.

    Sin­que­field is, in fact, the biggest spender in Mis­souri pol­i­tics.

    In 2013, Sin­que­field spent more than $3.8 mil­lion on dis­closed elec­tion-relat­ed spend­ing, and that was a year with­out pres­i­den­tial or con­gres­sion­al elec­tions. He gave near­ly $1.8 mil­lion to Grow Mis­souri, $850,000 to the anti-union teachgreat.org, and anoth­er $750,000 to prop up the Mis­souri Club for Growth PAC.

    How­ev­er, these amounts do not include what­ev­er total he spent last year under­writ­ing the Show-Me Insti­tute, which he found­ed and which has rein­forced some of the claims of his favorite polit­i­cal action com­mit­tees. The total amount he spent on his lob­by­ing arm, Pelop­i­das, in push­ing his agen­da last year will nev­er be ful­ly dis­closed, as only lim­it­ed infor­ma­tion is avail­able about direct lob­by­ing expen­di­tures. Sim­i­lar­ly, the total amount he spent on the PR firm Slay & Asso­ciates, which works close­ly with him, also will not ever be dis­closed. These are just a few of the ten­ta­cles of his oper­a­tion to change Mis­souri laws and pub­lic opin­ion.

    Even more reveal­ing is how Sin­que­field behaved when Mis­souri was oper­at­ing under laws to lim­it the amount of dona­tions one per­son or group could give to influ­ence elec­tions. In order to bypass those clean elec­tion laws, he worked with his legal and polit­i­cal advis­ers to cre­ate more than 100 sep­a­rate groups with sim­i­lar names. Those mul­ti­ple groups gave more, cumu­la­tive­ly, than Sin­que­field would be able to give in his own name, tech­ni­cal­ly com­ply­ing with the law while actu­al­ly cir­cum­vent­ing it. That oper­a­tion inject­ed more than $2 mil­lion in dis­closed dona­tions flow­ing from Sin­que­field dur­ing the 2008 elec­tion year, and it under­scored his chess-like games­man­ship and his deter­mi­na­tion to do as he pleas­es. (Sin­que­field is an avid chess play­er.)

    Short­ly after that elec­tion, the Mis­souri leg­is­la­ture repealed those cam­paign finance lim­its, with his back­ing. Those changes ben­e­fit­ed Sin­que­field more than any­one. As a result, in 2010, Sin­que­field made dis­closed polit­i­cal dona­tions more than ten times greater than what he spent in 2008.

    His dis­closed elec­tion spend­ing reveals that he is focus­ing his efforts on remak­ing Mis­souri’s leg­is­la­ture and laws. But in 2012 he did make some fed­er­al dona­tions, includ­ing $1 mil­lion to the Now or Nev­er PAC, plus $100,000 to Karl Rove’s Amer­i­can Cross­roads PAC, plus small sums to almost every Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date that year. Sin­que­field also gave mon­ey to some extreme Con­gres­sion­al can­di­dates, includ­ing Michele Bach­mann, Todd Akin of the infa­mous “legit­i­mate rape” quote (after the oth­er can­di­date Sin­que­field backed lost in the pri­ma­ry), and Ted Cruz.

    In Mis­souri, Sin­que­field­’s strat­e­gy has been to focus on a few issues dear to him.

    First, he spent lav­ish­ly to try to pro­hib­it some cities in the state from impos­ing an income tax. He shelled out more than $11 mil­lion under­writ­ing the “Let Vot­ers Decide” bal­lot propo­si­tion in 2010, which won by a two-to-one mar­gin. He spent about $8.67 a vote.

    The propo­si­tion required Kansas City and St. Louis to hold a ref­er­en­dum on whether to keep the munic­i­pal income tax in 2011, and every five years after that. To Sin­que­field­’s dis­may, in April 2011, cit­i­zens vot­ed over­whelm­ing­ly to keep tax­ing them­selves, with 78 per­cent in favor in Kansas City and 87 per­cent in St. Louis.

    But he has­n’t giv­en up.

    Now Sin­que­field is try­ing to do away with the 6 per­cent state income tax. Doing so would enrich him per­son­al­ly, since the invest­ment firm he co-found­ed still man­ages more than $200 bil­lion in invest­ments, some of which he may still own. Plus, if the busi­ness is ever sold, he stands to make a wind­fall.

    To help replace lost rev­enue from the income tax, Sin­que­field favors an increase in the sales tax (and a broad­en­ing of it to include such things as child care). A study he com­mis­sioned also rec­om­mends increased tax­es on “restau­rants, hotels, cig­a­rettes, and beer,” while “shift[ing] the major tax bur­den from com­pa­nies and afflu­ent indi­vid­u­als,” like Sin­que­field. And it rec­om­mends sell­ing off the pub­lic’s assets, like the St. Louis air­port, trad­ing a short-term infu­sion of rev­enue in exchange for giv­ing for-prof­it cor­po­ra­tions access to decades of rev­enue.

    He does­n’t want an increase in prop­er­ty tax­es. Can you blame him? He has a 22,000-square-foot house on an estate of hun­dreds of acres in the Mis­souri Ozarks, and anoth­er home in St. Louis worth at least $1.78 mil­lion, replete with a pri­vate ele­va­tor. He also owns a lot of cars, includ­ing a 2008 Bent­ley Con­ti­nen­tal Fly­ing Spur that retailed for $170,000.

    Sin­que­field­’s tax­a­tion pro­pos­als would neces­si­tate cuts in the state’s pro­vi­sion of ser­vices many peo­ple take for grant­ed as part of liv­ing in a mod­ern, civ­il soci­ety: pub­lic edu­ca­tion, pub­lic libraries, and oth­er pub­lic goods.

    Sin­que­field did not respond to a request for com­ment on this arti­cle.

    Nowhere are Sin­que­field­’s destruc­tive inten­tions clear­er than in his cam­paign against pub­lic edu­ca­tion.

    “I hope I don’t offend any­one,” Sin­que­field said at a 2012 lec­ture caught on tape. “There was a pub­lished col­umn by a man named Ralph Voss who was a for­mer judge in Mis­souri,” Sin­que­field con­tin­ued, in response to a ques­tion about end­ing teacher tenure. “[Voss] said, ‘A long time ago, decades ago, the Ku Klux Klan got togeth­er and said how can we real­ly hurt the African Amer­i­can chil­dren per­ma­nent­ly? How can we ruin their lives? And what they designed was the pub­lic school sys­tem.’ ”

    Sin­que­field­’s his­tor­i­cal­ly inac­cu­rate and inflam­ma­to­ry com­ments cre­at­ed a back­lash from teach­ers, pub­lic school advo­cates, and African Amer­i­can lead­ers, who called it “a slap in the face of every edu­ca­tor who has worked tire­less­ly in a pub­lic school to improve the lives of Mis­souri’s chil­dren.”

    The state­ment would be easy to write off as buf­foon­ery if it did­n’t come from Sin­que­field, who has poured mil­lions from his per­son­al for­tune into efforts to pri­va­tize edu­ca­tion in the state through vouch­er pro­grams and attacks on teacher tenure.

    The jew­el in his pri­va­ti­za­tion crown is the Mis­souri-based Show-Me Insti­tute, a rightwing think tank that receives just shy of $1 mil­lion every year from the Sin­que­field Char­i­ta­ble Foun­da­tion. Its tag line is a mouth­ful: “Advanc­ing Lib­er­ty with Respon­si­bil­i­ty by Pro­mot­ing Mar­ket Solu­tions for Mis­souri Pub­lic Pol­i­cy.”


    Har­ry Tru­man, Mis­souri’s favorite son, once observed: “Wall Street, with its abil­i­ty to con­trol all the wealth of the nation and to hire the best law brains in the coun­try, has not pro­duced some states­men, some men who could see the dan­gers of big­ness and of the con­cen­tra­tion of the con­trol of wealth. . . . They are still using the best law brains to serve greed and self-inter­est. Peo­ple can stand only so much, and one of these days there will be a set­tle­ment.”

    In Tru­man’s own Mis­souri today, Rex Sin­que­field epit­o­mizes “the dan­gers of big­ness and of the con­cen­tra­tion of the con­trol of wealth.” Whether there will be a set­tle­ment is up to the cit­i­zens of the Show-Me State.

    So that the mul­ti­mil­lion­aire bul­ly that Mis­souri’s GOP has basi­cal­ly sold itself out to, with the notable excep­tion of Tom Schwe­ich. And since we’re since in the age of the ascend­ing oli­garchs, all indi­ca­tions are that his grip on Mis­souri is only going to grow. After all:

    Short­ly after that elec­tion, the Mis­souri leg­is­la­ture repealed those cam­paign finance lim­its, with his back­ing. Those changes ben­e­fit­ed Sin­que­field more than any­one. As a result, in 2010, Sin­que­field made dis­closed polit­i­cal dona­tions more than ten times greater than what he spent in 2008.

    Yep, he just push­ing through tax cuts for him­self and then plows even more mon­ey into the next elec­tion to cut them even more! Nice work if you can get it.

    So if you’re an uncor­rupt­ed Repub­li­can that’s think­ing about run­ning for office but don’t actu­al­ly want to see your state run by a one real­ly real­ly rich guy that’s con­vinced tax cuts for the rich and tax hikes for the poor are the solu­tions to Mis­souri’s trou­bles, what are you going to do? Are you real­ly going to want to go up against the Sin­que­field machine? Espe­cial­ly now?

    How does entire state that’s been polit­i­cal­ly bul­lied suc­cumbed to what is now years polit­i­cal dom­i­na­tion and bul­ly­ing by a pow­er­ful indi­vid­ual with an army of well-paid oper­a­tives that includes some of the high­est elect­ed offi­cials in the state? It won’t be easy, but Stock­holm syn­drome does­n’t solve itself so some­thing is going to have to change. Let’s hope Tom Schwe­ich’s extreme­ly untime­ly death can be that cat­a­lyst for change.

    And since the Mis­souri GOP appar­ent­ly just bul­lied to death some­one that was quite pos­si­bly the most hon­est GOP offi­cial in the state of Mis­souri, let’s hope that change involves elect­ing a lot few­er Repub­li­cans in Mis­souri. And else­where.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 3, 2015, 8:24 pm
  5. Brad Fried­man points us towards a new study com­par­ing the integri­ty of elec­tions across in 107 coun­tries based on the obser­va­tions of some 1,400 inter­na­tion­al elec­tion experts was just released. Guess where the US falls in the rank­ings: at #26, right behind Mex­i­co.

    But it could be worse! Because it is. You see, the US score is prob­a­bly arti­fi­cial­ly inflat­ed. Why? Because the study was “tech­nol­o­gy neu­tral”, which means it did­n’t fac­tor in ter­ri­fy­ing real­i­ty that about the third of the US still uses unver­i­fi­able elec­tron­ic vot­ing mach­ings:

    America’s elec­tion night­mare: How vot­er ID, ger­ry­man­der­ing & fundrais­ing made us a laugh­ing­stock
    Here’s what hap­pens when you sup­press votes, draw dis­tricts to favor incum­bents and allow the rich to buy elec­tions
    Brad Fried­man
    Wednes­day, Feb 25, 2015 10:35 AM CST

    This post orig­i­nal­ly appeared on The BRAD BLOG.

    Elec­toral integri­ty has not improved in the U.S. over the past year, accord­ing to a new study. In fact, elec­tions in Mex­i­co now have more integri­ty than ours, the new sur­vey, based on the obser­va­tions of some 1,400 inter­na­tion­al elec­tion experts, finds.

    Last year we report­ed: “A report [PDF] by researchers at Har­vard and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Syd­ney finds the U.S. ranks just 26th on a glob­al index of elec­tion integri­ty. That find­ing places the U.S. in the cat­e­go­ry of nations with ‘Mod­er­ate’ elec­tion integri­ty, rank­ing the coun­try one notch above Mex­i­co and one notch below Microne­sia, accord­ing to the find­ings track­ing elec­tions in 66 coun­tries.”

    Well, bad news — of a sort. This year’s new Elec­tion Integri­ty Project report [PDF] is now out. It takes into account the 2014 mid-term elec­tions in the U.S. and more elec­tions in a num­ber of addi­tion­al coun­tries. It appears the U.S. has fall­en a few pegs from it’s 26th place rank­ing in last year’s report [empha­sis in the orig­i­nal]…

    [C]ontests in the Unit­ed States scored the worst per­for­mance among any long-estab­lished democ­ra­cy. Hence the 2012 Pres­i­den­tial elec­tions was ranked 42nd world­wide, while the 2014 mid-term Con­gres­sion­al races was ranked 45th, sim­i­lar to Colom­bia and Bul­gar­ia. One rea­son is that experts expressed grow­ing con­cern over US elec­toral laws and process­es of vot­er reg­is­tra­tion, both areas of heat­ed par­ti­san debate.

    To make mat­ters worse, the sur­vey fails to exam­ine the effects of vote-cast­ing and count­ing tech­nol­o­gy on the integri­ty of elec­tions. But, while the new report high­lights what appears to be a huge drop in U.S. elec­tion integri­ty since last year’s study, with our most recent nation­al elec­tions now ranked just worse than Mexico’s and slight­ly bet­ter than those in Bar­ba­dos, it’s not all as bad as the plum­met­ing rank­ing would seem to sug­gest…

    Broad­er data this year

    The Elec­toral Integri­ty Project’s report is based on input from elec­tion experts world­wide, exam­in­ing “all nation­al par­lia­men­tary and pres­i­den­tial elec­tions held in inde­pen­dent nation-states (with a pop­u­la­tion of more than 100,000).”

    The pre­vi­ous report, the group’s first, cov­ered “73 nation­al par­lia­men­tary and pres­i­den­tial con­tests held world­wide in 66 coun­tries from 1 July 2012 to 31 Decem­ber 2013.”

    The new one, how­ev­er, sur­veys a larg­er num­ber of coun­tries and sev­er­al more elec­tion cycles in them, cov­er­ing “127 nation­al par­lia­men­tary and pres­i­den­tial con­tests held world­wide in 107 coun­tries from 1 July 2012 to 31 Decem­ber 2014.”

    So with more coun­tries (now 107, rather than 66) and more elec­tions (now 127, rather than 73) grad­ed by the experts, the over­all rank­ings have changed a bit.

    Where the 2012 U.S. Pres­i­den­tial elec­tion was rat­ed in last years report as hav­ing only “mod­er­ate” integri­ty, by the study’s bench­mark, the 2014 Con­gres­sion­al elec­tions in the U.S. slipped a bit low­er.

    “The num­ber of elec­tions has expand­ed,” project leader Pip­pa Nor­ris of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Gov­ern­ment explained to The BRAD BLOG via email, “so it isn’t clear whether there has actu­al­ly been a fall. Bet­ter to say that the 2014 US midterms were ranked slight­ly low­er than the 2012 pres­i­den­tial elec­tions.”

    Each elec­tion cycle in each coun­try is grad­ed by the experts in the study. That input is placed into a 100-point index and then a com­par­a­tive rank­ing based on 49 dif­fer­ent indi­ca­tors in 11 dif­fer­ent stages of elec­tions, such as Elec­toral Laws, Elec­toral Pro­ce­dures, Vot­er Reg­is­tra­tion, Media Cov­er­age, Cam­paign Finance and Vot­ing Process.

    The index is com­piled in the sur­vey into a “Per­cep­tion of Elec­toral Integri­ty” (PEI) index. The 2012 Pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in the U.S. scored a 70.2 PEI. By that mea­sure, it was ranked just just behind Micronesia’s 2013 leg­isla­tive elec­tion. The new score for the 2014 Con­gres­sion­al elec­tions in the U.S. slipped to 69.3, one notch in the rank­ings ahead of Colom­bia and just behind both Bar­ba­dos and Mex­i­co.

    Where the 2012 Pres­i­den­tial elec­tion ranked 26th over­all in the pre­vi­ous report, that same elec­tion now ranks 42nd among the larg­er sam­ple. Our Con­gres­sion­al elec­tion ranked 45th.

    U.S. elec­tions ‘rel­a­tive­ly poor’

    Accord­ing to the new report, the project’s “con­cept of ‘elec­toral integri­ty’ refers to inter­na­tion­al stan­dards and glob­al norms gov­ern­ing the appro­pri­ate con­duct of elec­tions.”

    Some forty domes­tic and inter­na­tion­al experts were con­sult­ed about each elec­tion cov­ered in the report, reflect­ing the views of 1,429 elec­tion experts.

    The study finds “Elec­tions in Unit­ed States stand out as rel­a­tive­ly poor­ly ranked by experts com­pared with oth­er estab­lished democ­ra­cies, deserv­ing fur­ther scruti­ny.”

    For sim­i­lar rea­sons offered in last year’s report, when the stud­ies’ experts rat­ed the over­all PEI of the 2012 Pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, “The Novem­ber 2014 Con­gres­sion­al elec­tions got poor grades because experts were con­cerned about the elec­toral laws, vot­er reg­is­tra­tion, the process of draw­ing dis­trict bound­aries, as well as reg­u­la­tion of cam­paign finance.”

    The study cites U.S. vot­er reg­is­tra­tion, “in par­tic­u­lar”, as a con­cern. It cites new laws regard­ing access to the polls as “increas­ing­ly polar­ized and litigious…ever since the 2000 ‘Flori­da’ deba­cle, gen­er­at­ing grow­ing con­tro­ver­sy in state-hous­es and the courts.”

    “Amer­i­ca also suf­fers from excep­tion­al­ly par­ti­san and decen­tral­ized arrange­ments for elec­toral admin­is­tra­tion,” accord­ing to the study, which finds that recent Supreme Court deci­sions “sug­gest that the role of mon­ey in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics deserves more detailed scruti­ny.”

    What about the machines?

    While the study exam­ines a num­ber of aspects dur­ing the “Vote Count” stage of elec­tions, such as whether or not bal­lot box­es are “secure”; whether results are announced “with­out undue delay”; whether votes are “count­ed fair­ly”; and whether or not inter­na­tion­al and domes­tic elec­tion mon­i­tors are restrict­ed, the sur­vey fails to exam­ine spe­cif­ic meth­ods of vote cast­ing and count­ing and the effect that may have on report­ed elec­tion results.

    As The BRAD BLOG has spent more than ten years doc­u­ment­ing, the method used for vote cast­ing and count­ing — and, with it, the electorate’s abil­i­ty to over­see the accu­ra­cy of the count — this is no small mat­ter. How votes are cast and tab­u­lat­ed can have an extra­or­di­nary effect (pos­i­tive­ly or neg­a­tive­ly) on both the accu­ra­cy of elec­tions as well as con­fi­dence in report­ed results.

    Com­put­er­ized vot­ing sys­tems — such as Direct Record­ing Elec­tron­ic (DRE, usu­al­ly touch-screen) vot­ing machines — are 100% impos­si­ble to ver­i­fy for accu­ra­cy after polls have closed. Yet, they are still used in about one-third of the coun­try, and else­where around the world.

    Hand-marked paper bal­lots can be exam­ined after an elec­tion, but most juris­dic­tions in the U.S. tal­ly those bal­lots by com­put­er­ized opti­cal-scan sys­tems which either report results accu­rate­ly or not. With­out a human exam­i­na­tion of those paper bal­lots — only some­times allowed in the rare event a recount — it’s impos­si­ble to know whether results have been accu­rate­ly tal­lied and report­ed.

    By way of just one recent exam­ple, which cit­i­zens hap­pened to notice, a Novem­ber 2014 ref­er­en­dum in a small Wis­con­sin town, tal­lied by a com­put­er­ized opti­cal-scan sys­tem last year, report­ed only 16 votes cast by some 5,350 vot­ers. Luck­i­ly, the prob­lem was so obvi­ous, attrib­uted to a pro­gram­ming error by a local elec­tion offi­cial, it was too ridicu­lous to be over­looked. The cor­rect results were even­tu­al­ly deter­mined by pub­licly hand-count­ing the hand-marked paper bal­lots.

    But what of mal­func­tion or malfea­sance in vote counts that are not so eas­i­ly dis­cov­ered, thanks to a lack of human-ver­i­fied results? For exam­ple, a com­put­er opti­cal-scan sys­tem in Palm Beach Coun­ty, FL announced the “win­ners” of four dif­fer­ent elec­tions incor­rect­ly in 2012. Only a sharp-eyed elec­tion offi­cial and an even­tu­al court-sanc­tion hand-count deter­mined that three of four of the orig­i­nal­ly announced “win­ners” were actu­al­ly the losers of their races. In New York’s 2010 elec­tions, thou­sands of bal­lots were inac­cu­rate­ly tal­lied by op-scan sys­tems, though the fail­ure was not pub­licly con­firmed until 2012.

    Those are just a few of the scores (if not hun­dreds) of sim­i­lar reports we’ve cov­ered over the years. And, of course, the accu­ra­cy of results from DRE sys­tems can nev­er be dis­cov­ered at all. Juris­dic­tions that use them should clear­ly have their rank­ings penal­ized by the Elec­tion Integri­ty Project, whose report is sub­ti­tled “Why elec­tions fail and what we can do about it”. But so should juris­dic­tions which do not ver­i­fy results or allow cit­i­zens to do so them­selves. Addi­tion­al­ly, the effect that such sys­tems have on over­all con­fi­dence in the results of elec­tions, and sub­se­quent inter­est by cit­i­zens in par­tic­i­pat­ing in them, should not be over­looked.

    On this point, Harvard’s Nor­ris explained to us that their study is “tech­nol­o­gy neu­tral” and does not fac­tor in such ele­ments. “We don’t ask ques­tions about spe­cif­ic types of tech­nolo­gies, in part because this varies from place to place,” she said.

    While she cor­rect­ly notes that “many coun­tries don’t use elec­tron­ic tech­nolo­gies in bal­lot­ing,” she did not seem par­tic­u­lar­ly recep­tive to the point that the way in which votes are cast and tab­u­lat­ed (and whether that count can be over­seen by the pub­lic and known to be accu­rate) is a key aspect of elec­toral integri­ty. Her respons­es con­firmed that those ele­ments are only cur­so­ri­ly ana­lyzed in the report by the very gen­er­al­ized ques­tions regard­ing whether “Bal­lot box­es were secure” and if “Votes were count­ed fair­ly”, and, per­haps, the ques­tion regard­ing whether “elec­tion mon­i­tors were restrict­ed”. (Nat­u­ral­ly, if those mon­i­tors are unable to see inside a com­put­er as to whether a vote is tab­u­lat­ed accu­rate­ly, that would seem to be a very severe “restric­tion” on mon­i­tor­ing the most impor­tant point of the process.)

    “There is no rea­son to assume a pri­ori that vote counts using elec­tron­ic or paper bal­lots are nec­es­sar­i­ly more hon­est or accu­rate,” she says. That’s a point we would vig­or­ous­ly dis­pute, even if only in the per­cep­tion of accu­ra­cy, and the neg­a­tive effect that unver­i­fied tal­lies have on con­fi­dence in elec­tions and, thus, elec­tion integri­ty itself.

    Nor­ris adds: “The expert sur­vey is only one com­po­nent of the larg­er project and data col­lec­tion. For exam­ple, we have anoth­er relat­ed project look­ing at pub­lic opin­ion towards elec­toral integri­ty.”


    Just imag­ine the look on Brad Fried­man’s face when he was told by one of the lead­ers of the study that:

    “There is no rea­son to assume a pri­ori that vote counts using elec­tron­ic or paper bal­lots are nec­es­sar­i­ly more hon­est or accu­rate,” she says. That’s a point we would vig­or­ous­ly dis­pute, even if only in the per­cep­tion of accu­ra­cy, and the neg­a­tive effect that unver­i­fied tal­lies have on con­fi­dence in elec­tions and, thus, elec­tion integri­ty itself.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 4, 2015, 10:38 am
  6. Here’s more on the sui­cide of Mis­souri audi­tor Tom Schwe­ich: Schwe­ich’s wife was on the phone with Martha Fitz, a fam­i­ly friend and assis­tant to John Dan­forth, right at the moment he shot him­self.:

    TPM Livewire
    Aide Reveals Stun­ning Details Of The Moment Guv Can­di­date Killed Him­self

    By Cather­ine Thomp­son
    Pub­lished March 6, 2015, 12:12 PM EST

    A Repub­li­can aide shed more light Thurs­day on the moments lead­ing up to the sui­cide of a lead­ing can­di­date for Mis­souri gov­er­nor, an event that has torn the state par­ty apart in recent days.

    Martha Fitz, a friend of Mis­souri Audi­tor Tom Schwe­ich’s ® fam­i­ly, revealed that she was on the phone with Schwe­ich’s wife on the morn­ing of Feb. 26 when the audi­tor shot him­self at their fam­i­ly home.

    Fitz, an assis­tant to for­mer U.S. Sen. John Dan­forth (R‑MO), detailed in a writ­ten state­ment the shock­ing sequence of events from that morn­ing, which was report­ed by the Asso­ci­at­ed Press on Thurs­day.


    Accord­ing to Fitz’s state­ment, the events began that morn­ing when the audi­tor’s chief of staff, Trish Vin­cent, called to inform her of Schwe­ich’s dis­traught emo­tion­al state.

    Fitz soon left a voice­mail for Schwe­ich’s wife, Kathy, and received a call back at about 9:40 a.m. She said she spoke briefly with Kathy before the audi­tor got on the phone.

    “He spoke sole­ly about his out­rage con­cern­ing the rumors that were being spread about his reli­gion and how he should respond to those rumors,” Fitz said, as quot­ed by the AP. “I told him I thought it was best to let oth­ers stand up for him.”

    Fitz said Schwe­ich “then threat­ened to kill him­self” and hand­ed the phone back to his wife.

    “Sec­onds lat­er, I heard Kathy say, ‘He shot him­self!’ ” Fitz said.

    Fitz said that she’d relat­ed her account to Clay­ton, Mo. police, who are inves­ti­gat­ing Schwe­ich’s appar­ent sui­cide, accord­ing to the AP.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 6, 2015, 6:40 pm
  7. The alleged whis­per cam­paign against for­mer Mis­souri Audi­tor Tom Schwe­ich con­tin­ues to take its toll: Schwe­ich’s spokesman, Spence Jack­son, just showed up dead from an appar­ent self-inflict­ed gun­shot wound:

    TPM Livewire
    Aide Mys­te­ri­ous­ly Found Dead Month After Mis­souri GOP­er’s Sui­cide

    By Cather­ine Thomp­son
    Pub­lished March 30, 2015, 8:47 AM EDT

    Police said an aide to late guber­na­to­r­i­al can­di­date and Mis­souri Audi­tor Tom Schwe­ich ® was found dead Sun­day of an appar­ent sui­cide.

    Police found Schwe­ich spokesman Spence Jack­son dead of a self-inflict­ed gun­shot wound at about 7 p.m. in his apart­ment, accord­ing to a media release issued Mon­day morn­ing by the Jef­fer­son City Police Depart­ment.

    “Phys­i­cal evi­dence at the scene, along with an exam­i­na­tion of the apart­ment, did not indi­cate any signs of forced entry or strug­gle, but Detec­tives began a full inves­ti­ga­tion with the assis­tance of Patrol per­son­nel to can­vas the area and con­tact those who knew Jack­son,” the release read. “This inves­ti­ga­tion is still an open inves­ti­ga­tion, and no details regard­ing find­ings will be released as of yet.”

    Jack­son’s appar­ent sui­cide came a lit­tle more than a month after Schwe­ich took his own life..

    The spokesman had been the first per­son to pub­licly call for the res­ig­na­tion of Mis­souri Repub­li­can Par­ty Chair­man John Han­cock over alle­ga­tions that he’d been telling peo­ple Schwe­ich was Jew­ish, even though the late audi­tor was an Epis­co­palian. Han­cock has denied that he car­ried out a so-called “whis­per cam­paign” about Schwe­ich’s faith.


    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 30, 2015, 7:03 am

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