Was "Karl Rove's IT guru" murdered?

It sounds like the plot of the next Oliver Stone film.

A Republican IT consultant is killed in a mysterious plane crash, just days before he is scheduled to testify about conservative political operatives hacking the 2004 presidential election.

And yet the story is real, or at least parts of it are.

Technology consultant Mike Connell, whose GovTech Solutions firm created Web sites for George W. Bush and John McCain among other leading Republicans, died on December 19 when a Piper Supercub he was flying crashed three miles short of the runway at Ohio's Akron-Canton Airport.

GovTech is one of three firms involved in "mirroring" votes for the 2004 presidential election in Ohio. Connell was set to testify in a lawsuit alleging computer fraud bought against Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell by voters' rights groups.

The man who will now forever be known as "Karl Rove's IT guru" was an experienced pilot who allegedly had been warned not to fly the plane because it might be sabotaged.

(I see Nick Cage in the title role, with Jennifer Connelly as a scrappy yet sexy reporter relentlessly pursuing the truth and Philip Seymour Hoffman as the inscrutable Rove.)

The problem with this Oscar-worthy blockbuster is that we don't actually know what Connell was going to say. Was he going to reveal a vast right-wing conspiracy to steal the election, as many in the liberal blogosphere believe? Was he going to stonewall and say nothing, as he allegedly did in a deposition he gave in November? Or was he going to say the whole cabal was merely a fever dream from PO'd lefties, like recent suits from the other side claiming Barack Obama is ineligible to be president?

Would a guy so closely connected to Bush, Rove, Tom DeLay, Ken Blackwell, and others at the very core of the Republican Party suddenly flip? Connell seems an unlikely candidate for the role of "Deep Throat," IMHO.

The other problem: There hasn't been any serious reporting on this story from any source that doesn't have a clear liberal bias, as far as I can determine. The New York Times seems to have not covered this story at all, despite the fact that "Michael Connell" is the 34th most searched for term on the site in the past week (behind "it's a wonderful life" and ahead of David Pogue). That's a bit weird all by itself.

I love conspiracy theories as much as the next guy, but I'm not willing to strap on my tinfoil helmet just yet.

Even without the murder plot, though, the facts of this case are troubling. Why were Ohio's vote totals "mirrored" to a site run by a private firm in Chatanooga, Tennessee? And is it just coincidence that SmarTech is the same firm that hosted private email accounts used to conduct White House business (in violation of federal law) and "lost" millions of messages when discovered? There are more layers to this story than an onion.

Where are Woodward and Bernstein when you really need them?

Judging by its popularity on social bookmarking sites like Digg and Reddit, the Ohiogate story isn't going away. So we might yet learn the real truth about what happened to Mike Connell - and by extension, the country. Let's hope sooner rather than later.

And Oliver, if you're looking for someone to write the screenplay, you know where to reach me.

What do you think? Is there more to this story than meets the eye? Post your thoughts below or email me directly: dan (at) dantynan (dot) com.

When not conjuring up evil conspiracies, Dan Tynan tends his blogs, Culture Crash and Tynan on Tech.


Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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