Behind the firewall: Bush loyalist Mike Connell controls congressional secrets as his email sites serve Karl Rove
By Bob Fitrakis
Online Journal Guest Writer
Jul 31, 2008, 00:21
In 2001, Michael L. Connell of GovTech Solutions, L.L.C., a
notoriously partisan GOP operative and Bush family confidant, was selected to
reorganize the Capitol Hill IT network.
Under the guise of selecting a female-owned IT company
(Connell�s wife Heather is listed as the owner), former Congressman and
convicted felon Bob Ney reportedly arranged for Connell to be the man behind
the firewall for the U.S. House of Representatives.
Connell�s role and activities need to be investigated by
putting Connell under oath and examining how arguably one of the country�s most
zealously partisan IT specialists managed to land the contract and be allowed
access to this electronic communication system.
Initially, Connell�s forays into partisan politics had very
public ups and downs. Connell got his big break in 1987 as a staff member for
former CIA Director and Vice President George H.W. Bush�s successful campaign
for president. He programmed and developed an advanced delegate tracking system
for the Republican National Convention in 1988. With no presidential campaign
in 1990, Connell emerged in partisan politics, this time in a well-publicized
scandal. On November 11, 1990, Senator Dan Coats (R-IN) fired Connell for his
role in a �push polling� scheme that Coats denounced as �clearly unethical.�
Next, Connell resurfaced as a congressional staffer and mouthpiece as U.S. Rep.
Martin R. Hoke�s (R-OH) communication director in 1993-4.
In 1996, Connell�s back at partisan campaign IT activity.
His newly formed New Media Communications began providing design makeovers and
software for Republican candidates and organizations in Ohio and Illinois.
Public records reflect that he specifically worked on implementing databases
and web services for John Bohner�s (R-OH) Freedom Project PAC, John Kasich�s
(R-OH) Pioneer PAC, and Dick Armey�s (R-TX) Majority Leaders Fund. Also during
this period, he did computer work for right-wing ideologue David Horowitz�s
Center for the Study of Popular Culture and the website, FrontPageMag.com.
Tom Brazatis of the Cleveland Plain Dealer described Connell
as �an Internet consultant in 1998 for the winning campaigns of governors Bob
Taft in Ohio and Jeb Bush in Florida.� The article stated that Connell told the
Plain Dealer that he had been hired to do �special Internet projects� for George
W. Bush. �Connell declined to be more specific,� noted the Plain Dealer�s 2000
After Jeb Bush won the governor�s office, Connell received
various Florida IT contracts from the governor�s office, Florida Department of
Education and Community Affairs, and did computer work for the Florida
Republican Party. A few months after Bush�s 1998 Florida victory, New Media
Communications merged with GOP lobbyist and operative Thomas J. Synhorst and
formed DCI/New Media L.L.C. in Richfield, Ohio. Synhorst is listed as a
co-founder of GovTech. Connell designed Jeb.org, JebWear.com, and GOPWear.com
during that election cycle.
�I�m loyal to my friends and I�m loyal to the Bush family .
. .� read a Connell quote in Inside Business magazine, November 2, 1999.
Crain�s Cleveland Business reported when Connell created
GovTech Solutions in 2001 he told them he had � . . . decided to roll out a
separate company for its political work because government and corporations are
�two animals different enough to have it make sense.�� Connell told Crain�s
that his �GovTech Solutions is the only private-sector company to gain
permission from HIR [House Information Resources] to place its servers behind
One has to wonder about the implications of the premier
partisan campaign IT man, steadfastly loyal to the country�s most well known
security-industrial complex and CIA family, serving as the man behind the U.S.
According to the Federal Election Commission, Connell�s
company, New Media Communications, received more than $800,000 from the
Bush-Cheney Re-Election Campaign between January 2003 and October 2004. During
the same period, New Media Communications brought in $1.2 million in contracts
from Republican congressional candidates, political parties, and the National
Rifle Association, according to the Akron Beacon Journal on November 24, 2004.
SourceWatch notes that Connell developed the websites for
the House Intelligence, Judiciary, Financial Services, Ways and Means, and
Administration Committees. According to SourceWatch, Connell teamed up with R.
Rebecca Donatelli, chair of the D.C.-based Campaign Solutions, to form Connell
Donatelli, Inc. (CD, Inc.) as a specialized online advertising agency in July
2004. One of CD, Inc.�s first activities was to become the registrant,
administrator and tech organizer for the anti-Kerry group Swiftboat Veterans
for Truth�s website swiftboatvetsfortruth.org.
Connell also handled the IT system work for the Bush-Cheney
Re-election Campaign and worked for Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth
Blackwell in designing the system that allowed the real time outsourcing of
Ohio�s presidential vote count to a Chattanooga, Tennessee, server site. The
blog ePluribus Media deserves
great credit for breaking this key story. The Tennessee servers at the old
Pioneer Bank building were a massive repository of Republican and conservative
An article about Connell�s partisan IT activities in George
W. Bush�s hometown newspaper, the Crawford, Texas, Lone Star Iconoclast, invokes the specter
of the Watergate scandal. It notes, �There�s Ohio in 2004 when his [Connell�s]
company (SmartTech) ran election results through his computers before releasing
them to Ken Blackwell�s Secretary of State office.�
The Iconoclast pointed out in that December 18, 2007,
article, entitled �Plumbers 2.0,� that top Bush operatives, including Karl
Rove, emailed plans for dismissing eight U.S. attorneys using the accounts set
up by Connell gwb43.com and georgebush.com. As ePluribus Media put it, �In the
virtual worlds of computer security, networking and email, the lines separating
the inner workings of the current government in Washington, D.C., and the outer
world of partisan politics exist only in theory.�
The IT cyberstructures created by Connell remain in place
for the 2008 election. On February 22, 2008, the Akron Beacon Journal reported
Connell�s team helped develop the John McCain for President website, just as it
helped create the website for the last two Bush presidential campaigns.
While the Republicans tell us to pay no attention to the man
behind the congressional firewall, that he�s just another government
contractor, Connell is thinking long-term. When asked by Campaign and Elections
magazine in June 2004 what he wished to be doing in 10 years, he replied that
his goal was to be in a �senior position� in the campaign to elect Rick
Santorum president of the United States. He also cited among his political
heroes, Saint Paul because he � . . . leveraged Roman citizenship to fuel the
expansion of the early church� and he cited George W. Bush because he had �the
courage to publicly share his faith.�
Fitrakis has a Ph.D. in political science and was an election observer in the
Ohio 2004 general election and Ohio�s 2008 primary. Originally published by The Free Press.
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