Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel has an idea... Greg Sargent of TPM Cafe and Brad Friedman of The BRAD BLOG do too!
By Winter Patriot on 9/4/2006, 11:59pm PT  

Guest blogged by Winter Patriot

Democrats in Florida's 24th Congressional District are used to being surprised by Tom Feeney (left), but he's been surprising them again during the past few days. They have reported receiving fliers in the mail --- and phone calls, too --- which appear to be serious, even respectful --- if brief --- comparisons of the policy positions taken by the Republican incumbent, Feeney, and his potential Democratic challenger, Clint Curtis.

What's wrong with this picture?





Here's a hint: Did you notice the word "potential", as in "potential Democratic challenger"? That's the key word here: the Democratic primary hasn't happened yet!

So why is Feeney apparently ramping up for a run against Curtis?

Let's start up a conversation with Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel, author of Feeney helps opponent:

Feeney put out the support pieces on behalf of Clint Curtis [right], who's one of two Democrats vying to run against him in November.

That's a fact.

Curtis has pretty much accused Feeney of being the antichrist.

That's a factoid. Looks like a fact but is not one. This is not true at all, and you should know it, Scott. Clint Curtis' accusations are on record. There's all sorts of evidence all over this blog. And the record is easy to search. You can search all you like --- and you really should have --- but nowhere will you find any evidence that Curtis has accused Feeney of being the antichrist. So why exaggerate? Why not just report the facts? We wouldn't happen to be building a little straw man, would we, Scott? We wouldn't be constructing something resembling --- but not quite --- Curtis' position, so we can easily tear it down later, would we?

And his claims are as outrageous as they are convoluted.

Don't look now, Scott, but when you use the word "convoluted", that shows us you don't understand the claims made by Clint Curtis. They are quite simple, really. And the claims made by Curtis allege outrageous conduct, clearly, but that is not the same as saying that the claims themselves are outrageous ... unless you --- who clearly don't understand them --- are now making this claim of outrageousness, based on some knowledge or authority which you have not yet deigned to reveal ... forgive me for saying so but this possible explanation doesn't seem very likely.

Essentially, he accuses Feeney of trying to fix the 2000 elections through vote-rigging software.

Not at all! Curtis accuses Feeney of asking him to design a vote-rigging prototype [PDF] --- a piece of software that would look like a vote-counter but would actually be something else.

And he describes Feeney as "the most corrupt and unethical person he had ever met."

This is quite consistent with Curtis' entire story. He doesn't claim to have met any of the other 12 people who appear with Tom Feeney on CREW's list of the most corrupt members of Congress.

You could write a whole book on his conspiracy tale (in fact, Curtis did ... and you can see his story at clintcurtis.com). Is any of it true?

Methinks you ought to read a bit of it --- slowly enough to make sure you understand it --- before you make any more snap decisions, Scott.

Feeney, of course, says it's all unmitigated hogwash.

Of course. He always says that. He says he has never met Clint Curtis. But the funny thing is, Scott, Clint Curtis has taken --- and passed --- a polygraph test that focused on this story ... and Tom Feeney won't go anywhere near a polygraph! What does that tell you?

And one of the most compelling things in Feeney's favor is that Curtis took his tale to a committee of Congressional Democrats (people with every reason to want to tar and feather Feeney) --- and they didn't find it believable enough to take any action.

The inference you are trying to draw here is invalid, Scott. The committee of Congressional Democrats was investigating the 2004 presidential election, to which Curtis' allegations do not apply. He never said he wrote a vote-rigging program that threw the 2004 presidential election. He only said he wrote a prototype for Tom Feeney. The Congressional Democrats couldn't have done anything about Curtis' testimony if they wanted to --- because it didn't pertain directly to the issue they were investigating. And none of this plays favorably for Tom Feeney in any way, except if it's spun very dishonestly. But you knew that already, didn't you, Scott? Or maybe if you had done some research you could have found out... Oh well, what's just one more deceptive statement among friends?

So why does Feeney want to help Curtis get through the primary?

Does he really? What makes you think that? Is your B.S. Detector not ringing hard right now??

Well, the most sensible theory in this seemingly non-sensical campaign is that Feeney doesn't want to face Democrat Andy Michaud in the general election. Michaud has little money and has lost multiple previous elections (for everything from Maitland mayor to agriculture commissioner). But he's a pleasant enough person. And when he talks about why he's running, he usually makes sense.

The most sensible theory? Surely you jest! That's the least sensible theory I've ever heard! Are you telling us Feeney doesn't want to face Andy Michaud, who "has little money and has lost multiple previous elections"? Are you expecting us to believe that the powerful Congressman Tom Feeney doesn't want to run against somebody who has little or --- quite honestly --- nothing going for him whatsoever?

Feeney would prefer to run against a nationally-known --- no! internationally-known --- whistleblower, who is seen in some quarters as a hero, and who has a considerable portion of the blogosphere behind him?

That's the most sensible thing you can come up with? Surely you're sandbagging us, Scott.... Can you really be this thick?

But Feeney's campaign says that's not the reason.

Well of course that's not the reason. Feeney's campaign is telling the truth for a change, Scott. Did you notice any difference in the tone of voice?

Feeney Chief of Staff Jason Roe says that his congressman is tired of Curtis making wild accusations --- and he wants to face down Curtis man-to-man. "Clint Curtis says this a battle of good vs. evil," Roe said. "And we agree."

Well, this very cold blogger agrees as well, Scott. But which of these two men do you think represents good? Here's a hint: the one who tells the truth! The one who tells it to a lie-detector to remove the doubt. And besides, Scott: when a man gets near the top of the list of the most corrupt members of Congress, you really have to take his Chief of Staff with a grain of salt. Don't you? Or didn't they teach you that in journalism school?

This is where I think Feeney has let his ego get the best of him. Right now, very few people have ever heard of Clint Curtis, much less his accusations. But now, if Feeney helps him get into the general election, many more people will. He's essentially handed a megaphone to the man who wants to tell the world Feeney's corrupt.

No! he hasn't. You have no proof that these fliers and those phone calls have had any effect at all on the yet-to-be-decided primary election. Nor could you. That's what "yet-to-be-decided" means. Nor do you have any proof that this was their purpose.

Both Roe and Curtis say more people have heard Curtis's story than I believe.

Roe is telling the truth again, Scott, and you'd better start learning to believe it, even if you don't understand how it works. Let's start this way: It's not a dump truck. It's more like a series of tubes.

It's all over ultra-liberal web sites.

And not just ultra-liberal web sites, either. It's all kinds of web sites --- run by people who care more about the integrity of our elections than about any political philosophy. For instance: there are many regular readers here at this humble green-and-yellow space who don't consider themselves "ultra-liberal" at all, and some who would cringe if you called them any kind of liberal. But they're concerned about how the votes are counted, just as surely as the ultra-liberals you mentioned. Did you catch the news? The group of people who are concerned about how their votes are counted is a huge majority of the population! The concern for honest elections cuts across every demographic Zogby could think of. It's a pity you don't take this huge majority of Americans seriously, Scott. Not yet, anyway. But you will.

And Roe even noted that this month's issue of Hustler magazine (everybody's best source for solid political news) picked up Curtis's tale.

How many readers do you think it will find in Hustler? And how many of them already know that Larry Flynt publishes a lot of stuff that other publications won't touch --- because it's too true! because they think it's dangerous! Answers: Many Hustler readers have known this for a long time, Scott. And more are discovering it every month. More questions: How many more readers do you think have seen that Hustler piece on the internet, without the porn [PDF]? Want a hint? It's not a dump truck!

The magazine printed his accusations --- and even carried pictures of a dead man who was supposedly investigating Feeney's wrongdoing. The inference is that maybe the investigator stumbled on evidence that damned Feeney and then was killed. (The tiny problem with that theory is that authorities who investigated the death in Georgia say the man killed himself.)

And the tiny problem with that theory --- as we can see from the police crime scene photographs published by the brave Larry Flynt --- is that Ray Lemme must have beaten himself up pretty badly before he tried to slash his wrists ... unless your sources are leading you astray again, Scott. Follow the polygraph, reporter. Be very skeptical whenever one of the most corrupt politicians in America opens his mouth --- or sends his Chief of Staff out to speak for him!

Curtis told me Friday that he doesn't actually believe Feeney killed or ordered the man to be killed, but that he doesn't know for sure. Roe said there is no doubt about Curtis's acusations: "Clint has accused Tom of everything ... including murder."

You see, here Roe is lying to you again. Clint has never accused Tom of murder. Why do you keep swallowing and printing such obvious lies? You can check the facts, Scott. Yes indeed, facts still exist in this world. And you can check them. You can check to see whether Clint Curtis has ever accused Tom Feeney of murder. Why don't you? You're the reporter here, aren't you? We're just humble bloggers...

Whether this all sounds prepostrous or titilating, you can thank Feeney (who's own website is at tomfeeney.com) for even shining a spotlight on it.

Not quite so fast, Scott. You can thank Brad Friedman and other election integrity advocates --- thank The BRAD BLOG and other election-integrity bloggers --- for shining a spotlight on it. Thank Feeney for kicking Curtis out of a public meeting, if you like. But --- and correct me if I'm wrong --- the flier Feeney sent out didn't mention the vote-rigging prototype, did it? Did it mention Ray Lemme? I don't think we should thank Tom Feeney for shining a spotlight on anything! I think we should be very suspicious right about now. Consider the track record, no?

So what do we think about Feeney's campaign tactic of helping Curtis by calling and mailing the Democrats in his district?

I know what I think of it ... I can't wait to read your trenchant analysis:

Well, on one hand, it's hard to get too worked up about it --- because it's so darn pleasant. The effort does nothing to denigrate Curtis. The mailer describes him as "progressive," supportive of "women's reproductive rights" and out to "protect American jobs." And this mailer went to DEMOCRATS, mind you.

Exactly right, Scott. We agree on more than you might think. And I don't mean to be rough on you, but we get kind of frustrated about how this issue is portrayed in the media. You nailed this one, though, and I give you credit for it!

But on the other hand, the tactic is elaborate and underhanded --- seemingly trying to set a candidate up, so he can later knock him down.

Ahh, you're onto something here ... but what is it?

(Feeney will almost certainly win, regardless of whom he faces in the general election, because he's an incumbent in a heavily Republican district that was tailored just for him by state legislature ... back when he was speaker of the House.)

(Feeney would almost certainly win against the now-almost-totally-vacant shell-of-a-candidate Andy Michaud, who --- as you yourself pointed out --- has very little or nothing going for him. Against a man like Clint Curtis --- with the power of the election integrity community behind him --- nothing can be certain.)

For my money, the smartest thing Feeney could've done was essentially coast to an easy re-election victory against either Democrat. But either his ego got in the way or he and his campaign consultants were too clever by half.

As I've been saying, Scott, the "coast to an easy victory" may not be the "cakewalk" you imagine.

And now, if Feeney helps Curtis win on Tuesday, he will get his wish ... whether he likes it or not.

Or ... or ... or ... maybe running against Clint Curtis is not Tom Feeney's wish at all. And maybe there's something stealthy going on. Did you ever consider that possibility, Scott? They do have political stealth in Florida, don't they? Well ... anyway ... let's proceed on the possible assumption of stealth for a moment, shall we?

If something stealthy is going on, perhaps that could explain the strange event that happened last Monday, when Feeney turned bright red and evicted Curtis from what was supposed to be a public meeting --- at the Republican Club in Brevard.

If something stealthy is going on, perhaps that could explain why "multiple veteran politicians" all told you they were "surprised and confused"... those who were in on the joke (if any) would have been warned not to say anything at all about it, and the others would have been truly in the dark...

I'm not saying this is what's happening, Scott, but I am saying: Pay Attention! Maybe there's more here than meets the eye...

Greg Sargent at TPM Cafe has this:

FL-24: Bizarre Mystery Of Quirky Mailing And Missing Candidate

Reached by phone today, candidate Curtis let out a hearty chuckle about the flyer. One theory Curtis offered for it was that Feeney had sent out the flyer because the Republican preferred to run against Curtis' opponent. The idea, Curtis said, might be that the flyer would minimize the Dem primary vote. "The flyer says to vote in November," Curtis observed. "Maybe he’s trying to tell people I’ve already won the primary." If so, Curtis added, primary voters might not come out for him, thus denying him a primary victory: "Then he doesn’t have to run against me."

and this:

And yet...it would seem far more likely that the flyer was about helping Curtis win his primary. After all, it pumps up Curtis as the inevitable challenger --- something that could only help Curtis --- suggesting that Feeney would prefer to face Curtis, not his primary opponent, in November.

We finally reached a spokesperson for Feeney. She emailed us a statement suggesting that none of the above explanations had it right --- and added yet another strange twist to the tale. She said that the Feeney campaign saw Curtis as the inevitable opponent in November --- because, she said, Curtis' primary rival is M.I.A.!

"It has become increasingly apparent that Clint Curtis is the only Democrat interested in running this race, as the other candidate hasn't been seen or returned telephone calls in several weeks," said the statement from the spokesperson, Pepper Pennington. "We are anxious to get started and establish the differences between Clint Curtis and Tom Feeney."

And that makes some sense ... except if you consider the timing! And this is all about timing! So we really should consider the timing, don't you think? In my opinion we should also consider the following possibility, courtesy of the more-conservative than-you-might-think election-integrity advocate and investigative blogger, Brad Friedman:

Could it be that Feeney is planning to flip the vote to Michaud, and that this mailing --- bizarrely sent prior to the primary, and apparently to Democrats! --- is for plausible deniability afterwards?

"Hey, I thought Curtis was going to win! I even sent out a mailer showing us in a race this November face-to-face, so clearly I had nothing to do with gaming that election!"

Pay attention, Scott. You could learn a lot from this Friedman fellow. But you could learn a lot right now, too. Let's start like this: If Michaud "wins" the Democratic primary --- and if Feeney is accused of vote-rigging or any other electoral shenanigans --- Feeney's phone and mail campaign will not constitute exculpatory evidence in any way, shape or form. You do understand that, don't you, Scott?

Exculpatory evidence:

Evidence indicating that a defendant did not commit the crime.

Think about how Feeney's office spins the fact that Congressional Democrats didn't mention his testimony in their report. Now think about how they will try to spin this!

Forewarned is forearmed, my friends.

And you can count yourself among that number, Scott, if you open your eyes --- and your mind --- and start paying attention.

Doing a little bit of research wouldn't be a bad idea, either.

But most of all, pay close attention tomorrow --- this is going to be very interesting!