Ralph Gonzalez, Whose Firm Created 'CrazyClintCurtis.com' Smear Website, Apparently Murdered
Gonzalez's Strategum Group consulted for Feeney, Worked with Ralph Reed, GA Rep. Tom Price [Updated Several Times With Add'l Details]
By Steve Huff on 8/23/2007, 7:28pm PT  

Guest blogged by Steve Huff, with additional updates by Brad Friedman.

NOTE: The original version of this blog entry was published here. This version has been updated several times, specifically for The BRAD BLOG. See updates at end of article...

Police are investigating a possible double murder and suicide in an Orlando, Florida, residence owned by the former Executive Director of the Georgia Republican Party.

The Orange County Sheriff was called to 2420 Hickory Oak Blvd. in Orlando early Thursday. There they found three dead white men and two live dogs. The men may have been dead since Tuesday.

The home where they were found dead was owned by a political consultant/strategist of Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL), the one who worked on the Congressman's smear campaign against vote-rigging whistleblower Clint Curtis last year. More details on that campaign below.

Feeney describes Gonzalez as "a born political consultant." On commenting on the news, Feeney said of Gonzalez, "He was an adviser and strategist for me and became a very good friend."

Detectives haven't revealed exactly how the three were killed, save that it was through foul play.

At least two of the men lived at the residence. Investigators told local media that they found firearms and signs of a struggle inside the home. Detectives also indicated that they felt they might be looking at a murder-suicide.

The address where this crime took place was also the Florida address for The Strategum Group, a political consulting outfit run by Ralph Gonzalez. A portion of Gonzalez's bio from The Strategum Group's website:

Prior to founding the Strategum Group, Ralph served at the Republican Party of Florida’s House Campaign Division, as Executive Director of the Georgia Republican Party, and is a veteran of dozens of campaigns across Florida, from Mayoral Races to Congressional. He also has international political experience, helping to manage a campaign on the Island of St. Maarten.

Ralph Gonzalez's national and international political experience, his experience and understanding of the political and legislative process, in conjunction with his unique political instincts, has made him a first class asset to political candidates and organizations.

Ralph was born in Miami, speaks fluent Spanish, and currently resides in Orlando.

Records filed with the Florida Division of Corporations indicated that Gonzalez founded Strategum in 2003 as a domestic profit corporation.

Gonzalez maintained Georgia ties. Republican Congressman Tom Price from Roswell, GA, was one of several politicos who gave testimonials for Strategum published on the Group's website.

Another testimonial for Strategum was given by controversial Florida Republican Tom Feeney, who represents Florida House District 24. Feeney's quote on the Group's site read:

Ralph Gonzalez was a key part of my team at House Campaigns when I was Florida Speaker of the House as well as my congressional race. The team at Strategum Group have been valued advisors on key issues in my district. They are a huge asset to any candidate or organization. There simply is no one better at strategy and analysis. I am proud to work with Ralph and the Strategum Group!

Feeney's bio on Wikipedia points out that he was once called one of the "20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress" by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). Brad Friedman has doggedly tracked many of the alleged instances of corruption connected with Feeney.

The Orlando Sentinel indicated that Feeney was not Strategum's only controversial client:

Last year, Gonzales worked on the campaign of then-state representative Sheri McInvale, who was indicted last week after prosecutors say she fraudulently sought taxpayer reimbursement for a newsletter.

Whatever they did for their clients, Strategum was expensive. The Sentinel reported in July of 2005 that one failed candidate for Orlando mayor had paid the consultants $115,000 for "three weeks of work."

This story is still developing.

Updates will be posted below.

UPDATE 1, 7:15 p.m. ET

Ralph Gonzalez's career seems to have always put him one degree of separation away from infamous former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

When Ralph Reed was elected chairman of the Georgia Republican Party in 2001 [link], two of the party's executive directors were Todd Schnick and Ralph Gonzalez. When Gonzalez filed an annual report for Strategum with the State of Florida Division of Corporations in January, 2007, Schnick was listed as one of his business partners.

(Note: Todd Schnick is a name that you might remember if you believe the 2000 presidential election was stolen, and that said theft occurred in Florida.)

Ralph Reed has been associated with Abramoff since at least 1981.

Tom Feeney's connections with Abramoff have been well-documented by Brad Friedman. This link goes to just one example.

Updates will continue as needed.

UPDATE 2, 7:44 p.m. ET

The Orlando Sentinel has confirmed that one of the men found dead in the home in Orlando was indeed the former Executive Director of the Georgia Republican Party, Ralph Gonzalez.

NOTE FOR BRAD BLOG READERS

If you recall the incredibly contentious campaign between Clint Curtis and Tom Feeney, you may recall this smear website launched by Team Feeney: CrazyClintCurtis.com.

The amateurish site was expressly designed to make Curtis look like a tinfoil-hat wearing loon. The assumption at the time was that Feeney's consultants were behind it. It should be no surprise then that they probably were (following info found via the fantastic robtex.com):

strategumusa.com (site for Ralph Gonzalez's Strategum Group)

domains sharing mailservers
accudatatech.com
aerobatic.ws
alitel.net
aznedge.net
begovich.com
bioquem.com
brightwaterstech.com
bryantech.net
cougarcorp.net
craftylounge.com
crazyclintcurtis.com

Plenty of unrelated websites share mailservers. These particular URLs sharing the exact same first 10 URLs just seems a bit too telling.

However, it doesn't tell us why Ralph Gonzalez and two other men were found dead in a room in Gonzalez's Orlando home today.

That story, when it comes out, may be much stranger than anything Feeney accused Clint Curtis of concocting.

UPDATE 3, 11:36 p.m. ET

The Orlando Sentinel has reported the names of the other two men found dead in the home at 2420 Hickory Oak Blvd.: Gonzalez's roommate David Abrami and a friend named Robert Drake.

Central Florida News 13 suggested in this article that Drake may have murdered Abrami and Gonzalez before committing suicide.

Abrami, in 1992, was vice president of the Central Florida Young Republican Club. That group made the news in November that year because they'd planned a weekend turkey shoot [link --- you'll need to scroll down to the middle of the page].

In and of itself this wasn't news. The fact that they wanted to use enlarged photos of then incoming president Bill Clinton as targets was news. The Secret Service, naturally, vetoed the idea.

Abrami also had a MySpace page he'd been maintaining since 2006. His last login was two weeks ago. There wasn't much there, and only one friend. Had he taken the page down? Does it matter? For all we know, it might.

Another interesting note about David Abrami: according to this article published 10 years ago in the Orlando Business Journal, Abrami at one time was an employee of another Orlando-area politcal consultant/publicist, Doug Guetzloe.

Things must have changed quite a bit in the decade since. Guetzloe made comments here about Strategum and Gonzalez (if they were indeed made by him) in 2006. His attitude seemed to indicate he was no fan of Ralph Gonzalez or The Strategum Group.

UPDATE 4, 8:02 a.m. ET, 8/24/07

Florida Today published an article this morning titled, "Lovers' fight may have sparked 3 deaths."

Who the "lovers" were is not clear. Quote:

A Republican Party consultant is one of three men found dead in a Central Florida home Thursday in an apparent double murder-suicide possibly sparked by a lovers' quarrel, according to detectives.

If said lovers were among the three dead men, no one will miss the irony of Abrami and Gonzalez having ties to conservative Republican campaigns for the last 15 years or more.

UPDATE 5, 1:24pm ET, 8/24/07

Towleroad is now reporting that "All language about a 'lovers' fight' has since mysteriously disappeared from the report." at Florida Today. They have grabbed a screen shot of the original headline and story, however.

UPDATE 6, 2:23pm ET, 8/24/07 by Brad Friedman

Gonzalez' Strategum Group was apparently behind all of Feeney's 2006 mailings as part of his smear campaign against Clint Curtis. One such mailing which included doctored photos of Curtis and referenced an article I had written for Hustler concerning the still-unexplained mysterious death --- in Georgia --- of Ray Lemme of the Florida Inspector General's office. Lemme had been investigating Curtis' complaints about Feeney and Yang Enterprises Inc. where both men worked in 2000, and where Feeney alleged asked Curtis to create vote rigging software.

Local residents complained to the media about receiving "pornography" in their mailbox from the Feeney campaign, as reported by local TV outlets at the time. We originally reported on the matter here, including a link to the video report. A portion of that mailing is seen at right.

Feeney is quoted discussing his friend in an AP report today as follows:

"He was a born political consultant. He had bravado, he was intense, and he lived and breathed tactics and strategy," Feeney said. "He was an adviser and strategist for me and became a very good friend."
For more info on The BRAD BLOG's continuing investigative series on The Clint Curtis/Tom Feeney/Yang Enterprises Vote-Rigging Scandal series, please see:
- A Quick Summary of the story so far.
- An Index of all the Key Articles & Evidence in the series so far.
- Curtis eventually ended up running for U.S. Congress against Feeney in 2006.
For more info, see: www.ClintCurtis.com