I have a story to tell you. It’s a true story. It’s about a 57-year old retired federal employee who has had Parkinson’s disease for 13 years. He had to retire from his job as a writer-editor in March 2011 due to the progression of his disease. This retirement left him free to write about the things he cared about, not just the things he was hired to write. He wrote about Parkinson’s disease, including his experience as a volunteer for a 2007 Clinical Trial looking at the safety of Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery in the early stages of PD. He was one of 15 people in the United States to have this surgery as part of the experiment. He wrote several books about this experience that are available on Amazon.com, and he donates the proceeds to the National Parkinson Foundation.
He also got to write about his hobby. Politics. Politics from a left-wing point of view. Progressive blogging with a sardonic sense of humor.
I am that writer. My name is Bill Schmalfeldt. I live in Elkridge, Maryland.
And now, I am being libeled and attacked by the powerful Michelle Malkin and her blogging empire for having the temerity to expose a money grab scheme known as the National Bloggers Club.
It was in middle June when someone brought my attention to a young man named Ali Abdul Razaq Akbar. He was fronting an organization created, he said, for the purpose of raising money to help support right wing bloggers who had been “attacked” by left wing activist Brett Kimberlin. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because he was convicted in the 1970s as the Speedway, Indiana, bomber. He did his time behind bars and has been a liberal activist since being released from prison.
One blogger in particular, Aaron Walker (who blogs under the name Aaron Worthing) was engaged in a long and complicated legal battle with Kimberlin. I won’t go into the details, because they are not really important to the story. The thing that caught this old journalist’s eye was the fact that the National Bloggers Club was referring to itself as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, meaning that people donating to the club could claim tax deductions for their donations. Michelle Malkin had thrown her weight behind the club, volunteering as a board member.
This smelled a bit fishy to me. I don’t know all the tax laws, but I was pretty sure you could not be a legitimate 501(c)3 and take a partisan agenda, and that means you can’t use tax-deductible donations that will only benefit people with a right wing political point of view.
So, I contacted Mr. Akbar, just like I had done with CEOs of non-profits dozens of times in the past. Through his Twitter account (@Ali) I asked him to provide his Employer Identification Number, something required of every organization claiming 501(c)3 status, something the IRS says non-profits must display on demand. Mr. Akbar responded by telling me it was none of my business. I wrote back to assure him that as a member of the public, it certainly was my business. He responded by blocking me and by getting his followers to spam my Twitter account, causing me to be placed into that “dead zone” known as “The Twitter Gulag” — where your account is suspended for a time.
While suspended, I read a report by an anonymous blogger known as Breitbart Unmasked. Turns out he had some information about Ali Akbar — he was arrested for stealing several household items from a Fort Worth woman, breaking into a man’s van, stealing his debit card, and using it to withdraw $400. The mugshots are from that arrest.
Breitbart Unmasked (BU) and I each wrote blog entries making this information public. Akbar could not deny it because of the mugshots. Instead, he wrote a self-serving letter to his supporters on Facebook claiming to be an innocent bystander who took the rap for an unnamed friend.
Further research proved that to be untrue, as BU and I got the arrest and plea bargain documents. They told a far different story than Akbar did. Akbar never addressed this discrepancy, and a few (very few) conservative bloggers, upset by the deception, dropped from the club.
I contacted the IRS non-profit investigation department and spoke to an agent. The agent asked me for the NBC, Inc. EIN. I told him that the CEO refused to provide it. He asked several other questions, including the names of the directors, etc. I had those, having secured a copy of the NBC’s Texas Incorporation documents. The agent checked and determined that the National Bloggers Club had not filed the proper paperwork to be considered a legitimate 501(c)3. I blogged about this, and on the same day, the NBC, Inc., stopped referring to itself as a 501(c)3 and started calling itself a non-profit instead.
While all this was going on, and having nothing else to do with my time, I investigated Akbar’s rise from a convict to the brightest star in the Young GOP establishment, all before his probation expired in May 2012. I wondered in my blog how this was possible with no visible means of support, with no education (other than a single semester in 2005 at the University of North Texas) and how he was able to travel all over the country working for Tea Party causes. He caught the eye of a noted right wing blogger, R. Stacy McCain, who took young Akbar under his wing and introduced him to all the right people — including Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie and Bush confidant Karl Rove. Rove seemed to take a special interest in young Akbar, and their friendship became the subject of controversy, told in stories both in my blog and elsewhere, including Roger Shuler’s “The Legal Schnauzer” blog.
I learned of Bill Murphy, who has worked side by side for years with Akbar, from the old American Liberty Alliance, through the Republic Media days, the Pundit Syndication incorporation which published Tea Party Brew and then the Vice and Victory Agency. Murphy now works as official director of Social Media for the Mitt Romney Campaign.
I also learned of Aaron (Worthing) Walker and the subject of “Swatting” — that’s what they call it when someone calls 911 and reports that a crime is underway at your house, and the police show up with guns drawn, putting peoples’ life in danger.
I learned of Lee Stranahan, who back in the early 2000s was accused of scamming people in a fraudulent “computer course” scheme where he would take your money for materials that he would not send to you. Stranahan was particularly interesting. In checking him out, I learned that he always seemed to have his hand out to his readers… donate to defend me from Swatters, donate to fund these movies (that he never completed), donate to fix my teeth. I am not kidding. And he always seemed to be someone’s victim. Someone was always threatening Stranahan with something. Along with his partner, Brandon Darby, who fancies himself a former FBI agent, they did an online radio show together.
Notable progressive blogger Matt Osborne was the first to notice one night when a caller phoned into the show on a night Darby was not with Stranahan. The caller claimed to be the Swatter. Like a super villain on Batman, the caller boasted of his evil deeds and promised more swattings, including CNN contributor and Red State Blog founder Erick Erickson who, as luck would have it, was “Swatted” very soon afterward. Osborne noticed that the “swatter’s” voice sounded a lot like Darby’s, so he did an audio mash-up and convinced a lot of folks that Darby and the Swatter were one and the same. This has never been proven conclusively, and the Swattings seem to have stopped… until recently. We’ll get to that.
My blog tends to take a sardonic, satirical view of life and I have very little love for the right wing — foolish middle class people who don’t have two nickels to rub together who think Mitt Romney and Rush Limbaugh actually care about them. Ali Akbar, Karl Rove, Aaron Worthing Walker and Lee Stranahan were favorite targets for my brand of satire which, I admit, can be crude.
In late August, Stranahan took a step beyond the bounds of common decency and blogged the name of a woman who alleged she was raped by Trayvon Martin’s killer. This outraged women everywhere, none more than a blogger known only as “Sheridan” or as “OccupyRebellion.” This was at the onset of the RNC Convention, which Stranahan attended. She commented on her Twitter stream that since Stranahan had no problem publishing the name of a rape victim, how would he feel if rapists knew where his wife was when he was gone?
As we’ve seen from conservatives this year, with the “You Didn’t Make That” meme, 1+1=Whatever We Say It Equals. Therefore, Sheridan’s rhetorical question turned into a threat of rape. Stranahan immediately rent his tunic and asked for donations. I called him a big baby and asked him, rather crudely, whether or not it would be a better idea to rape him. I followed that immediately with “of course nobody would do that” pointing to his suspect personal hygiene. Again, the conservative mathematics calculated that as a rape threat against Stranahan. Please send him money to protect him and his family.
Four days later, I had forgotten about this whole incident. To further needle Stranahan, I applied for his “send me money and I will teach you how to be a superstar blogger like me” class. The application was handled through his “MailChimp” application, and my e-mail was acknowledged… with his home address attached.
Being a puckish individual by nature, I pondered the idea of publishing the address immediately. But first, I wanted to see if it was available elsewhere online so I couldn’t be accused of revealing a secret location. A Google of “Stranahan” and “Dallas” came back with a wealth of hits, many of which published his address and phone number. Some of these websites were placed online by Stranahan himself. I decided that if Stranahan had no problem putting his own address on line, he would have no problem if I did so.
I threw together a little movie with images I found on a Zillow.com website for the address, showing the exterior and interior of the house. These were all publicly available. I did not put them online. I just made fun of them.
Moments after my video went online, I tweeted — as I always do — when I post a blog post… the title of the post. “Let’s visit the Stranahan’s at Home.” Stranahan saw the tweet and mentally added the words “and rape his wife and kids” to the title.
He called the Dallas Police Department, using their emergency 911 number and reported that I had just made an online threat to rape his wife and kids. Dallas contacted the Howard County, Maryland police. And soon thereafter there was a knock at my door.
I was being “Swatted.”
The policeman explained that he had a report from Dallas that someone from this address had just “transmitted a threat to rape a woman and her children.” I invited him into the house, showed him my Twitter stream, showed him my blog, explained to him that Stranahan was part of a right wing cabal that pretends victim-hood as a fund-raising technique. “How did he get rape out of what you wrote,” the officer asked. “He lied,” I told him. The officer finished his report, apologized for bothering us and left.
This was Sept. 1. Four days after the episode where I defended Sheridan’s rhetorical question.
The next day, I blogged about the experience. Once again, the conservative National Bloggers Club cabal applied their math and the story became I admittedly threatened Stranahan and his family by publishing his address. I thought I effectively debunked that meme with a post on my blog. But when conservatives don’t want a meme debunked (again, see “You Didn’t Build That”), it doesn’t get debunked. They just scream it louder and louder.
Today, Sept. 6, Stranahan announced that due to the threats against his family he has to flee his home. He asked his readers to donate to assist the move. Aaron (Walker) Worthing retransmitted the “horrible threats” I had made against Stranahan with selected snippets of what I had written, taken out of context. I protested the fact that Walker Worthing Whatever stated as a matter of fact that I had threatened Stranahan’s family with rape and demanded he remove it or face libel charges.
Not only did he not remove it, but the story is now a featured story on Michelle Malkin’s Twitchy blog. The same Michelle Malkin who volunteers as a member of the board of directors of the National Bloggers Club.
And we’ve come full circle.
What am I going to do? I’ll tell you what I want to do. I want to file charges against Stranahan for filing false police reports in Dallas and Howard County, Maryland. I want to sue Walker Worthing Whatever for stating as a fact that I threatened Stranahan’s family. And I want to do the same thing to Michelle Malkin and her whole Twitchy Team for printing a story that libels me without even giving me the courtesy of a tweet to ask me if any of it was true.
So, what happened?
The well connected, well-heeled, pretend conservative money machine of Ali Akbar, Michelle Malkin, Aaron Walker, Lee Stranahan, R. Stacy McCain, Mandy Nagy (who blogs as The Liberty Chick) and all the remnants of the once mighty Andrew Breitbart empire saw this fat, unsteady, shaky, slow-moving, stuttering old fool menacing the flow of finances from stupid people who fork over their dough the same way as stupid people still give money to Jimmy Swaggart.
What WILL I do?