by Max Brantley
Some computer sleuths have been digging into a website set up to trash land commissioner candidate Monty Davenport. Nominally the work of interested citizens, it (and an anonymus commenter touted it here on this blog) apparently has manipulative opponent L.J. Bryant's fingerprints all over it. I've asked for his response. I've been troubled all along by Bryant's close ties to Jack Critcher and Tim Wooldridge. You want to grab your wallet and watch your back when good Christians like these are in the fray.
UPDATE: L.J. Bryant responds (HE is the victim of the fraud, he says.):
While this is clearly a distraction from my campaigning, I’m pleased to tell you that I categorically deny that I have had anything to do with the GreedyMontyDavenport website. I first became aware of the site back in April when I received by regular mail a printout of the homepage. It came to me in a plain white envelope and was hand-addressed. Out of not much more than curiosity, I sent one email (see below) to the site asking who was behind it. I received no reply and have had no contact at all with whoever remains behind the site. I do not have any knowledge whatsoever about who created the site or who runs the site, but I can honestly say that to my knowledge, it is not me or anyone that I know or have ever had contact with. All one needs to do is go to my campaign website (www.ljbryant.com) to see the extreme quality of top-line work that I generate and see the vast differences in the 2 sites. I can also say, that while the emails that appear to have come from me, they did not. However, you can be assured that I'll be trying to figure how this fraud was perpetrated and hopefully, I'll be able to expose whoever is behind it and also who they work for.
Who knows? I will say this about the argument from Bryant's people that this was a setup to help Davenport. It would be a mighty sophisticated and convoluted scam to set up a website trashing a candidate that is actually intended to HELP that candidate through double-reverse hocus pocus in the 11th hour of a runoff campaign. I'd apply Occam's razor. The website was set up by someone hoping to help Bryant and hurt Davenport. That doesn't mean Bryant was directly involved. It is easy to create bogus e-mails. And, as someone has observed, would they be so moronic as to leave such a clear trail?
UPDATE II: It's only a tiny piece of this puzzle, but Bill Simmons, political editor at the Democrat-Gazette, confirms that reporter Michael Wickline sent the questions reported to the operator of the website critical of Monty Davenport. So that portion, at least, of the e-mail chain is legitimate. Everything else remains a mystery.
UPDATE III: A further statement Wednesday from Bryant. He vows to get to the bottom of this. And more from Davenport, who condemns his opponent. The young whippersnapper should know better, Davenport says.
The following is a statement from L.J. Bryant:
"We have several talented volunteers who are continuing to learn who perpetrated the fraudulent emails in my name, erroneously linking me to the Greedy Monty Davenport website. A few important facts have been learned thus far:
1. Go Daddy.com was the firm that originally sold the Greedy Monty Davenport website
2. An online Support Representative for Go Daddy.com, stated “The issue your have described [the ability to publicly access emails from a Go Daddy website) is something that our mail servers would NOT do, as they do not deliver mail to a hosting account. Therefore, it does appear like a FAKE issue.”
3. The domain was sold to someone who works for Fidelity Information Systems, and it was registered to that company located on Rodney Parham Road in west Little Rock.
4. The person who initially brought attention to the bogus L. J. Bryant emails, used the name of Joe Mings. The ip address of Joe Mings is also registered to Fidelity Information Systems.
Again, we completely deny any involvement with the Greedy Monty Davenport website at any stage. While we still do not know who is actually the creator of that site and we still do not know who posted the fake emails, we will continue our investigative efforts---even if it means that we have to subpoena GoDaddy.com."
A number of respected local blogs revealed Tuesday e-mails between LJ Bryant and the administrator of a website set up primarily to attack Monty Davenport. The emails were archived on the website and showed numerous communications between the website’s administrator and Bryant beginning in April. The emails not only show Bryant’s participation in creating the website and drafting of its content, but also his desire to hide the fact that he was ever involved.
“I really want to win this race,” and “I just don’t want to get busted for this website. Make sure you’re careful. Maybe we should implicate Berg as masterminding this site,” said emails from email@example.com, which is the candidate’s personal email address.
The site administrator appears to be named Steve, but told reporter Mike Wickline of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette that his name was “Guy Fawkes”, an alias referring to the 16th century Englishman responsible for the Gunpowder Plot to blow up Parliament.
Once the Bryant emails were exposed, the website came down and Bryant desperately began inventing conspiracy theories denying his obvious involvement and deception.
“If these allegations are found to be true, I am very disappointed in this attempt by my opponent to deceive the public. That is what’s wrong with politics and why the public thinks that government isn’t working for them,” Davenport said today. “The only thing worse than LJ and his mystery co-conspirator getting caught at this game, is his refusal to accept responsibility for his actions. Rather, he is trying to convince us he’s being framed. I know he’s only 23, but he should still know better than that.”
Davenport concluded, “When dealing with property owners who have found themselves in the precarious position of possibly losing their homes, their family farms, or their livelihood, Arkansans need a Land Commissioner they can trust. I have run a positive campaign focused on my experience and my record, and I pledge to bring integrity and accountability to the Land Commissioner’s Office. I don’t believe in dirty tricks, and I will always be honest with the people of Arkansas.”