It’s difficult to know whether to tell this story in straight or reverse chronology, but either way, it raises eyebrows about the tactics that Iowa Democrats will deploy in 2012. Let’s take this in reverse. The story starts with an arrest yesterday in Des Moines of Zach Edwards, who works at Link Strategies as its Director of New Media, for identity theft targeting the Iowa Secretary of State, Republican Matt Schulz:
Zachary Edwards was arrested Friday and charged with identity theft.
The Iowa Department of Public Safety issued a news release saying Schultz’s office discovered the scheme on June 24, 2011 and notified authorities.
The criminal complaint says Edwards fraudulently used or attempted to use the identity of Schultz or Schultz’s brother with the intent to obtain a benefit. No other details were given.
Link Strategies is a well-connected consulting firm with a long relationship to Senator Tom Harkin. In fact, Link Strategies has a testimonial on its website from Harkin, extolling their work and giving LS credit for his success.
So what was going on in June? For that, we turn to Kevin Hall at The Iowa Republican, who tells the tale of a strange political attack aimed at Iowa’s Secretary of State at about the same time the alleged crime involving Edwards occurred:
Since his surprise victory over incumbent Michael Mauro in November 2010, Secretary of State Schultz has been a target of the Iowa Democratic Party. Interestingly, on June 24, the same day as Zach Edwards alleged crime, Under the Golden Dome, a blog connected to Iowa Democrats, launched a three-part series of articles critical of Matt Schultz. They were based on documents obtained through an open records request from “a tipster.” The blog alleged that a batch of emails from Schultz’s office “raise some serious questions about his ability to remain independent and ensure election integrity”.
Just 15 days earlier, on June 9, the Iowa Democratic Party filed an ethics complaint against Schultz, claiming the Secretary of State of used public resources to campaign against presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman. The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board dismissed the complaint on July 19.
Interestingly, Link Strategies no longer has a mention of Edwards on its website, but Glenn Reynolds found it in the Wayback Machine, along with Edwards’ bio — which includes his work as a staffer on Obama’s primary and general-election campaigns in 2007-8:
Zach Edwards got started in web-based research while based in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2006 . After a stint as a part-time political blogger and local democratic volunteer, he joined the Obama campaign in early 2007 as an intern organizing North-West Las Vegas. In September 2007, Zach joined the Obama New Media department as co-director of the Nevada New Media team and then moved on to direct New Media operations in five other primary states (New Mexico, Texas, North Carolina, and South Dakota).
During the 2008 General Election, Zach was the Iowa Director of New Media. In this capacity, he worked closely with communications, research and field operations to provide cutting-edge organizing tools and new media-based opposition research; which was emulated in battleground states across the country. After the election, Zach began working at Link Strategies as the Director of New Media, where he provides innovative web-based research tools, video analysis and production, and web-based communication tools to assist our clients.
Maybe if Link Strategies had consulted Edwards after he posted bail, they would have realized that scrubbing the website wouldn’t do them any good. As for “web-based communication tools,” the allegation seems to be that Edwards used those to conduct a dirty-tricks campaign against a state official while employed at Link Strategies and helping Democrats like Tom Harkin. That could certainly be considered “innovative web-based research,” but it’s also likely to be considered illegal. The questions will be (a) whether the state of Iowa can prove the alleged crimes, (b) whether Link Strategies participated in these alleged crimes, (c) what connections Edwards has to Democratic Party leadership — and (d) how many more Zach Edwards we can expect to find in Barack Obama’s campaign this time around.
Update: When I excerpted the arrest story, I inadvertently left off the explanation of who the victim was. It’s explained later, but I added it to the opening paragraph.
Update II: John Hinderaker wonders who knew what and when:
That Edwards allegedly tried to steal the Secretary of State’s identity in order to frame Schultz for ‘unethical behavior in office’ is no coincidence. Iowa Democrats, as Kevin Hall of the Iowa Republican points out, have mounted a campaign of false accusations against Schultz. . . . So on its face, Edwards’s identity theft appears to be part of a coordinated effort by the Iowa Democratic Party to bring down the Republican Secretary of State so he can be replaced with a Democrat. We hope that Edwards will get the long jail term that he deserves, but the more important question is, from whom was he taking instructions?
I think we may end up finding out, if Edwards really does face a long jail term. We’ll see.