Laura Wilkerson

Laura Wilkerson
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Salon.com
MAY 26, 2011 4:30PM

Patrick McHenry's Glass Houses

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            Yesterday I read a comment attached to a story on Salon about Congressman Patrick McHenry calling Elizabeth Warren a liar that plucked the strands of memory like a Harpo Marx solo. The comment mentioned that Representative McHenry had once been peripherally linked to a double murder and suicide. A search back in time uncovered a story that seems worth repeating. When it happened it garnered some attention in a few blogs and some restrained coverage in the Florida press but it never seemed to pierce the National consciousness.

            In 1999 Jason Drake had his first brush with fame. Serving as a squad leader in the 24 Marine Expeditionary Unit stationed in Kosovo; Corporal Drake was playing peek-a-boo with two young girls when one reached out and rubbed his stubbly, shaven, head. The moment was captured by a photographer and the resulting picture ran on the cover of Newsweek and the New York Times and in newspapers across the United States.            

            Drake  hit the headlines again in August, 2007 when it was determined that he had murdered Republican dirty trickster Rafael “Ralph” Gonzalez,36, and friend David Abrami, 36, in Gonzalez’s Union Park, Florida home before turning the gun on himself.            

            Ralph Gonzalez had served as the executive director of the Georgia Republican Party at a time when Ralph Reed was that Chair of that organization as well as the executive director of the Christian Coalition. In his role as executive director, Gonzalez helped orchestrate the smear campaign against Vietnam Veteran Max Cleland that contributed to his defeat at the hands of Saxby Chambliss. Gonzales worked as campaign chair for Tom Feeney, Jeb Bush’s running mate in his first, unsuccessful, run for Florida’s governorship, when Feeney was running for Speaker of the Florida House. Feeney was later accused of ordering a prototype of a system to hack electronic votes while working for a Chinese company whose Quality Control Manager, Hai Lin Nee, was let off with a suspiciously soft slap on the wrist for selling protected electronic components of a radio-frequency guidance system to the People’s Republic of China, a scandal connected to the purported suicide of an investigator linked to that case. Gonzalez, who reportedly did not hide his homosexuality from those who knew him, was also president of the Strategum Group, a political consulting firm that was paid $3,144.06 by the Alabama Republican Legislative Committee to produce a anti-gay pamphlet that depicted two men sitting on a porch swing holding hands with the caption, “God Created Adam and Eve; Not Adam and Steve.”              

          David Abrami kept a lower profile. An attorney, Mr. Abrami was described as a “long-term” friend of Gonzales’s. The two lived together and vacationed together, once taking a trip to Amsterdam, although Abrami was reported to have a girlfriend. Abrami was a former business partner of convicted criminal and Fox Radio host, Doug Guetzloe. Guetzloe also acted as attorney for Tom Feeney. Abrami did have one additional moment of infamy in 1992 when as the 22-year-old Vice President of the Central Florida Young Republican Club he garnered attention from the Secret service after holding a fundraiser at the University of Central Florida where participants were charged two-dollars to fire a shotgun at enlarged photographs of President Bill Clinton in what he dubbed a “Turkey Shoot.”

            Patrick McHenry started his political career as a protégé of Karl Rove as the National Coalition Director for George W. Bush’s 2000 Presidential campaign and later briefly worked for Secretary of Labor Elaine Chou, wife of house minority whip Mitch McConnell. It is reported that Jason Drake worked as a campaign volunteer for Patrick McHenry while Drake was stationed in North Carolina. After initial denials, McHenry’s staff confirmed that they knew Drake though they would not comment of the nature of McHenry’s relationship with the man though it has been reported that it was both, “intimate and business/political.”

            Drake, who had lived in Florida since he was eleven, was buried in Rutherford County, North Carolina, McHenry’s home district, alongside other relatives.

            Patrick McHenry gained further scrutiny when a campaign staffer, Michael Aaron Lay, who was staying with McHenry but whose legal residence was Tennessee, was convicted of voter fraud for using McHenry’s address in order to illegally vote for McHenry. It turned out that at least two other men had in the past registered to vote using McHenry’s address as their own including McHenry’s former Chief of Staff, Jason Deans, a man with his own checkered criminal past. McHenry used $20,000 of money from the More Conservatives Pac to pay Lay’s legal expenses. Lay ultimately took a deferred prosecution deal where the charges would be expunged if Lay paid his fines and did 100 hours of community service.

            Fraudulent voting again reared its head when it was reported that McHenry had claimed a Homestead Deduction for a house he had purchased on Washington, D.C.’s D Street with Scott G. Steward. Both men swore that the D.C. home was their primary address but McHenry continued to vote in North Carolina. The pair received a $60,000 tax credit under the Homestead Deduction. Scott Steward may be remembered for his tenure as President of the College Republicans National Committee where he was accused of sexually harassing women, using CRNC funds to cover personal expenses, and of using misleading mailing to bilk elderly people out of money. A law firm hired by the Republican National Committee found that Scott’s actions did not rise to the legal definition of sexual harassment but that his behavior was, “unprofessional and inappropriate for a work setting.” 

            In June, 2010, Patrick McHenry married economist Giulia Cangiana after the couple had reportedly been dating for seven months.

            The murders of Gonzalez and Abrami were first believed to be “a lover’s quarrel,” as reported by police at the scene. However, that term was later scrubbed from news reports and in a final disposition of the case police refused to release a timeline of events or speculate on a motive in the case.

            “What prompted him to go in and commit that crime remains undetermined and may never be known,” stated a complacent Joe Picanzo, a Commander with the Orange County Sheriff’s department, “We have so many different and conflicting statements from people.”

            At the time of the murders rumors swirled that there was a link to that crime and another murder in Virginia involving homosexual pornography and a male escort service employing ex-marines. Those rumors were never substantiated though with Karl Rove in the mix images of Jeff Gannon and his extraordinary, and still unexplained, access to the White House leap to mind.

            “All three associated socially and professionally to some degree,” confirmed Officer Picanzo back in 2007, as he picked up a broom to sweep all of this back into the closet.

 

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