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A Candidate & Her Supporter--One and the Same?

Now that the D.C. Council has approved Mayor Adrian Fenty's takeover of the school system, the D.C. school board is about to be transformed into a toothless relic, a body so utterly powerless that one of its members has already resigned.

But next Tuesday, many Washington voters--well, maybe not so many--will go to the polls to select a new school board member in a special election to replace Victor Reinoso, who has left the board to become Fenty's deputy mayor for education.

One of the candidates for that school board seat representing Wards 3 and 4 now stands accused of being so hard up for supporters that she invented one. In an impressive bit of listserv sleuthing, the moderator of the Crestwood neighborhood e-bulletin board and a listserv called DC Urban Moms and Dads, Jeff Steele, has found evidence indicating that school board candidate Mai Abdul Rahman has been posting pro-Abdul Rahman comments, criticizing her opponents and signing the various posts as "Kindell Howard."

Steele found that Howard's posts were coming from the same computer address as Abdul Rahman's. Computer geeks tell me this is generally good evidence that the two sets of messages are coming from the same machine. For a primer on IP address spoofing, check this piece.

Confronted with this oddity, Abdul Rahman told Steele that she couldn't explain why Howard's comments might show up as coming from her computer. She described Howard as someone whose kids she had helped with their work seven years ago, but she said she was not in contact with him anymore.

Steele remained skeptical of the candidate's explanation, but tried to take her at her word. He wrote:

In our conversation, Abdul Rahman showed every sign of sincerity and a willingness to explain any misunderstandings. However, despite both our best efforts, we were unable to find any explanation for why she and Howard would repeatedly post messages originating from the same ip address.

I called Abdul Rahman and got a somewhat different version of the story. She told me that since she had spoken to Steele, she had become less certain about having met Kindell Howard. "I remember a Howard, I don't know now if it was Kindell. Frankly, I have no idea. I've done a lot of community work, giving out scholarships, and I thought maybe he was someone I knew that way."

The candidate says she did not send any email messages under a different name and would not sanction any supporter attacking her opponents under any name, real or fake. "All I do is present myself as a credible human being," Abdul Rahman told me. "I can't explain this. We have four computers in the house. I have no idea how to manipulate addresses. The people I know and love and trust feel really bad that these things are being said and I'm just really sorry that anyone who supports me would make allegations against another candidate." She singled out Martin Levine, one of the leading candidates in the race, as someone who was criticized in the Howard emails, but whom she believes has great integrity. Levine, she said, is a friend, "and is someone I would never want to see hurt by false allegations."

"I'm not going to be able to convince you or anyone that I have nothing to do with this," Abdul Rahman said. "I can't apologize for something I didn't do. I only wish I had sent an email distancing myself from the comments that were made."

I hunted around a bit for the mysterious campaign supporter. There is no Kindell Howard listed in the voter registration rolls in the District. No such person in D.C. property records. No such person in a number of databases of Washington residents. Nationwide databases produce only one person with that name, and that person lives in the Midwest.

Steele said his suspicions grew when he saw that Kindell Howard had created his Yahoo identity only a day before he started posting pro-Abdul Rahman messages on several local electronic message lists.

He found it surpassingly odd that Howard's messages talked about having been away from the listserv for a while, while Steele knew from registration records that Howard had just signed up to be a member of the site the day before writing that message.

Abdul Rahman still believes she has a "good shot" at winning Tuesday, but admits that the flap about the elusive Kindell Howard "has hurt my chances and has hurt me in my heart."

She said that despite the reduced role of the school board, she still believe that a panel that is "leaner in terms of responsibility could maybe be more effective. We can actually chart a successful path for our kids."


By Marc Fisher |  April 25, 2007; 7:55 AM ET
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Comments

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I must disagree. The school board will not be "transformed into a toothless relic," and "powerless." The board will be closer to its original purpose -- governance, policy -- and will be prevented from interfering in the day-to-day administration and operation of the District's schools. If this makes the school board less attractive to entry-level politicos and more suited to those with a sincere, informed interest in the education of the District's children, so much the better.

Posted by: Mike Licht | April 25, 2007 8:31 AM

While you can spoof the originating IP address, you can't spoof the route the message took, IIRC, so it should be pretty obvious. Also, if I were investigating this story (hint hint), I'd check to see when the messages were sent, and see if any of them coincide with Abdul Rahman's public appearances. If they all follow or precede, but never exactly overlap, Abdul Rahman's postings, that's pretty damning supporting evidence.

Of course, it could be someone else in the household (with 4 computers, that's not a bad bet), or even someone tapping into their WiFi signal if they have an open access point. But Occam's Razor says it's Abdul Rahman.

Posted by: The Cosmic Avenger | April 25, 2007 9:29 AM

I saw this and thought it was about the erstwhile Jonathan Rees.

Why is it that despite thousands of listserv posts and other incriminating evidence of aliases (council members, and MPD officers to name a few) and similar allegations on blogs of multiple alias postings, no one from the Washington Post is willing to take on this sick-o, yet Mr. Fisher (rightfully) is happy to expose this candidate?

How about some equal treatment, particularly given the sick and twisted danger that Mr. Rees may present to the public?

Posted by: Ward 3 Voter | April 25, 2007 10:30 AM

I call sockpuppet!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 11:11 AM

Welcome to the world of technology! I know that Mai Abdul Rahman is a person of intergrity. She has the interest of our children, first and foremost. She is the best qualified candidate. I will vote for her and I urge others to do so too.

Posted by: Joseph O. | April 25, 2007 12:34 PM

Posted by: Ward 3 Resident | April 25, 2007 12:47 PM

A while ago, Rees was accused of what he is suggested as doing. Rees was then banned from posting in several places. All of a sudden, Gary Imhoff of DC Watch together with Luke W of DC Pages discovered that the IP address doing this madness in fact did not belong to Rees but to Joe Sternlieb who is the husband of DC Attorney General Linda Singer. Gary Imhoff wrote that he and others were a victim of a sock puppet.

Admittedly, Rees is no stranger to opposing gay rights but I once attended a lunch in upper NW DC where Rees and about 50 other people of ward 3 were involved and who also opposed gay rights.

I think Rees' outspoken opposition to gay rights has made him a target of ill will gay activists who will accuse him of anything they can get aways with and even stuff they do.

Posted by: Leo Alexander | April 25, 2007 2:03 PM

Nobody knew who Rees was a year ago but you whiners gave him celebrity status each time you attacked him rather than be smart and kept silent.

Sadly, I think about 65% of the people of DC agree with Rees but will not be so vocal about it on matters of gay rights, voting rights and the inherent dishonesty of our city fathers.

As for that blog, a ward 3 resident cites, I recall that same name "A Ward 3 Resident" being used on almost every message board attacking Rees last year.

A ward 3 resident obviously, Joe Sternlieb who was identified as using that alias needs to get over Rees and get a life as these attacks when and where he can lodge them are getting old.

As for Rahman, anything is possible as I think all candidates do a little of self-promoting.

If Fenty is going to get control of the schools then why waste time voting for someone who will not have much to say?

Posted by: Ron Silver | April 25, 2007 2:16 PM

So is this a case of a "Support Stocking Puppet"?

Marc, I understand your issue is the fictional supporter. I cannot help noticing that Mai Abdul Rahman claims to have been a DC teacher but neglects to say when or where. Surely that should be worthy of comment.

As is the display of the DCPS seal on her web site. Is this a permitted use? It stikes me as a bit presumptuous and premature. I understand there is going to be an election.

Posted by: Mike Licht | April 25, 2007 2:38 PM

How do we know that "Joseph O." isn't the real Kindell Howard? Quick Marc, get on that, right away.

Posted by: Huh? | April 25, 2007 3:24 PM

Ward 3 Voter - I am only a threat to DC Voting Rights and to sissies.

Otherwise, I am a big pussycat!

Posted by: Jonathan Rees | April 25, 2007 6:11 PM

After reading this blog, in addition to Jeff Steele's article on www.ward4specialelection.org, and Ms. Rahman's website. I have the following observations: (1) These types of antics are not worthy of a Jr. High School election, let alone a potential DC Board of Education representative. (2) In re: to Mark Licht's post, using the DCPS seal on her website is improper at the least. (3) The campaign contribution limit posted on Ms. Rahman's website is incorrect, the max contribution is $300, not $500. To transform our education system, we should expect better from our candidates.

Posted by: I Call DC HOME | April 26, 2007 6:56 AM

Please don't pollute these board with comments re rees. BTW, Imhoff never connected Sternlieb with Rees' IP address. The moderator should remove these slanderous posts.

Posted by: NW | April 26, 2007 10:25 AM

If my memory serves me well, the IP address associated with the allege fouls committed by Rees were in fact linked to the IP address belonging to Joe Sternlieb with Comcast.Net.

NW apparently is ignorant of what was discovered.

Posted by: Leo Alexander | April 26, 2007 10:33 AM

I love the multiple Rees postings with the oh-so-obvious fake names. I like Rees' postings on theMail. They provide great entertainment and they shoot down the credibility of Dorothy and Gary. Keep on Posting Jonathan/Leo/Ron! You provide us with free delusional entertainment each day. Of course, at some point you will run afoul of libel laws and have a bit of a problem. But until then, stay off the meds and stay on the Internets.

Posted by: Potomac Fever | April 26, 2007 12:27 PM

Dear Raw Fisher Bloggers,

Can we all just get along --- and stay focused on the bigger picture. This is the wrong time to fall for the divide and conquer game being played against diverse District citizens. The more we waste time, intellect, action and energy on unsubstantiated side issues, the more we will lose during the District's special interests power grab currently in progress.

Beyond Mr. Rahman and the other DC school board candidates is the bigger matter of genuine accountability, effective governance, measurable results, and real respect for District citizen rights. If we don't break from all the sniping and hyping, we may look up and find ourselves in a city-state where special interests --- and the public officials we elect, hire and pay --- have drained our last few drops of true citizen control.

As council members Phil Mendelson (Democrat) and Carol Schwartz (Republican) indicated recently, if the school board had nearly the effective control, staff, and resources that the DC council (or mayor Fenty) has over public education we would have seen better results. You can't expect major results in a big city from a logistically small bureaucracy. Can two public servants from different political spectrums both be wrong?

I am definitely not a proponent (or appeaser) of past or current District government incompetence and ineffectiveness. Nevertheless, the DCICC's thorough and honest assessment of the DC Board of Education's true power before and now reveals a small bureaucracy forced to function on one leg with one hand behind its back. Unfortunately, this handicap was sometimes worsened by administrative incompetence.

None of us, especially me, wants the continuation of status quo governance or systemic DC government incompetence. But, I'm sure no one favors a loss or removal of genuine oversight, electoral power and control by DC citizens through centralized or concentrated power in one person. That's the difference between democracy and autocracy.

Most Sincerely & Respectfully,
Dennis Moore, Chairperson
District of Columbia Independents for Citizen Control (DCICC)

dennis@dcindependents.org, dcindependents@gmail.com
http://www.DCindependents.org

http://www.DCIndependents.org/#CitizenControlOfDCSchools

Posted by: Dennis Moore | April 26, 2007 2:00 PM

Potomac Fever,

I think the other people posting might in fact be real people.

I guess your name is probably indicative of the fever you experience often due to your HIV infection you contracted from all the butt banging you received!

Posted by: Jonathan Rees | April 26, 2007 10:43 PM

Leo Alexander, "if memory serves" sounds great, but how about some facts (or a URL at least). A search reveals nothing on Imhoff's site that would resemble the finding that you suggest is true.

Or, perhaps you're Mr. Rees and continuing to slam our AG's hustband without any proof.

Posted by: NW | April 27, 2007 1:41 PM

Mr. Imhoff stated that he was the victim of a socket puppet after it was believed that Rees was posting craziness.

Mr. Imhoff asked a few of his regulars to send him an email so he could see our IP address.

Only Joe Sternlieb refused to do such after Rees asserted that the IP address belonging to Sternlieb at Comcast was the same as the one for several alaises: E.G. Joe DeLuth, Joe Kerr and others.

Mr. Imhoff says that he wrote to Sternlieb for an explanation but Sternlieb ignored it.

We all became knowledgeable of this fact by crossing emails with Imhoff.

Posted by: Leo Alexander | April 27, 2007 2:10 PM

It is my understanding that Rees lodged a complaint against Sternlieb and his wife with the DC Office of Campaign Finance and the DC Inspector General Four of the former ward 3 candidates in fact supported his claim of events. These matters are still pending as to a final disposition.

Sternlieb and his wife were clearly bashing most of the ward 3 candidates from what could be seen and especially by what the other former ward 3 candidates have said.

Rees has stated publicly that he has a hard on for Sternlieb because Sternlieb crossed the line.

People judge but do not know all the facts behind events.

Posted by: Leo Alexander | April 27, 2007 2:16 PM

Well "Leo Alexander" you have not been able to point to any public record of these events. Imhoff clearly never wrote about these events. You're smearing DC citizens without evidence.

You sound a heck of a lot like Jonathan Rees.

Posted by: NW | April 27, 2007 3:53 PM

"It is my understanding..." that "Four of the former Ward 3 candidates" supported Rees' "claim of events." (!)

This is obvious BS. Give me a break.

Posted by: NW | April 27, 2007 3:55 PM

It is patently clear that Leo Alexander is Jonathan Rees. Please stop feeding the troll.

Posted by: Jack | April 28, 2007 9:54 AM

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