NCGOP Releases Results of Preliminary Investigation, Sworn Statements From Planned Website Attack & Other Gross Violations of Party Rules
NCGOP general counsel releasing information after Chairman's request.
Raleigh, N.C. The North Carolina Republican Party (NCGOP) today released new details on a planned website attack that would have resulted in NCGOP party funds being diverted into non-Party accounts controlled by Chairman Harnett. These results include sworn testimony implicating the elected volunteer Chairman of the State Republican Party.
The Party commended and thanked the eastern North Carolina computer professional who blew the whistle on apparent unethical and potentially illegal behavior by NCGOP Chairman Hasan Harnett.
According to sworn statements, multiple interviews, text messages and phone records obtained by the NCGOP, Mr. Harnett took initial steps to damage and crash the NCGOP's 2016 State Convention website and replace it with a new website.
Additionally, the sworn testimony indicated the new website would have altered convention prices set by the Central Committee to prices the Chairman wanted. The most concerning revelation from the sworn testimony showed the new website would have collected funds outside of the Party's controls. The scheme, if fully implemented, would violate a wide range of state, federal and elections laws.
Dr. Ken Robol of Greenville, North Carolina contacted a fellow Republican asking for assistance in making contact with the NCGOP, after Robol's offer to help access the administrative functions of NCGOP websites turned into a request for illegal conduct by Mr. Harnett. Sworn testimony from Dr. Robol indicates Mr. Harnett asked and encouraged Robol to sabotage the party's 2016 convention website and replace it with a new website with an alternative and unapproved fundraising system.
To be clear, our evidence indicates Dr. Robol was the first to make contact with Mr. Harnett. He did make an offer to help access the administrative functions of the website because he believed the Party and the Chairman had a technical problem that needed to be resolved.
Our evidence indicates it was Mr. Harnett that turned the conversation from "accessing" the website to using "brute force" to crash it. The evidence also indicates Harnett asked Dr. Robol to create a separate website with alternative fundraising mechanisms.
We also know from phone and text records that the Chairman aggressively continued to contact Dr. Robol, which is believed to be in an effort to advance these problematic actions. There is no evidence in the messages that Mr. Harnett thought better of the scheme and tried to call it off.
It should be noted, that if Mr. Harnett believed Dr. Robol was up to something he should not have been, he had a duty to warn Party staff and officers, something he did not do.
The investigation also revealed that Mr. Harnett's official Party e-mail address, email@example.com, had been used to create an alternative "EVENTBRITE" account/page. EVENTBRITE is the system the Party uses to sell tickets to its convention and other events. The steps taken to set up the new EVENTBRITE account were made several weeks before the convention price issue arose. This is one of the reasons the Central Committee ordered the closure of this email account.
"Dr. Robol contacted other members of the Party because he was made extremely uncomfortable by the Chairman's request. He was aware that if he did nothing, others might be contacted who did not share his scruples. Dr. Robol was very courageous in coming forward," said Thomas A. Stark, General Counsel of the North Carolina Republican Party
On March 8, 2016, Dr. Robol reached out to Chairman Harnett about accessing the administrative functions of the Party website. Dr. Robol read conversations on social media claiming Chairman Harnett had been wrongfully locked out of the Party's website. At the time, Dr. Robol believed he would be helping the Party by restoring the control of its website to the authorized person. In Facebook messages, Dr. Robol used the term "hack" to describe accessing the administrative functions of the website. Testimony from Dr. Robol makes clear he used the term "hack" to refer to regaining access to the administrative functions of the website.
Sections 9-14 of Dr. Kenneth Robol's Affidavit:
9. Mr. Harnett requested that I look at the security of the website; I informed him that I had done so. I advised him that the website was set up on Go-Daddy.com. I told him there were three ways to get in.
10. The first was through the password, which we did not have access to.
11. The second, was through the File Manager. My SQL open source database. I told Mr. Harnett that if he could get the Accounting Manager on the phone to designate me as authorized to deal with the website, I could get in and restore access. Mr. Harnett then told me that "Accounting is against me." I then suggested we call the Executive Director. Mr. Harnett also said no because the Executive Director was also against him.
12. The third method possible that I told him about was a brute force attack. I told Mr. Harnett that, while I had never done one personally, this could crash or damage the website. It would destabilize the site and likely crash it.
13. Mr. Harnett then told me that he preferred to do a brute force attack. He then turned the conversation to his campaign promise that he would lower the $90.00 fee and asked me to help him set up an alternative website. The purpose of this website would be to sell tickets to the North Carolina State Party Convention directly from that website for $45.00, raise the money from the sale of these tickets, and then go back to the Party.
14. At this point I told him to let me know what he wanted me to do, and the conversation concluded.
"Despite insinuations otherwise, Dr. Robol called Chairman Harnett entirely on his own accord. He was responding in good faith to statements made by Chairman Harnett and his supporters," said Mr. Stark. "It was entirely Chairman Harnett's own initiative to ask Dr. Robol to crash the Party website and set up a competing website to divert funds away from the Party. Further, it was entirely Chairman Harnett's own initiative to place follow up phone calls and text messages to Dr. Robol, including while the sworn statement was being obtained."
Dr. Robol's sworn statement concluded:
"I am concerned that if I do not assist Mr. Harnett in breaching the North Carolina Republican Party website, and setting up an alternative website, he will find another IT professional to do so."
--- NCGOP general counsel is releasing this information after the Chairman's request.
I don’t mean to be piling on here, but in the not so distant past, Robol regularly used Beaufort County Community College Students, or the promise of such, to take work away from more competent vendors such as my practiced, and very professional digital zeitgeist – Symbiotic Networks, Inc.
Most people don’t understand the internet, including, obviously, those like the NC GOP, so someone like Robol, with some credentials, impresses these folks of uninspired vision – those who are perfect fodder for the whole Facebook thing as if there is nothing else to widely reach the public.
Rather than compete with Robol, and others of similar talent, or lack there of, we have honed our R & D for years to the point that "Dr." Ken Robol, and others like him, represent the ineptitude of the hapless minors, while we are definitely “the pros from Dover” … at least here in all of eastern North Carolina ... and this is an inarguable point.
Professionally, I won’t be tolerating hacks like Robol any longer, especially if I find them on the state’s payroll, and employing the "wide eyed" good will of naive young students as participants in a “training project for students.”
In this medium, where everyone can see almost everything, you cannot run from your poor workmanship.
More than anything, I, moreover, feel sorry for the students that have been duped and used, and definitely abused here.