Ever since NC millionaire Republican Svengali Art Pope decided to take out Republican Steve LaRoque the race for the NC State House 10th District has been contentious. Willie Ray Starling, supported by Pope, was the apparent Republican primary winner by 11 votes but complaints of vote suppression led to a series of legal clashes resulting in a new Republican primary set for September 12th. The winner will face Democrat Van Braxton, a Kinston City Councilor for 12 years.
Kinston is also home to Ted Sampley a serial entrepreneur, character assassin and petulant self-appointed czar of veterans affairs. Sampley, a Vietnam veteran, is notorious for denigrating the military service of John McCain, John Kerry and John Murtha. He seems to have a problem with decorated veterans named John. Sampley has also attacked Jesse Helms when Congressional inquiries didn't go his way.
Sampley has been involved with numerous enterprises over the years including: Olde Kinston Gazette, Queen Street Press, Sampley Enterprises Inc, Broken Eagle restaurant, Red Hawk, Homecoming II, Last Firebase Veterans Archive Project, Neuse River Trading Company, Neuse River Antiques & Pottery, Kinston Ironclad Shipwright Company, US Veteran Dispatch, Vietnam Veterans Against John Kerry
Early August 12th BlueNC.com became aware that an anonymous and malicious, fake Braxton site had been created by cybersquatting vanbraxton.com and using code purloined from the real Van Braxton site including a copyright notice and the name of Braxton's campaign manager as author. While visually dissimilar from the real Van Braxton site the use of stolen code tricked search engine software into positioning the fake site next to the real site in Google search results. The site features images of Braxton paste onto Soviet propaganda which were created by Ted Sampley. As an anonymous communication disparaging a candidate the fake site was also an apparent violation of NC election laws. Since BlueNC flagged the fake site the code has been altered to munge the copyright notice, an obvious indication of willful violation of copyright law.
The fake site is hosted by Rustikat Internet Services in Kinston NC. Rustikat, owned by Fred and Kathy Riggs, also hosts the site of Braxton's then assumed opponent, Republican Willie Ray Starling and a number of other political and related websites including: kinstonpress.com, perquimansgop.com, pittgop.org, 3rdncgop.com, gocausey.com and kar.rustikat.net.
More significantly Rustikat also hosts multiple sites owned by Ted Sampley including: usvetdsp.com, lastfirebase.com, kerrystreason.com, hillaryclintongear.com, impeachhanoijohn.com, godresolution.com and, Sampley related sites rollingthundermotorcyclerally.com and rtmrwdc.org. Sampley's web empire extends beyond Rustikat to include walkofhonor.com, vietnamveteransagainstjohnkerry.org, vietnamveteransagainstjohnkerry.com, cssneusii.com and americanpatriotonline.com hosted by other companies.
The fake site is similar to some of Sampley's sites. His main assault vehicle is US Veteran Dispatch which traffics in a legal no-man's-land between 501(c)3 status, commercial enterprise and political activity.
Rustikat was visited by local police inquiring about the fake site. Riggs, in an editorial in his own kinstonpress.com website mocked police for only asking about the site designer and not the owner of the site. Sampley freely admits, with the userID "shucks" in encToday.com forums, that he created the images used in the fake site but neither admits nor denies creating the site itself. Another, new, userID "jeffersonjr" claims responsibility for the fake site but may simply be an avatar for Sampley. Posts of both users are generally coy about the site. Meanwhile Riggs' indignancy is disengenous as he obviously knows more than he is willing to reveal.
Neither Starling nor LaRoque have publicly criticized the fake Van Braxton website. LaRoque pays for banner advertising on Riggs' kinstonpress.com website. Starling has not reported any expenditure for his own website hosted by Riggs. This may represent an unreported corporate contribution to Starling's campaign. Starling appears tone deaf to controversy. His website has images of him dining with Art Pope, speaking at the Pope funded Civitas Institute, attending one of Sampley's CSS Neuse II events and standing in a group with Governor George Wallace of Alabama.
Sampley decries the welfare state but is not above seeking public assistance for his enterprises. He is currently seeking the sale of public property for $1 to accommodate the CSS Neuse II project. He has arranged a $65,000 Gold Leaf Foundation grant for the project. In 2000 he arranged a $42,500 SBA Disaster loan for Sampley Enterprises Inc, the same year he stopped filing annual reports resulting in formal dissolution in 2005.
As documented elsewhere Sampley has a history of antagonism towards national political figures and is not shy about engaging in dirty tricks. (One of his stunts involved pouring oil on a DC highway ramp). Similarly, he has various beefs with local politicians including the Kinston City Council and Van Braxton in particular. Sampley obviously has the means, motive and, opportunity to create the fake site, admits to having a hand in it and, has a history of making false claims about public figures.
Whether Ted Sampley is proven to be responsible for this latest subversion of law and the democratic process remains to be seen. The constitution and amendments enumerate certain rights but it is our constant responsibility to be vigilant regarding the usurpation of those rights. The right to free speech is not abridged by an anonymous cry of "fire" in a crowded theater.