Special to The BRAD BLOG by Guest Blogger Stephen Heller
Hi, my name is Steve Heller. Some have referred to me as the "Diebold Whistleblower." For those unfamiliar with my case, you can find a good summation here. You can read articles about the resolution of the case https://bradblog.com/?p=3826\">here, here and here.
Brad has been kind enough to allow me this chance to thank you, the progressive community, for all the help and support you gave my wife and me during this very difficult time. We could hardly believe the incredible amount of emotional sustenance and encouragement, as well as all the financial donations to my defense fund, that we received.
We heard from people from all parts of the United States (including Guam and Puerto Rico), and from many parts of the world; the United Kingdom, Japan, Holland, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Brazil, New Zealand, and quite a handful from Canada. Of particular pride to us were the handful of notes and even donations from U.S. military personnel; those really meant a lot to us. We know that soldiers don't make any money, and for some of them to kick in a few bucks for my defense fund really touched me. They're being asked to give so much, and here they were trying to help me and my wife. Truly, we were astounded at the support we received, and I cannot begin to thank all of you enough. Thank you so very, very much. A thousand, million times over, I thank you, and my wife thanks you.
I can't find the words to express our appreciation and thanks to all who donated to the defense fund. In mostly small amounts, the donations added up to enough to cover all the legal expenses we incurred after the fund was established, and that was an astounding thing. Such an outpouring from the world wide progressive community was humbling. I don't know if I would have been as generous to someone in my situation as people were to me, and for me that's a lesson learned.
In many ways, the smaller donations meant more to us than the larger ones. I'll never forget getting a card with a crumpled $5 bill inside and a note written in the quavery handwriting of an elderly person. The note said "I'm sorry this donation is so small, but my monthly check will only go so far. Good luck and God bless you." I can't even begin to describe how much that note, and so many notes and emails like it, whether accompanied by a donation or not, meant to me and my wife. Everyone who contacted us received a reply, either by email or letter, but please allow me to thank you all yet again.
At the risk of embarrassing some people, I want to mention a few names of those who really were exceptionally kind and generous with their time and in many cases even with their hard-earned money…
Bev Harris, the person to whom I gave the documents, was very helpful in aiding my lawyer with my legal defense, and her organization, Black Box Voting, donated $10,000 to my defense fund immediately after my wife opened the fund. That "seed money," so to speak, allowed me to continue my legal defense at a very critical time. Bev also sent out information about my case to her contact list, which generated thousands more in defense fund donations.
Our very own Brad Friedman, in my view the greatest citizen journalist working in America today, wrote a fabulous article about me and my case [PDF] for the November 2006 issue of Hustler Magazine. He also posted a number of items about or related to my case, and I'm very grateful for his time and hard work.
Lyn Davis Lear, a progressive writer and activist, wrote a post about my case for Huffington Post. Ms. Lear also arranged very generous donations to my defense fund. Bob Harris posted a very nice piece about my case, as did Nick Farrell, and Mark Crispin Miller did a lot to spread the word. Joan Brunwasser of OpEdNews.com was very helpful in spreading the word and publicizing the defense fund website.
My very good friend Peter Soby, Jr. posted detailed and revealing posts about my case on DailyKos and on Huffington Post, and he helped me in many other ways. Peter is and will always be my dear and close friend. Robert C. Koehler, a columnist for Tribune Media Services, wrote a great column about my case. Steven Hill mentioned my case in a column he wrote about election security.
Cindy Cohen of the Electronic Frontier Foundation was invaluable, giving the press supportive quotes and perspectives about my case. Earl Katz and Marge Tabankin gave me vital advice and information about setting up a defense fund, rustled up donations, and were the first to let my wife and I know we were not alone in our fight. Rob Bundy, Head Writer and Editor of Lemon Magazine, arranged an article about my case for Lemon Issue II. Meria Heller (no relation to me), a progressive broadcaster, writer and commentator, sent out information about my case and had me as a guest on her internet radio show.
Paul Stroili and his beautiful wife Monica, along with Charles Johanson and Kevin Cochran of Grove Theater Center, and Hyra Goldberg and David George of George and Goldberg Design, gave the proceeds of a performance of Paul's hit show Straight Up With a Twist to my defense fund. My friend Kevin Kearns, a great actor and great guy, held a benefit for my defense fund, and appearing gratis at that benefit were five of L.A.'s best standup comics: Vargus Mason, Andi Matheny, Jodi Miller, Brett Sheridan, and Brad Stewart. They actually made being under felony indictment funny! Our dear friend, the gorgeous Josette DiCarlo, worked very hard to arrange a silent auction for the defense fund, and many friends and even some strangers donated a lot of great items for the auction, which boosted the defense fund considerably; thank you, Josette. My lovely and charming friend Cat O'Connor did so much to spread the word near and far about what was happening, as did many other people from around the world. And thousands of people wrote, called and emailed the Los Angeles District Attorney's office with a message on my behalf - don't prosecute whistleblowers!
I'm sure I'm leaving out some people who deserve mention. I could go on and on listing those who stepped up to help us. I cannot possibly find the words to express our appreciation and thanks.
And lastly, I want to take a moment and write about how important our progressive community is, and how valuable we all are to each other. Whether you're a whistleblower under felony indictment, a soldier sent off to an unnecessary war, a parent who's seeing your family's finances and your kids' future threatened by an economy that now rewards investment instead of work, a person watching the air and water get dirtier rather than cleaner, a person out of work, a scientist whose research has been censored by the government, a person without health insurance, someone who hates to see our rights and liberties being eroded in the name of freedom and security, a citizen who's sick and tired of watching the government manipulate us through fear and xenophobia… no matter who you are or where you live, we progressives need to stick together. One of the things my case has shown me more powerfully than I could ever have imagined is that we must stand strong, and we're strongest when we stand together. Of course that doesn't mean we all have to agree and march in lock step on every issue; then we'd be Republicans! But in a general sense, I believe we need to stick together. Together, we can pry our nation out of the clutches of the private corporations and their lackey politicians that now rule our lives. Together, we can help and protect those who stand up for what's right and end up getting hammered by "the Man" for it. Together, we can usher in a new era of reform and progressive values that will lead to a better world for us all. My case was just one very small example of that. So once again, my wife and I thank you, and we urge you all to remember to stand with your fellow progressives just as often and as strongly as you can. Together, we can turn this nation around and get us headed back in the right direction.
In fact, there isn't much we CAN'T do if we work together.