For a week, Republican grassroots activist Beth Merkleson has been on a tirade against Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.
Fuming at allegations that Cagle was colluding with Democrats to recoup his power that Senate Republicans stripped from him last November, Merkleson dubbed her near-daily e-mails the “Georgia Senate Informer.”
The 55-year-old self-proclaimed computer novice railed against senators who allied with Cagle, and even asked the chairman of the Habersham County GOP to drum up a primary opponent for state Sen. Jim Butterworth, R-Cornelia. Merkleson passed on resolutions of support for the anti-Cagle position, to be adopted by district GOP conventions over the weekend.
Unfortunately, Ms. Merkleson is not in Georgia today:
”[M]y mother is having surgery in Dayton later today. After driving spending a few days last week with my daughter, we both flow to Ohio yesterday. If all goes well I hope to be back once we get her home, possibly in time for Thursday. As you pray for the Senate and for healing there today please add my mother to your prayer list. Patricia is 79 and this is her third surgery this year. She is a wonderful mother who still lives at home with my brother Ed about 30 miles from Dayton.”
Then again, it’s very possible that Merkleson never existed. Or that she wears pants and bears a striking resemblance to Senate Majority Whip Cecil Staton, R-Macon.
Members of the Senate Republican Caucus today were handed a 10-page report compiled by Arch Adams of Hartwell, an Internet and political junkie, who says Merkleson and Staton shared the same computer IP address on Saturday, 19 minutes apart.
Staton denies that he is behind the Merkleson notes. “He is not Beth Merkleson,” said a Senate aide who, only later, requested that his name not be used. “He has seen some of her e-mails – some of them he has forwarded on. As far as he knows, that’s the only connection he has to her.”
The aide said an Internet technology expert is looking into the matter for Staton.
What happened was something of a sting. Adams, who sells trampolines and other outdoor fare online, sent an e-mail to Merkleson last Friday, four days after she started publishing her notes. “I just fool with the Internet and I like politics,” Adams said.
He used an alias, “T Smith,” to send a note to Merkleson. The note came back signed, “Cecil Staton.” So there’s one clue.
“In parallel with [that] communication, on Friday afternoon we established communication with Merkleson using the alias Sharon Kingston (SKingston373@gmail.com). Again, Sharon Kingston expressed support for Merkleson’s position. We wanted to build enough trust to reduce Merkleson’s suspicion when we eventually fed her the bait website link.”
Yes, a bait website link, called www.grassrootsfrenzy.com.
On Saturday, Merkleson – the only outsider with the web address – clicked on it.
Then Adams sent an e-mail to Staton’s private address, with this message:
”I’m giving you the courtesy of a heads up. 2012 will be exciting: www.DumpCecil.com”
Within 19 minutes, Staton clicked on it with his BlackBerry. The two websites indicated that both he and Merkleson shared the same IP address.
Which means Merkleson and Staton could have been at the same Starbuck outlet, using the same wireless. Or that they are the same person. “If I were him, I’d be presenting Beth Merkleson,” Adams said.
According to data from the sectary of state’s office, there is no Beth or Elizabeth Merkleson registered to vote in Georgia. With or without a mother in Dayton. Nexus can find no evidence that such a person exists, here or in Ohio.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider