Politics isn't about big money or power games; it's about the improvement of people's lives.
- Paul Wellstone
Our legacy should be a solid foundation for young people to build on -- a Missouri that answers their questions, encourages their ideas and fulfills their dreams.
- Mel Carnahan
Note: The official reports on the deaths of both Mel Carnahan and Paul Wellstone indicate that they died under normal circumstances due to aircraft failure. This writeup serves as a summary of some of the incongruencies and coincidences in each politician's death, and offers up some possible conclusions. This writeup in no way implicates anyone of any wrongdoing.
That being said, sit back and enjoy a fascinating tale of dirty politics, shady conspiracies, and the attempted sinking of the liberal movement in the United States.
On October 16, 2000, Missouri governor Mel Carnahan, a Democrat, was locked in a very close battle for the Senate seat in Missouri against John Ashcroft, a Republican. Just three weeks before the election, on his way to a campaign stop that evening, Mel Carnahan died in the crash of a small plane he was riding, a Cessna 335, opening the way for a Republican to take a hotly contested Senate seat. When the report on the plane was released by the National Transportation Safety Board, the report indicated that an unexplained malfunction on board the aircraft was responsible for the crash. The principal investigator was Carol Carmody.
On October 25, 2002, Minnesota senator Paul Wellstone, a Democrat, was locked in a very close battle for the Senate seat in Minnesota against Norm Coleman, a Republican. Just two weeks before the election, on his way to a campaign stop that morning, Paul Wellstone died in the crash of a small plane he was riding, a Raytheon King Air, opening the way for a Republican to take a hotly contested Senate seat. When the report on the plane was released by the National Transportation Safety Board, the report indicated that an unexplained malfunction on board the aircraft was responsible for the crash. The principal investigator was Carol Carmody.
Prior to the death of Mel Carnahan, the United States Senate consisted of 55 Republicans and 45 Democrats. In 2001, between the deaths of the two men, the Senate consisted of 50 Democrats, 49 Republicans, and one independent. As of the 2004 Senate election, the Senate consists of 55 Republicans, 44 Democrats, and one independent. In other words, during the period in which both men were murdered, the Democratic Party gained control of the Senate briefly, then lost it, returning us to almost the same party proportions of 1999.
Two major progressive voices dead in almost the same fashion with some uncomfortable circumstances, and the progressive movement stalled, leaving the conservatives in control of the Senate. Are these two events connected? Was there a conspiracy in the deaths of Paul Wellstone and Mel Carnahan? Were these men murdered?
As a youth, I remember Adlai Stevenson saying public service was a 'high calling' and urging young people to get involved. I am still enough of an idealist to believe he was right.
- Mel Carnahan
Mel Carnahan (b: February 11, 1934; d: October 16, 2000) was a United States politician representing the Democratic Party who served as governor of Missouri from 1993 to 2000, and was a candidate for the United States Senate in 2000.
Carnahan was the son of a United States Representative and graduated from high school in Washington, D.C. in 1952, followed by a stint at George Washington University where he earned a BA in business administration in 1955. After this, he joined the Air Force, rising to the rank of first lieutenant, while also working towards a law degree at the University of Missouri, which he earned in 1959.
During the 1960s and 1970s, he served in the Office of Special Investigations and became involved in Missouri state politics, culminating with a successful run for state treasurer in 1980, an office he held until 1985. He ran for and was elected lieutenant governor in 1988 and then won the governorship in 1992, a post he held for the remainder of his life.
He was an extremely popular governor in Missouri and was easily re-elected in 1996. His progressive policies led to massive increases in education and arts funding in Missouri, raising Missouri from 45th to 7th nationally in per capita state funding for the arts during his tenure. Perhaps most impressively, he signed into law HB 1111 in 2000, which made Missouri the first state in the nation to guarantee complete freedom of choice in terms of medical care to disabled Missourians covered by Medicaid, setting an extremely high bar of standardized social care.
He chose to run for the United States Senate seat held by Republican incumbent John Ashcroft, and the race was a very tight and bitter one. Ashcroft had served as governor for eight years before Carnahan and had claimed a Senate seat after leaving the governorship. During Ashcroft's final four years as governor, Carnahan had served as lieutenant governor from the opposing party. This meant that the two clashed over many issues, to the point that Ashcroft actually sued Carnahan in 1991 for exceeding the limits of the office of lieutenant governor. It should be noted that Ashcroft had also made a name for himself among the members of the neoconservative movement in Washington, as he had joined the Senate as part of the so-called Republican Revolution in 1994.
Carnahan began his campaign for the Senate the day after election day in 1998, and the state had been gripped in a vicious campaign battle for two years. Both candidates accused the other of being an extremist, and both candidates accused the other of being racist, producing some bizarre campaign advertisements of people in blackface, among other political embarrassments. Just prior to his death, Carnahan was ahead in the polls with a 5% lead, which had grown out of a virtual dead heat over the prior month.
After Carnahan's demise (which will be discussed in more detail later), his wife, Jean Carnahan, agreed to accept Carnahan's Senate seat by appointment from the new Missouri governor if Mel Carnahan were to win the election. Thus, on election night, Carnahan defeated John Ashcroft, and Jean Carnahan was appointed to the United States Senate. Ashcroft went on to become Attorney General under George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005, and was one of the architects of the USA PATRIOT Act.
I'm from the Democratic party-wing of the Democratic Party.
- Paul Wellstone
Paul Wellstone (b: July 21, 1944; d: October 25, 2002) was a United States politician representing the Democratic Party who served as a senator from the state of Minnesota from 1990 to 2002, and was considered a leading spokesperson for the progressive wing of the Democratic Party in the United States.
Wellstone was born to Ukranian-Jewish immigrants and was raised and received primary and secondary schooling in Arlington, Virginia. After high school, he attended the University of North Carolina, receiving a B.A. in political science in 1965 and his Ph.D. in 1969, with his doctoral thesis entitled "Black Militants in the Ghetto: Why They Believe in Violence."
After joining the faculty of Carleton College in Minnesota in the fall of 1969, he slowly became involved in Minnesota state politics. In 1984, he ran Jesse Jackson's presidential campaign in Minnesota and himself ran for state auditor, losing to Arne Carlson (A note: Carlson was the man who declined to run again as governor in 1998, opening the door for Jesse Ventura. Those wacky Minnesotans and their politics!).
Wellstone decided to run for the Senate in 1990, using a grassroots model that works quite well in politically active states. He toured the state in a big green school bus, worked hard to cultivate his campaign in every district, and ran a number of low-budget humorous political commercials. As a result, he upset incumbent Republican Rudy Boschwitz, and would defeat him again in 1996.
By 1999, Wellstone was strongly seen as a voice for the progressive portion of the Democratic Party and strongly considered a run for president, even forming an exploratory committee, but instead decided not to run, endorsing the candidacy of Bill Bradley for the Democratic Party nomination.
In 2002, Wellstone chose to run for a third term in the Senate, despite earlier promises to only run for two terms. His primary reason for doing this was that he was one of the only real progressive voices of the Democratic Party and, on a wider scale, there was much concern that his seat would fall to a Republican should he not run again. Also in 2002, Wellstone publicly announced that he suffered from multiple sclerosis, which caused the limp in his walk that had previously been attributed to a wrestling injury. To compound his difficulties, Wellstone voted against the resolution for war in Iraq on October 11, 2002, a vote which he said "just cost me the election."
After Wellstone's untimely death on October 25, 2002, Walter Mondale was named as a replacement candidate for Wellstone for the Senate. Under Minnesota state law, Wellstone's name had to be stricken from the ballot. However, a late surge pushed Republican Norm Coleman into the Senate seat.
The Death of Mel Carnahan
On the evening of October 16, 2000, Mel Carnahan boarded a Cessna 335, along with his son, Roger (who was also the pilot), and an aide. The night was somewhat rainy, but as the clock approached 7:30 PM, the weather was clearing. The National Weather Service incidated that the weather was at either level 1 or level 2 in severity out of 6 levels, which indicated a light rain and perhaps some low winds, nothing particularly challenging for an experienced pilot, as Roger Carnahan was. In addition, the flight was made under instrument flight rules, which in essence means that the flight was conducted under intense safety rules with heavy contact with air traffic controllers, which ensures additional safety
During the flight, the pilot mentioned some minor problems maintaining attitude, but nothing particularly unusual. At approximately 7:32 PM, the pilot lost all contact with the air traffic controller in Jefferson City, Missouri and shortly thereafter the plane disappeared from radar. The plane descended 6,500 feet in 77 seconds between last contact and impact.
In their report, the National Transportation Safety Board indicated that the probable cause of this accident was the pilot’s failure to control the airplane while maneuvering due to spatial disorientation, and that failure of the attitude indicator and weather-related turbulence contributed to the situation.
The first and third factors in the crash are both unverifiable and somewhat questionable. At last radar report, the plane was flying due west in almost a straight line as it began to approach the Jefferson City, Missouri airport; the flight was also being conducted under strict flight rules, making disorientation highly unlikely. The weather was clearing, according to National Weather Service data; weather maps indicated very little activity of any sort in the area that the Carnahan plane was flying, casting doubt on the speculation of weather-related turbulence. The air traffic controller reported the weather and flight to the point of the crash as "routine."
Excluded from the report were several eyewitness accounts that stated that there was a bright flash in the vicinity of the craft prior to collapse. This "flash" was initially believed to have been lightning, but the National Weather Service data states that such a lightning strike would have been extremely unlikely given the level of weather found in the area at the time.
The full NTSB report on Carnahan's crash is available at http://www.ntsb.gov/publictn/2002/AAB0202.htm
The Death of Paul Wellstone
On the morning of October 25, 2002, Paul Wellstone boarded a Beechcraft King Air A100 along with his wife, Sheila, his daughter, Marcia, three campaign workers, and two pilots. The plane was destined for Eveleth, Minnesota, in the northern part of the state. At approximately 10:22 AM Central Time, Wellstone's plane crashed into dense forest about two miles from the Eveleth airport.
During the flight, the weather had turned worse, with the first bits of a winter storm moving into the area. As a result of this weather, the pilots were required to operate the plane under instrument flight rules, which in essence means that the flight was conducted under intense safety rules with heavy contact with air traffic controllers.
The National Transportation Safety Board led an investigation into the crash, led by Carol Carmody. According to the official report, the likely cause of the accident is that both the pilot and the copilot failed to maintain a safe minimum airspeed, which caused the plane to stall.
Given that both pilots would have to overlook this while flying under strict flight rules, it is likely that some sort of failure had to occur on board the plane. However, no such failure was mentioned in the report; instead, attempts at casting doubt on the primary pilot were made, implying that the accident was a result of the primary pilot trusting his copilot too much.
Furthermore, the NTSB report overlooked several eyewitness reports from the Eveleth area. According to the eyewitnesses, the engines cut out just as the plane began to nosedive into the trees, which is clearly not the result of a stall. Also, several people observed automatic garage door openers triggering at about the same time as the engine began to cut out, as well as extremely unusual cell phone activity. Both are indicative of a very small electromagnetic pulse; if the pulse occurred on board the plane, every instrument panel would have failed, and a pulse could have easily been triggered by a bomb or even from ground-based technologies.
Also neglected by the report is that in repeated simulations, the NTSB was unable to duplicate the crashing of the plane, even when several radical variables were thrown in, including extreme slow speeds.
When the investigative team under Carmody signed off on the report, at least one member, Richard Healing, stated publicly that he had no idea what caused the plane to crash.
These items, when gathered together, do not directly imply that there was wrongdoing in the death of Paul Wellstone, but they do strongly imply that a deeper investigation into his death is warranted.
The full NTSB report on Wellstone's crash is available at http://www.ntsb.gov/publictn/2003/AAR0303.pdf
There are a number of coincidences between the deaths of Mel Carnahan and Paul Wellstone.
First, both investigations were led by Carol Carmody. Carmody is a former CIA official who was brought into the NTSB due to her public relations skills. It is coincidential that she investigated both plane crashes, but both reports have striking similarities.
Second, both reports ignored a significant amount of eyewitness testimony, both of which indicated that there may be more circumstances in the crash than were reported. This is very unusual for NTSB reports, as there is often quite a bit of eyewitness reporting.
Third, both reports attempted to place blame for the crash on pilot disorientation and confusion, downplaying any potential mechanical failures on the crafts. In each case, the flight plans up until the point of lost contact were quite normal, and in each case, the pilots were quite experienced not only with flying, but with their equipment and the area they were flying in.
These coincidences lend a bit of credence to a connection between the two flights.
The deaths of Wellstone and Carnahan had a major impact on the makeup of the Senate in recent years. Both senators were among the progressive branch of the Democratic Party, and both were potential candidates for the Presidency in 2004 or 2008. Carnahan in particular had a strong case for presidential aspirations, given his huge successes as governor of Missouri.
During Wellstone's tenure in the Senate, he was an extremely vocal representative of the progressives in the Democratic Party, quite often as the sole dissenting vote on bills. His outspoken nature, ability to relate to the average voter, and his political stances all made him a natural political opponent of the neoconservatives on Capitol Hill.
Carnahan, on the other hand, may not have been as strongly progressive as Wellstone, but he had a very strong record as governor of Missouri, in which he took many strong progressive stances on issues and came out one of the most popular governors in state history. His background of leadership and progressive philosophy marked him as a strong opponent to the Republican Party on the national stage.
Progressive politics in the United States took a major hit with the deaths of these two men, at a time when Capitol Hill was being filled with subscribers to neoconservative philosophies.
Note: This section is just what it claims to be: speculation. It is my attempt as a writer, a concerned citizen, and a political junkie and sometimes activist to try to determine what the incongruencies discussed above actually mean.
The inherent difficulty in researching and even discussing such a matter as this is that you quickly find yourself surrounded by nutty conspiracy theorists and others unbalanced by their own agenda. It is unfortunate, but many truths are quite often taken as crackpot stories because the people that discuss them most loudly are themselves crackpots.
What has to be done in situations like this is to simply step back, take a deep breath, and look at the facts. The facts are simply that two politicians died in plane crashes in back-to-back elections. Both crashes were somewhat suspicious on their own, and both were investigated by the same people.
Is this enough to jump to the conclusion that either or both of the men were murdered?
But is it enough to believe that it warranted, in both cases, a deeper investigation into what exactly happened on those October days?
Without question, yes.
American Assassination: The Strange Death Of Senator Paul Wellstone. John Jacobs and James Fetzer. 2004. Vox Pop. ISBN: 0975276301.
The Conscience of a Liberal: Reclaiming the Compassionate Agenda. Paul Wellstone. 2002. University of Minnesota Press. ISBN: 071664179X.
Don't Let the Fire Go Out! Jean Carnahan. 2004. University of Missouri Press. ISBN: 0826215130.
Aircraft Accident Report: Loss of Control and Impact With Terrain Aviation Charter, Inc. Raytheon (Beechcraft) King Air A100, N41BE Eveleth, Minnesota October 25, 2002. NTSB. 2004. http://www.ntsb.gov/publictn/2003/AAR0303.pdf
Aircraft Accident Brief: Cessna 335, N8354N near Hillsboro, Missouri October 16, 2000. NTSB. 2002. http://www.ntsb.gov/publictn/2002/AAB0202.htm