Russell Pearce's Fave Scribe Linda Bentley's Wacky E-mails

In the interest of lambasting a dead horse till it's tender enough to feed to a pigeon, I present the following e-mail string, unedited by me, save to put the electronic missives in order from first to last. 

As you'll see, reader Michael Wells engaged in some participatory journalism by corresponding with wacky Sonoran News scribe Linda Bentley. He then passed the results off to me. 

I get into the game toward the end and have some fun with Bentley as well. The best I can say about Bentley is that she's a nut. The worst, you wouldn't want to hear.

As for her publication, it's as loony as she is. This week, it published an online op-ed by some fruitcake insisting President Obama is a Muslim

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That sound you hear is a gaggle of right-wingers in Cave Creek howling at the moon.

Now on to the e-mails.

From: Michael Wells
@gmail.com>To: linda@sonorannews.com@gmail.com>

Cc: sonnews@aol.com

Sent: Mon, Aug 1, 2011 10:16 pm
@gmail.com>
@gmail.com>

Subject: Benita Lantigua

@gmail.com>

Hello,

@gmail.com>

I have been following the story of Benita Lantigua and her voter registration issues. I noticed the the New Times pointed out that this woman is a US citizen, and only has the 3 registrations not because she fraudulently registered, but because as she has married and divorced, the registration has necessarily changed, and Maricopa county has not updated this info. It seems pretty cut and dried, and easy to make a retraction and set the record straight. Instead, I see this, buried in the middle of another story:@gmail.com>

"Also, Sonoran News wasn't "busted doing it again." We reported on voter registration anomalies during the Pearce recall effort, which included a Mexican-born woman who was actively registered to vote three times under three different names at the same single-family residence. Citizens who have long been concerned about fraudulent voter registration and voter fraud consider that responsible journalism."

I'm sorry, but responsible journalism would be to make a retraction, and apologize for this potential libel, not hiding a blurb in the middle of a story that is nothing more than justifying your actions in the first place, while ignoring/denying the fact that you made a mistake in the first place. Intelligent people can forgive someone with the stones to admit when they were wrong, it is only the uneducated and fringe elements who are twisted enough to think that admitting fault when it is obvious is some kind of weakness.

Now, please show some journalistic integrity and print a retraction regarding the implications you made about this woman, I would then be able to have some respect for you as a journalist. Otherwise, you're a muckraker working for a newspaper that makes its money through yellow journalism at its finest. This is my challenge, do you have what it takes to meet it? Also, I wouldn't want the New Times to come off as more legitimate of a news organization than the Sonoran News. Please impress me.

Thank you,

Mike Wells

On Tue, Aug 2, 2011 at 8:28 AM, Linda Bentley wrote:

@aol.com>

Hi, Michael

According to Maricopa County Elections, when a person registers or reregisters to vote, the county sends a mailing to them. If the person hasn't voted in I forget how many elections, they are also sent a mailing. Lantigua would have been sent mailings under all three names based on her voting record, and made no effort to correct the county's records. @aol.com>

The issue isn't whose fault it is, it is the fact that this can and does easily occur. Our voter registration system is on the honor system and there are no checks and balances to eliminate fraud.

All I presented in my article, not to be confused with the editor's editorial, where facts obtained from public records. There is no libel or slander in presenting facts from the public record, despite what Stephen Lemons wishes to continue pontificating about.

The only reason I brought the issue up again is because Geno Riley did.

I have nothing to retract, facts are facts. Wishing them not so and Lemons spinning them into whatever suits his agenda doesn't change them. Lemons didn't seem to care about the non-Hispanic anomalies, just Lantigua. What about the guy registered as Pederson who signed the petition Peterson? Lemons seemed to think that was a non issue.

Linda Bentley
Reporter
Sonoran News
6812 E Cave Creek Rd
Cave Creek, AZ 85331
480-488-2021 ext. 26
Linda@SonoranNews.com

From: Michael Wells

To: Linda Bentley

@aol.com>

Sent: Tue, Aug 2, 2011 8:51 am

Subject: Re: Benita Lantigua

The question is; did she sign the petition 3 times, once under each name, or did she sign it only once? Not keeping up with her paperwork isn't the same as intentionally defrauding the legal process by signing a petition under multiple names, THAT is "voter fraud", not failing to fill out paperwork. Since you accused her of voter fraud, and then it turned out there was none, THERE is where you owe her an apology.

I am only interested in Lantigua, hence the email asking about her specifically, as opposed to asking you about the evidence of "widespread voter fraud", which I haven't seen any more evidence of than normal, but since you brought up the Peterson/Pederson thing, how about that? Did he sign it a second time as Pederson? If not, then you have one registered voter, one signature. Once again, not "widespread voter fraud". I don't know the Peterson/Pederson story, but I have known people that legally changed their names for one reason or another, and have had issues remembering it all the time at first, especially when they have just changed it, and the name is as similar as a single letter. WHo knows why he changed it(If that's what he did)? Maybe he shared the same name with a celebrity or criminal, and changing the one letter allowed him to stop getting all of the crank calls and junk mail, and let him keep a name that was almost the same, just subtly altered. Once again, unless he signed it under both names, you might have a reason for invalidating that ONE signature, but you don't in any way have evidence of "massive voter fraud". Sorry, that's just how it goes.

On Tue, Aug 2, 2011 at 10:21 AM, Linda Bentley wrote:@aol.com>

Also, someone signing Peterson when registered as Pederson would indicate to me someone else signed that person's name but didn't know how to spell it. And, yes, I would consider that fraud. For all I know, the person collecting signatures may have signed people's names without their knowledge. ACORN was famous for that. So, just because there's one registered voter and one signature doesn't necessarily mean that the person who signed was that person or that the actual registered voter would have signed had he been presented with the petition. Not too many people spell their own names very legibly and incorrectly.

Linda

From: Michael Wells 
To: Linda Bentley 
Sent: Thu, Aug 11, 2011 10:29 pm
Subject: Re: Peterson v Pederson
@aol.com>
@gmail.com>

Linda,

Sorry I haven't gotten back to you, it's been a very hectic week and a half. I'm following up on this Pederson/Peterson thread, since you decided to go off on this tangent and skip the point of the real email. What were the specifics of this name? Was there a man at the address with the name spelled differently than the signature? What was the man's name? I'm sure it wasn't just 'Pederson' (Or 'Peterson', for that matter.)? When researching your story to get this info, did you see the signature discrepancy yourself, or is this just anecdotal evidence? When someone tells me something at work, I assume there is a chance that unless they say 'I was there', they are just relying on a 'friend of a friend' chain of events, but with journalists, I expect a little more. More details would go a long way to convincng me that there was something up here, although unless he signed the petition twice, once under each name, I'd be hard pressed to find the reason for it being 'fraud'...

Also, I would be interested in how many instances of this 'massive voter fraud' you found while doing your research. Is it just the stuff about Benita Lantigua, Mr Peterson, and some people who didn't spell well enough for you and had "Latin names"? I don't know if you realize this, but there are many, MANY native Americans with "Latin names", and I have met plenty who cannot spell to save their lives, let alone write legibly. If you have more examples, please share. I still think it's disingenuous at best to claim that you don't owe Benita Lantigua any kind of apology. You wrote a story titled: Pearce recall petitions indicate massive voter registration fraud and then spent about 2/3 of that story making sure we had Benita Lantigua's name firmly entrenched in our heads. Sure she didn't update her paperwork. When I move, I don't tell the DMV my new address within 10 days, it doesn't mean that I'm a serial rapist or something. You implied that she was gaming the system, yet she signed only once, and with her most current name, exactly where is the fraud? If she had signed with all three, you would have a massive shining beacon of voter fraud, but still not "massive voter fraud".

One further question: How is it "voter fraud" if they aren't voting? They are signing petitions, but these already go through a review process to weed out mistaken and fraudulent signatures, this happens everywhere in this country, it isn't something new just for the Pearce recall. People sign joke names, they sign in the wrong district (And not always with fraud in mind, do YOU know exactly where your legislative district begins and ends in a full 360 degree circle from your home?), and yes, sometimes they do it fraudulently, but obviously not Benita Lantigua, for the reasons stated above.Are you implying that all of the people who verified the signatures are 'in on it too'? At some point, you just have to step back and accept that there are a lot of people who are dissatisfied with his representation. At least 10,000, if I remember correctly.

Once again, thank you for your time,

Mike Wells

On Fri, Aug 12, 2011 at 8:32 AM, Linda Bentley wrote:@aol.com>

Yes, Mike, I actually verified signatures myself. There were numerous anomalies, including Pederson/Peterson. I didn't take a screen shot of that one since it was early on in the verification and it wasn't suggested until numerous anomalies came up. However, every signature that raised a red flag of any sort was noted on the petition for Constantin to follow up on later. There are space constraints in writing news articles, so I couldn't possibly write about everything I found. There was nothing anecdotal, all real, first-hand verification.

Why do you not find it odd that a person would not know how to spell his own name? ACORN used to register people using a phone book without their knowledge, this person collecting signatures could have been signing petitions without people's knowledge. That was another thing about certain signature gatherers, the signers all seemed to have the same handwriting. All I did in my article was point out a few examples that jumped out at me, although there were plenty more.

I don't believe, based on the few hundred I verified, that the vast number of signatures were eliminated due to not living in District 18 but rather for other reasons.

It would be interesting to know what percentage was kicked out because the signatures didn't match.

And, just because the person who registers didn't intentionally commit fraud, doesn't mean the system doesn't allow for such. If the system allows for those to register multiple times under multiple names unintentionally, someone who wishes to game the system could get away with doing the same just as easily.

I was simply pointing out fraud, potential fraud and the fact there are no checks and balances in the system. We're on the honor system.

I also mentioned the Castellanos family members who registered and voted illegally in a few elections. All they got was wrist slap for their felonies ... one year probation, $250 fine and some community service hours. That's how much we have devalued our vote. Misdemeanor shoplifting and disorderly conduct charges generally receive a far harsher sentence than the Castellanoses received for felony voter fraud.

Linda Bentley
Reporter
Sonoran News
6812 E Cave Creek Rd
Cave Creek, AZ 85331
480-488-2021 ext. 26
Linda@SonoranNews.com

From: Michael Wells 
To: Linda Bentley 
Sent: Fri, Aug 12, 2011 2:22 pm
Subject: Re: Peterson v Pederson
@aol.com>
@gmail.com>

So basically what you are saying is that you seem to remember, from a few hundred signatures back, a guy who signed with a different spelling of his name, but you didn't get any evidence? Not a picture, a screencap, or a detailed history on Mr Peterson/Pederson, as you did with Benita Lantigua, you told me everything but the name of the hospital where she was born.

And no, we're NOT "On the honor system", if we were, then they wouldn't verify signatures, they would just take what they had gathered at face value. The very checks and balances that you claim we don't have were in evidence when you helped verify signatures. You are able to check and see if these are legitimate people before it goes on down the line. If that isn't checks and balances in your world, I don't know what to tell you.

And again with the ACORN thing. Were they involved here? Was there corruption found at all levels of ACORN when they were investigated? The answer to both of these is 'No'. There were a few people at ACORN who broke the law, but to say that all of ACORN was complicit in this is like saying that all Republicans like to pick up dates in airport restrooms just because Larry Craig "has a wide stance".

Thanks you,

Mike Wells


On Fri, Aug 12, 2011 at 4:20 PM, Linda Bentley wrote:@aol.com>

If someone lies and says he's a citizen and registers to vote, there is no verification. We are on the honor system. There is nothing in place to verify if someone is lying about their citizenship. I can verify if someone is registered to vote but no one verifies if that person should be registered. Where are the checks and balances?

The very checks and balances that you claim we don't have were in evidence when you helped verify signatures. You are able to check and see if these are legitimate people before it goes on down the line. If that isn't checks and balances in your world, I don't know what to tell you.


Linda Bentley
Reporter
Sonoran News
6812 E Cave Creek Rd
Cave Creek, AZ 85331
480-488-2021 ext. 26
Linda@SonoranNews.com

From: Michael Wells 
Date: Fri, Aug 12, 2011 at 5:21 PM
Subject: Re: Peterson v Pederson
@gmail.com>

To: Linda Bentley@aol.com>

OK, now I see what you're getting at here. It boils down to this I guess: If someone doesn't have to prove they are a citizen to register to vote, then it is obvious that they are a part of massive voter fraud. Interesting. Going by your logic, how do I know that Russell Pearce got signatures ONLY from American citizens when he gathered his signatures to run for the Senate in the first place? Maybe they all snuck into the country illegally. Remember, being a nation of immigrants, there are no 'true' American surnames, so trying to disregard the ones you did because they were all "Latin sounding" is just a fallacious as if I were to discount all of his original signatures because they sounded too European.

If the petitions are signs of "massive voter fraud" purely based on the fact that you don't have to prove citizenship to register to vote, then ALL petitions ever gathered in this country are similarly invalid.

It's fun to try and climb a slippery slope while wearing Teflon shoes, isn't it?

Thank you,

Mike Wells

From: Stephen Lemons 
To: lindabent@aol.com; Linda@sonorannews.com
Cc: eyeonyouproductions@gmail.com
Sent: Mon, Aug 22, 2011 6:09 pm
Subject: Your E-Mail Correspondence with Mike Wells
@newtimes.com>

Linda,

Mr. Wells has given me permission to use the following correspondence between the two of you.

If you object or wish to maintain that you did not write the e-mails below, please contact me ASAP.

Sincerely,

-- 
Stephen Lemons
Phoenix New Times
602-229-8426

On Mon, Aug 22, 2011 at 6:15 PM, Linda Bentley wrote:@aol.com>

I do indeed object to your use of my private email correspondance.

Linda Bentley
Reporter
Sonoran News
6812 E Cave Creek Rd
Cave Creek, AZ 85331
480-488-2021 ext. 26
Linda@SonoranNews.com

From: Stephen Lemons 
To: Linda Bentley 
Cc: eyeonyouproductions@gmail.com
Sent: Mon, Aug 22, 2011 6:23 pm
Subject: Re: Your E-Mail Correspondence with Mike Wells
@aol.com>
@newtimes.com>

Thanks for confirming that the e-mails below are indeed yours, Linda! Which was the purpose of my e-mail to you.

I'll send you an e-mail with a link when I post them.

Sin.,

-- 
Stephen Lemons
Phoenix New Times
602-229-8426

On Mon, Aug 22, 2011 at 6:27 PM, Linda Bentley wrote:@aol.com>

FYI, Stephen, I only said I object to you using my private e-mail correspondence. I neither looked at what you sent nor confirmed it was mine.

Linda Bentley
Reporter
Sonoran News
6812 E Cave Creek Rd
Cave Creek, AZ 85331
480-488-2021 ext. 26
Linda@SonoranNews.com

From: Stephen Lemons 
To: Linda Bentley 
Cc: eyeonyouproductions@gmail.com
Sent: Mon, Aug 22, 2011 6:33 pm
Subject: Re: Your E-Mail Correspondence with Mike Wells
@aol.com>
@newtimes.com>

So someone is using your personal e-mail account and claiming to be you? How odd...Why, you could be Bentley's evil twin! Or her good twin, as the case may be...

Too bad you didn't have as much concern for the privacy of Ms. Lantigua as you do for your own, Linda. Tsk, tsk.

On Mon, Aug 22, 2011 at 6:37 PM, Linda Bentley wrote:@aol.com>

I really don't give a rat's ass, Stephen. I only objected because you offered the choice.

Your an ass.
Linda Bentley
Reporter
Sonoran News
6812 E Cave Creek Rd
Cave Creek, AZ 85331
480-488-2021 ext. 26
Linda@SonoranNews.com


From: Stephen Lemons 
To: Linda Bentley 
Cc: eyeonyouproductions@gmail.com
Sent: Mon, Aug 22, 2011 6:39 pm
Subject: Re: Your E-Mail Correspondence with Mike Wells
@aol.com>
@newtimes.com>

That would be, "You're an ass," Linda. Crikey, do you even have a high-school diploma?

On Mon, Aug 22, 2011 at 6:44 PM, Linda Bentley wrote:@aol.com>

Yeah that too. You're an ass. You'r not worth the spell and grammar check or even this much correspondence.
Linda

From: Stephen Lemons 
To: Linda Bentley 
Sent: Mon, Aug 22, 2011 7:07 pm
Subject: Re: Your E-Mail Correspondence with Mike Wells
@aol.com>
@newtimes.com>

What kills me is that you guys have the cash to pay a lawyer to write Lantigua's counsel a letter, when all you'd have to do is admit that you screwed up and apologize.

And you're calling me an "ass." Take a look in the mirror, Linda. Really.

On Mon, Aug 22, 2011 at 7:15 PM, Linda Bentley wrote:@aol.com>

You know, Stephen, neither Benita nor her attorney ever requested an apology, a retraction or anything. After being offered an opportunity to write something, they've not submitted anything. The only person continuing to harp about this is you and you don't have a dog in this fight. Our attorney responded to the letter from Lantigua's attorney, which is a real normal process. Sean Larkin made no specific demands or requests in his letter to respond to.


Linda Bentley
Reporter
Sonoran News
6812 E Cave Creek Rd
Cave Creek, AZ 85331
480-488-2021 ext. 26
Linda@SonoranNews.com

On Mon, Aug 22, 2011 at 7:22 PM, Stephen Lemons wrote:
My dog in this fight is that you have maligned an innocent woman and that you continue to give a bad name to journalism.
@newtimes.com>

That's the only dog I need.

Furthermore, you and your editor print falsehoods, and you offer your victim a chance to write a letter to the editor?

Wouldn't you want to correct your own poor reporting? Any real journalist would.

Also, Chad Snow wrote you guys demanding a retraction. You know you screwed up. Don't hide behind excuses, Linda. 

UPDATE: More in, courtesy of Mike Wells.

From: Michael Wells eyeonyouproductions@gmail.com>
To: linda@sonorannews.com
Sent: Wed, Aug 24, 2011 11:27 am
Subject: Our recent email exchange and the Phoenix New Times

Linda,

To set the record straight, I did not bait you with my emails. I did not contact Stephen Lemmons from the NT until about a week and a half or so after we last talked during the break in the middle of the email exchange. We stopped initially around the 2nd of August, and I either initiated contact on the 10th or 11th of August with the NT. Like I said, it had been a really busy time for me. That's also when I followed up with you. I gave you plenty of chances to admit that your article implied Benita Lentigua was a prime example of voter fraud when she actually wasn't, and all you did was deny the claim, wander off on tangents about ACORN and this Peterson guy, and continue to act like your article was a shining beacon of truth in Journalism. It was after this frustrating exchange that I figured Mr Lemmons might be interested in what you didn't have to say in your defense. Some kind of admission that you are not perfect and that there aren't liberals hiding behind every tree waiting to ruin your day would have been all you needed to answer with. Instead, you continued to spin, spin, spin. Any faster, and you may just start  moving backwards in time.

As for your personal email ending up in the exchange, I just sent him what correspondence we had, I didn't realize that you don't know how to separate work from personal life. I wrote one or two of these from work, but I still sent them from my personal email account. As a professional journalist, I'm surprised that you haven't figured this out.

Once again, this email exchange was not some form of ambush, I was really seeking answers, which you did not provide.

Thank you for your time,

Mike Wells

On Wed, Aug 24, 2011 at 12:51 PM, Linda Bentley lindabent@aol.com> wrote:

I never said you baited me. You wrote and I responded. Steve Lemons is an ass and used you, because he knows I have no desire to communicate with him. This is something that goes back years and has nothing to do with my article on voter fraud and Benita Lantigua.

Lemons asked me if I objected to his use of my e-mails. I said I did. However, he didn't ask me the question to gain my permission, he asked the question only to confirm that I wrote them. So much for what he calls "journalistic integrity." I didn't confirm anything. I only said I objected to his use of my personal e-mails. I'm not a government official, so when I say personal e-mails, I mean my personal e-mail correspondence with people with whom he was not a party to the conversation, whether it be from my Sonoran News e-mail address or AOL account.

BTW, I have my Sonoran News e-mail address automatically forward to my AOL e-mail so I can access my e-mail from anywhere. Therefore, despite you sending e-mail to Sonoran News, I would still respond from AOL. It's not rocket science, simply a convenience. It's quite common.

Linda 

On Wed, Aug 24, 2011 at 12:00 PM, Michael Wells  wrote:

I'm not sure how Lemmons "used" me when I talked to you long before getting ahold of him. I somehow doubt that he was able to go back in time and tell me to contact you and dig this up. My first email was, as I stated, somewhere around the 10th of August. We were talking up until the 2nd or 4th, so he wasn't in the picture then. Everything that was stated was what I myself said.

As for email, company email is not "personal", the company owns those, it's the same concept as the public 'owning' the official correspondence of a political figure, your newspaper's IT guy should be able to clear this up for you. I contacted you on official email specifically for it to be on the record. I also contacted your editor, but he chose to ignore this.

So you have your emails forwarded to your AOL account? A smartphone will let you set up multiple accounts, and answer them separately, additionally, most people use webmail when they are away from the office. Once again, talk to your IT department.

Thank you,

 

Mike Wells

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