As Democrats go, Debbie Wasserman Schultz is a dreadful candidate. Her donor pool is dominated by corporate raiders and predatory capitalists, the list of important bills she's written is slim, and she helped drive her party toward catastrophic losses while she was the head of the Democratic National Committee. In theory, it should be easy to challenge her by refusing to take money from corporations, supporting single-payer health care, and generally being progressive in a post-Trump, post-Brexit world.
So far, Tim Canova, who lost in the primary against Wasserman Schultz in 2016 and last week announced an official 2018 rematch, isn't quite sticking to that game plan. Saturday, Canova tweeted that some sort of computer hack and/or electrical surge had fried both his computer and surge protector Thursday night — and implied Wasserman Schultz or the DNC might have been linked to the alleged attack.
"Announced last night 8 p.m. run vs. @DWSTweets again," he wrote. "At 2 a.m. my computer was attacked & surge protector fried. Same happened last campaign."
Via email, Canova said he heard a "high-pitched sound coming from the surge protector" around 2 a.m. Thursday. He said that he could not see a storm outside his home but that if it was an "intentional attack," it could have "been anyone" who dislikes him, not necessarily Wasserman Schultz. But his tweet clearly said the surge came hours after he declared his candidacy. (A spokesperson for Wasserman Schultz did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.)
After Canova announced the alleged "hack," more than a few electricians and engineers online pointed out that what Canova is describing is basically impossible. It's almost physically impossible for someone to send voltage toward a surge protector from a computer and therefore "fry" it: Surge protectors stop voltage from traveling one way, from a power source to a computer, not vice versa.
Likewise, though it's technically possible to send a surge through a power line and into Canova's home, that kind of attack would fry everything in a person's home (and likely the neighbors' homes too) and cannot be directed specifically at someone's computer.
In response to criticism on Twitter — where more than a few people asked if his tinfoil hat had been wrapped a bit too tightly — Canova deleted the tweet yesterday or today. (New Times preserved the tweet for posterity because the man is running for Congress.)
When New Times asked for more information about the alleged attack, Canova declined to speak via phone because he was in a meeting and didn't "want to be misquoted."
But via email, he maintained that someone had tried to hack his computer and surge protector, even though most experts say that's next to impossible. He declined to speculate whether the culprit was Wasserman Schultz and said anyone who inferred that from his tweet was reading too much into it.
"No, I never accused DWS," he wrote. "I simply tweeted that my surge protector was fried after I announced and worried my computer was damaged. The same thing happened last year days into my campaign. I did not speculate how it happened."
He then said that during last year's election, his campaign website came under repeated distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, whereby hackers flood a website with fake traffic to crash its servers. He said he then tried to contact the FBI, but the bureau did nothing, and the site ended up crashing for a short period of time.
"I will leave it to you and others to speculate if it was the Russians or someone else!" he added.
The tweet is not the first time Canova has forayed into conspiracy theorizing. He has posted multiple times about the conspiracy theory surrounding Seth Rich, the former DNC employee who was killed in what police believe was a botched robbery. Fringe commentators on the extremely far right and even farther left instead claim Rich was the source who sent DNC emails to WikiLeaks last year, which is demonstrable nonsense given that Rich's family has his laptop and says it contains zero evidence he communicated with WikiLeaks, that the emails in question weren't incendiary enough for anyone to get killed over, and that WikiLeaks head Julian Assange, the most radical pro-transparency person on Earth, has never released evidence tying Rich to WikiLeaks.
(Seth Rich truthers like to claim they're simply "asking questions about a murder" and "just want a murder solved." But everyone, not just the people throwing around baseless accusations, wants an open murder case solved.)
Canova has posted multiple times about Seth Rich, and when asked last week whether he believed Rich was killed by Democrats, Canova was unable to say something simple like "My opponent is bad but not a murderer." Instead, he said he wasn't sure what the DNC "is capable of."
Likewise, Canova held a news conference in Washington, D.C., earlier this year to claim someone had hacked the voting results in his primary election against Wasserman Schultz. In response, the political action committee suing the DNC for fraud — JamPAC, led by lawyers Jared and Elizabeth Beck — are collecting money in an attempt to fund an election recount.
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Canova's bent for conspiracy theorizing threatens to drown out the fact that he's spent a lifetime studying neoliberal economics, federal reserve policy, and Wall Street banking regulations. His knowledge on the subject is so complete that Bernie Sanders once asked him to sit alongside economic powerhouses James Galbraith and Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz on a banking-reform committee. Canova also advised a few Capitol Hill staffers when the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act was in its draft stages. He's also been one of the loudest voices fighting for green energy reform and against natural gas pipelines in Florida.
In a race that will unquestionably be tougher than the one he faced last round, in which he lost by 14 points, Canova can't afford to continue shooting himself in the foot. "You've really got nothing better to write about?" he asked today via email.
Minutes later, he added he had actually tweeted about the incident in order to find someone to help install a computer firewall.
"The intent of my tweet was to get some help for my computer security," he said. "As a result of the tweet, I received messages from several supporters who offered to help secure my home computer system, including by adding a firewall. I received the help that I needed, so the tweet served a very practical purpose. I took down the tweet after I got the computer support I needed."