Jack Burkman is the man funding The Profiling Project, a group that just released its findings into Seth Rich’s death. The Profiling Project has said that Rich’s death was likely a serial murder or a hit, not a botched robbery. (Read The Profiling Project’s report in Heavy’s story here.) Burkman’s a Republican lobbyist who previously said that he believed Russians may have had a role in Rich’s death.
Seth Rich was the voter expansion data director for the DNC when he was killed on July 10 at 4:20 a.m. He had just accepted a job to work with Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
1. Jack Burkman Believes Seth Rich Was Killed by Russians Because Rich Discovered Russian Hacking
In February and March, Burkman said he had evidence that Seth Rich’s murder was linked to Russians. He said it was all based on an anonymous man who approached him, claiming he was an intel officer. The man claimed that Seth Rich had discovered evidence of Russian hacking and was killed because of it. The man, Burkman claimed, was 65 to 70 years old and said he was a contractor in Iraq in the 1970s. They talked for 90 minutes in a Four Seasons Hotel.
Burkman said: “I was approached by a guy who styles himself as a former U.S. intel officer,” Burkman said. “I quizzed him. I think he’s credible – you never know the motive of people. But what he said is basically this – that Seth discovered that the Russians had been hacking and therefore the Russian government did away with Seth.”
The discovery, Burkman claimed, was related to Russians’ hacking the DNC through Rich’s work on the voter registration program. He said that investigating Rich made him scared and he hired private security for his family. Since meeting with this anonymous individual, Burkman has been very confident about his theory. He told the Daily Mail: “I believe that Seth happened upon their hacking. And what’s logical about that are two things: the timeline and the fact that he would have been the one to find it.” He added that Rich was too smart to leave an email trail about his discovery.
His announcement was not greeted with enthusiasm from Rich’s family. They had originally held a joint press conference about how they were working together to solve Rich’s murder. But after Burkman’s Russia announcement, Rich’s family said the theory was “hurtful” and distracting. One family member told DCist: “We don’t believe there’s any involvement of any of the different conspiracy theories. We’ve made that clear multiple times. Putting out statements with absolutely nothing tangible and no hard facts—that’s what I want to stop.” The family member said that hearing Burkman’s theory was like being hit by a semi-truck when you think you’re doing fine.
Burkman periodically shares his theory about Rich and the Russians on Twitter too:
Rich’s family has also expressed regret and anger about Rod Wheeler, the private investigator whose statements about Rich’s murder being connected to WikiLeaks were later retracted.
Many doubt Burkman’s claims about Russian involvement in Rich’s death. That the evidence only comes from one anonymous source is one big point of contention. Other theories have also been offered for Rich’s death, ranging from the possibility that he provided information to WikiLeaks (a theory that Kim Dotcom claims he has evidence to support) to a robbery that went very wrong. However, there has been little to no evidence for any of these theories and the murder still remains unsolved.
Burkman has put up $105,000 as a reward for solving the Rich murder case. WikiLeaks offered $20,000 to help solve Rich’s murder. You can see everything Julian Assange has said about Rich in Heavy’s story here. The DC police also offered $25,000 for evidence leading to solving Rich’s murder.
2. Burkman Funded The Profiling Project
Burkman provided the funding for The Profiling Project’s research. This does not mean that he influenced the Project’s findings, however. The Profiling Project says that it is an autonomous and independent unit investigating Rich’s murder.
The project was led by Kevin Doherty and Jennifer Rohrer. Doherty is a former U.S. Marine and criminal investigator. Rohrer is a clinical and forensic psychologist. The Project was staffed by volunteers from The Student Association for Forensic Psychology at George Washington University. The Profiling Project determined that Rich’s death did not appear to be a random homicide or a robbery gone bad, but was likely performed by a hired killer or a serial murderer. The Profiling Project didn’t have any special access to materials or evidence or people. The determination was based on “informal, limited interviews” and “statistics, prior research, and Logos.” The Project did state in its report that the theories that Rich was killed because of WikiLeaks or because of Russians was “not likely” “unless a toxin was introduced into Seth.”
Brad Bauman, spokesman for the Rich family, released this statement about The Profiling Project:
The Rich family was not provided a copy of the preliminary report, never saw the report or was otherwise consulted in the preparation of the report. I received the report a half an hour before it was made public thus depriving myself, the family or the family’s lawyers any reasonable time (to) review it. As noted, by the report’s methodology, ‘The Profiling Project’ was given no special access to any materials, evidence or persons and due to case sensitivity, conducted only informal, limited interviews. Given that fact, the family hopes that the general public takes the findings at face value—valuable experience in research collection and report writing for students at George Washington University but in no way should take any findings contained within as new, credible or otherwise lending credence to conspiracy theories surround the circumstances of Seth’s death. We further hope that this doesn’t continue to impede the Metropolitan Police Department’s ability to find the killers and give folks who might have information to their arrest cover to stay silent.”
3. Burkman Filed a FOIA Request Seeking to Get the Metropolitan Police to Release More Information About the Investigation
In late May, Burkman filed a lawsuit (or a FOIA request, depending on which source you read) seeking to compel the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department to release more information about Rich’s shooting in July, including video footage. Police reports showed that officers patrolling the neighborhood heard gunshots at 4:20 a.m. and found Rich still conscious and breathing. The reports showed that three of the responding officers were wearing body cams at the time. The police department often releases surveillance video about unsolved murder investigations, The Daily Caller reported, but has not released the body cam footage for Rich. (See the DC Police’s response to the body cam footage question in Heavy’s story here.)
The Profiling Project also filed FOIA requests seeking police records, surveillance video, the medical examiner’s autopsy report, and the ballistics report.
Burkman also formally appealed to Congress in late February to investigate Rich’s murder, claiming Russia may have been involved.
Burkman said he has worked with the DNC in investigating Rich’s murder, including getting information from former chair Donna Brazile.
4. The Republican Lobbyist Proposed a Bill to Ban Homosexuals from the NFL in 2014
Burkman is a Republican lobbyist, political consultant, and president of Burkman Associates, LLC. He also heads an organization called American Decency. It was through this organization that Burkman announced plans in 2014 to protest the Cowboys’ signing of Michael Sam, an openly gay football player. Sam was signed onto the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad, and in response Burkman said he was going to organize thousands of right-wing activists to protest the signing during the Cowboys’ season opener that year. He also proposed a bill to ban homosexual football players from the National Football League. It was titled The American Decency Act of 2014, and it proposed that the NFL should not sign any openly gay football players unless it provided separate facilities for them. The bill proposed that any team that violated this would be fined $3 million to $8 million. He had very little support for his idea.
Burkman’s brother, Jim Burkman, is gay and told The Huffington Post that the bill was just a “media grab to pander to those folks who pay him to lobby.”
5. He Tried to Sell a Reality Show About Lobbyists to Bravo in 2014 and Currently Hosts a Radio Show
2014 was a busy year for Burkman. He worked with a production crew in 2014, filming episodes for a reality show about Washington lobbyists that was never picked up, The Washington Post reported. But the strange part was that a local consultant, Lisa Spoden, told The Washington Post that she was part of the cast and the show’s first three episodes were already picked up by Bravo and would be called “Wicked Politics.” Another consultant, Bonnie Ross, also told friends in an email, when seeking additional people to be in the show, that the reality series was being filmed for Bravo, The Washington Post reported. Burkman said these were all just Washington rumors and he had never said the show was picked up by Bravo.
Burkman also hosts a radio show called “Behind the Curtain.” The radio show’s webpage describes Burkman as “a K street Lobbyist and strategist like no other. Beholden to no one, Behind the Curtain with Jack Burkman stops at nothing to get to the stories that nobody is talking about but everyone needs to know… Burkman is a powerful conservative voice, but doesn’t work for the GOP establishment and his pursuit of the truth doesn’t stop at the party line.”
According to Burkman’s website from 2013, which has since been taken down, his firm “is widely known here and abroad for its ability to solve the most complex of Washington problems.” He appears frequently on many networks both nationally and internationally. He’s a former Fox News political analyst and from 1998-2002 appeared regularly on ABC’s Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher. He graduated from Georgetown University Law Center. Before founding his own firm, he was counsel to Holland & Knight LLP. His Twitter account points to his radio show website, Behind the Curtain. His bio on Behind the Curtain reads, in part: “Meet Jack Burkman, a K street Lobbyist and strategist like no other. Beholden to no one, Behind the Curtain with Jack Burkman stops at nothing to get to the stories that nobody is talking about but everyone needs to know. With 25 years experience in the bowels of Washington, Burkman maintains an impressive intelligence network made up of insiders in the highest corridors of power.”