A former staffer for a prominent liberal group and a self-described “extreme political activist” and “citizen journalist” was arrested Tuesday night after being accused of battery against the campaign manager for Nevada Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt. Mike Stark was charged with battery after the Las Vegas incident, The Associated Press reports.
Stark, 50, worked for American Bridge 21 Century, a progressive super PAC that supports Democratic candidates and opposes Republicans, according to its website. American Bridge was founded by Media Matters for America’s David Brock in 2010 with a goal of “holding Republicans accountable.” Stark, who has been a longtime figure in liberal politics known for confrontations with political candidates and conservative media members, was booked into the Las Vegas City Jail after his arrested and was released on bail on Wednesday.
Stark was arrested at the East Las Vegas Community Center. According to The Associated Press, he is accused of battering Laxalt’s campaign manager, Kristin Davison, while trying to force is way into a room at the community center to question Laxalt, who is currently Nevada’s Attorney General. Laxalt is in a tight race against Democrat Steve Sisolak, whose campaign told The Associated Press they have no association with Stark. Nevada Democratic officials also said they are not tied to Stark. It is not clear if Stark has hired an attorney and he could not be reached for comment about his arrest.
Here’s what you need to know Mike Stark and the incident:
1. Stark Is Accused of Grabbing Kristen Davison’s Arm & Twisting it Behind Her Back as She Yelled ‘Stop Hurting Me!’
Las Vegas officials said the incident occurred Tuesday night, according to CNN. City spokesperson Jace Radke told CNN, “The incident took place as an apparent result of an altercation involving Mr. Stark entering one of the rooms at the East Las Vegas Community Center with a camera and attempting to question Attorney General Adam Laxalt.” Radke told Politico, “He was arrested by our city marshals last night about 7 p.m. after Kristin Davison contacted them saying Stark had grabbed her by the arm and pushed her. The arrest is classified as a citizen’s arrest because the incident did not happen in the presence of the marshals.”
Laxalt’s campaign said Stark “assaulted a female campaign manager.” A photo showed Mike Stark in handcuffs outside of the community center:
According to a police report obtained by CNN, Davison said Stark and others were shouting questions at Laxalt and his campaign staff. Laxalt and Davison then “proceeded to exit” the room,” and “Stark followed, continuing to yell and physically push my colleagues and me. We proceeded down the hallway, and he physically pushed his body on me multiple times. I asked him to stop and to back away, and he did not,” Davison told police in her statement. She said they then went into a private room and Stark opened the door and grabbed her right arm, twisting it and squeezing it so she could not pull away. “I kept screaming help me, stop hurting me, you are hurting me,” she said. “Stark would not stop and grabbed my arm tighter and pulled me closer to him and to the door.” Davison said someone then called the police.
Davison, 31, previously worked as campaign manager for Luther Strange, who lost a Republican primary to Roy Moore in September 2017, according to the Nevada Independent. She has also worked for Missouri Senator Roy Blunt and Florida Senator Marco Rubio and spent time working on Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s gubernatorial campaign, according to The Independent. She also spent several years working for GOP political operative Karl Rove as his chief of staff, the news site reports.
She told police that Stark’s grip left marks on her arm and she also suffered pain in her back and head. “Kristin is tough, and she won’t let this stop her from doing her job — no matter what the other side throws her way,” Laxalt campaign spokesman Parker Briden told Politico.
Former Nevada Governor Bob List told police he feared for the safety of Laxalt and Davison, according to Politico. In his statement to police, List said, “There were five of us trying to block him. He grabbed Kristen Davison’s arm and twisted it behind her, pinned her against the door jam as we tried to free her.”
The Laxalt campaign released photos of Davison’s bruises:
“Politics is a little bit aggressive these days, but this is just insane,” Davison told Fox News. “I’ve never seen anything like it. He grabbed my right arm, my leg was lodged between the door and the wall. He twisted my arm, and contorted it behind my back. I was scared. Every time I tried pulling away, he would grab tighter, and pull me closer into him.”
She said it “felt like an hour” as Stark pulled her head into his chest bruising her neck, and then held her there. “I was scared and screaming ‘stop—you’re hurting me,'” she told Fox News. Davison said Stark warned Laxalt, “‘Adam, there’s only one way you can make this stop’ … That really scared me.”
Briden, Laxalt’s campaign spokesman, said in a statement, “Assaulting the female campaign manager of the opposing campaign is disgusting and it has no place in our system. This mob behavior from the left is out of control. Encouraging violence, as many prominent Democrats like former Attorney General Eric Holder have recently done, is having real, dangerous consequences.”
Stark was released from jail on bail on Wednesday. It is not clear when he is scheduled to appear in court.
2. He Has Worked for Several Liberal Media Outlets & Organizations & Was Fired by American Bridge After His Arrest
American Bridge told Fox News that Stark has been relieved of his duties with the liberal group “effective immediately.” An unnamed American Bridge official told CNN Stark was fired, “Last night one of our employees was involved in an incident with a member of Adam Laxalt’s campaign in Nevada. In response to that incident, we have decided to relieve this employee of his duties with American Bridge effective immediately.”
Stark has contributed to several liberal media outlets, including The Young Turks. Cenk Uygur hired Stark in 2006, writing about him, “Mike is smart, tough, well educated, dedicated and obviously courageous. This country needs more reporters like Mike Stark. I am proud to be part of an organization that is going to give people like Mike an opportunity to ask more tough questions of our elected officials. The people have a right to know.”
Stark has also worked with Shareblue Media.
“No one should ever feel unsafe at a political event,” Steve Sisolak campaign spokesperson Christina Amestoy said in a statement. “We strongly condemn this violence.”
3. Stark Was Previously Accused of Assaulting a Female Aide to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke & Was Arrested After a Disturbance at a Virginia Parade
Mike Stark was arrested in March 2018 after he was accused of assaulting Heather Swift, an aide Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. He was acquitted of a simple assault charge in September, according to E&E News. The incident happened in the Longworth House Office Building on March 15 after Zinke completed a budget hearing before the House National Resources Committee, the news organization reported. Stark approached Zinke and his staffers with a camera, saying he was there as a journalist for American Bridge. “I want to catch good video of administration officials and Republican members of Congress,” Stark testified during his trial, according to E&E News.
Stark followed Zinke and his aides, including Swift, she testified. “He was pushing his body against mine in an effort to get to the secretary. She said, “my ankle wobbled and I was on unsure footing.” Swift did not fall or need medical treatment. But prosecutors argued simple assault is any form of “offensive touching” even if the injury is “extremely slight,” E&E News reports.
Stark testified that Swift “hip-checked” him intentionally. “This was a political hit. … I spent the night in jail because of this. I didn’t shove anybody, I didn’t barrel anybody over,” he testified. Judge Maurice Ross, of the D.C. Superior Court, found acquitted him, saying, “his testimony is very credible,” E&E News reported.
Stark was also arrested in 2017 during an incident at a parade in Fairfax County, Virginia, according to The Washington Post. The video of the violent arrest spread quickly online. You can watch it above. Stark was trying to confront then-Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie at the October 2017 parade. In February 2018, Stark was found guilty of misdemeanor disorderly conduct, The Post reports. He was fined $500. A charge of fleeing police was dismissed.
The video showed Stark arguing with Fairfax County police officers before being pushed into a fence and taken down to the ground. Stark had been told by an officer to stay away from a van carrying Gillespie. According to The Post, Stark told the officer that he was a reporter and would be covering Gillespie, but the officer said Stark was blocking a roadway on the parade route and had to move.
“I was standing in the street on the far side of the driveway filming the Gillespie RV in anticipation of him disembarking,” Stark said in a statement after his arrest. “That’s when I heard the policeman tell me to get out of the road. I complied, and then he told me to leave the Gillespie vehicle and everyone inside it alone. At that point I told the policeman he’d probably have to arrest me to keep me away from Gillespie. He responded that he would arrest me and approached me aggressively. The ‘conversation’ escalated from there.”
Judge Mark Simmons told Stark police had given him “breaks” during the incident and he “went from being a reporter to an actor,” according to The Post. Stark told the newspaper he was considering what to do next, saying, “I took it to trial believing I had the law on my side. So I’m surprised at the outcome.”
An internal investigation into the arrest by the Fairfax County Police is still ongoing. “I am pleased with the judge’s decision,” Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler said in a statement. “I continue to stand behind the great men and women of the Fairfax County Police Department who work diligently to keep our community members safe every day.”
4. He Has Feuded With Bill O’Reilly & Rush Limbaugh & Was Tackled by Staffers for Then-Senator George Allen in 2006 During a Campaign Event
In 2008, the New York Times profiled Stark, calling him a “political agitator.” Reporter Noam Cohen wrote that Stark, “made a name for himself through his uncanny ability to get past the screeners for (Bill) O’Reilly and (Rush) Limbaugh and other right-wing radio hosts to ask embarrassing questions. He recorded the conversations — they usually ended abruptly — and posted them on his Web site, and his renown grew.” You can watch one of his calls with Limbaugh above.
In 2006, Stark was wrestled to the ground by staffers for then-Senator George Allen, a Virginia Republican, at a campaign event. Video of the incident was aired on national news networks. Stark was trying to question Allen at a Charlottesville campaign stop. You can watch the video below:
“I demand that Senator Allen fire the staffers who beat up a constituent attempting to use his constitutional right to petition his government. I also want to know why Senator Allen would want his staffers to assault someone asking questions about matters of public record in the heat of a political campaign. Why are his divorce records sealed? Why was he arrested in the 1970s? And why did his campaign batter me when I asked him about these questions,” Stark wrote in a statement in 2006. Stark eventually chose not to press charges against Allen or his staffers.
According to The Virginian-Pilot, Stark was trying to ask Allen a “derogatory” question.
5. Stark Is a Retired Marine & Attended University of Virginia Law School
Stark, whose full name is Wilfred Michael Stark, is a New York native who served in the U.S. Marine Corps. He later attended the University of Virginia and University of Virginia Law School, according to his biography on the PMIC Inc. website. Stark has worked for PMIC as an executive consultant for media and strategic communications. According to the Virginia consulting firm’s website, Stark “uses his media, legal and public relations expertise to provide communications solutions to PMIC and PMIC clients while respecting and giving primacy to the fiduciary obligations of PMIC clientele.”
According to the PMIC Inc. website, “While attending the University of Virginia School of Law, Mike, a United States Marine Corps veteran, helped establish a veterans advocacy student organization to assist veterans with denied disability claims. As a Fellow at the law school’s Center for the Study of Race and Law, Mike researched the Constitution’s historical context and used his public relations acumen to broaden discussion of race, law and our nation’s founding charter.”
Stark has also previously worked as a computer programmer before attending law school. Stark is married and lives with his wife and children in Falls Church, Virginia.
After the 2006 incident with George Allen, Stark said in a statement, “All he had to do was say, ‘This is not how my campaign is run. Take your hands off that man.’ He could have ignored my questions. Instead, he and his thugs chose violence. I spent four years in the Marine Corps. I’ll be damned if I’ll let my country be taken from me by thugs that are afraid of taking responsibility for themselves. It just isn’t the America I know and love. Somebody needs to take a stand against those that would bully and intimidate their fellow citizens. That stand begins right here, right now.”