While Ken Cuccinelli may be the top law enforcement officer in the Commonwealth of Virginia, that hasn’t stopped him from taking campaign contributions for his gubernatorial bid from a Religious Right activist linked to a kidnapping investigation. Blue Virginia notes that Cuccinelli donor Philip Zodhiates of Response Unlimited is tied to the Lisa Miller kidnapping case.
Zodhiates was named in a RICO lawsuit [PDF] filed by Janet Jenkins, whose former partner Lisa Miller kidnapped their daughter, Isabella, and fled to a Mennonite community in Central America. Before leaving the country with Isabella, Miller broke off a civil partnership with Jenkins after she renounced homosexuality and moved to Virginia and joined the church founded by Jerry Falwell, who also established Liberty University. Miller abducted Isabella after refusing a court order to transfer custody of their daughter to Jenkins.
The lawsuit depicts how Zodhiates and Liberty University School of Law, which represented Miller, were connected to the kidnapping:
36. Unbeknownst to Plaintiff Janet Jenkins, on September 21, 2009, Lisa Miller and Isabella were transported, in disguise as Amish-Mennonites, to the Canadian border by Philip Zodhiates and at least one other Response Unlimited, Inc. employee. Lisa Miller and Isabella crossed the border at the Rainbow Bridge in a taxi in the early morning hours of September 22, 2009, just days prior to the contact ordered by the Rutland Family Court in its September 2009 Interim Order.
37. In the days prior to September 22, 2009, Lisa Miller and Philip Zodhiates conspired with Kenneth Miller, a member of the Virginia Beachy Amish-Mennonite Brotherhood with whom both Victoria and Philip Zodhiates were acquainted, to arrange the purchase of plane tickets from Canada to Nicaragua for Lisa Miller and Isabella Miller-Jenkins.
41. Unbeknownst to Plaintiff Janet Jenkins, in 2009 Victoria Zodhiates (now Hyden) was an employee of Response Unlimited, Inc., and also a “student worker” at Liberty University School of Law. On information and belief, Victoria Zodhiates sent an email during this time period to her co-workers at the law school requesting donations for supplies to send to Lisa Miller to enable her to remain outside the country. Lisa Miller’s attorney, Matthew Staver was the Dean of the Law School and Ms. Zodhiates’s boss. Matthew Staver and Philip Zodhiates were also personal acquaintances at this time. On September 20, 2009, both Philip Zodhiates and Victoria Hyden called Lisa Miller’s father, Terry Miller in Tennessee to assist in arranging her and Isabella’s transportation from a Walmart parking lot in Lynchburg, Virginia, to Waynesboro, Virginia, from whence they would depart for Canada and Nicaragua the next day.
42. In early November, 2009, elders of the Thomas Road Baptist Church packed up the personal belongings of Lisa Miller in two bags. These bags were picked up from Lynchburg, Virginia by Philip Zodhiates who arranged to have the bags transported to Nicaragua by sending them with his son’s school teacher who was taking some children on a mission trip to Managua. Philip Zodhiates arranged for the teacher, John Collmus, to deliver the bags at the airport to Timothy Miller. The bags also contained some supplies for Lisa Miller, such as peanut butter. –
53. In May of 2010, Philip Zodhiates contacted Kenneth Miller purportedly to arrange the purchase of hydrangea plants from Millmont Greenhouses, Inc., for his daughter Victoria’s wedding. As stated above, Kenneth Miller was an employee of Millmont at that time. Upon information and belief, this transaction with Mr. Zodhiates was never recorded in the normal course of business, but instead, was fraudulently transferred through a payroll account into a check to Andrew Yoder, for $500. Andrew Yoder was never an employee of Millmont Greenhouses, Inc. On August 10, 2012, Andrew Yoder testified under oath that he received a check to cash from Kenneth Miller to enable him to bring cash to Nicaragua to transfer to Timothy Miller. Yoder testified that he believed this cash was related to Lisa Miller.
Zodhiates’ company is also closely tied to Nativist and anti-Semitic groups. Author David Neiwert described how Response Unlimited worked with anti-immigrant “Minutemen” groups in his book And Hell Followed With Her:
Headed up by Diener’s Phil Sheldon and a man named Philip Zodhiates, Response Unlimited makes its money by brokering mailing lists—hundreds of them, gleaned from right-wing organizations and political campaigns, and made available to fundraisers and organizers who can select a list of thousands of names based on their specific interests. Besides the [Minutemen Civil Defense Corps] and readers of the conservative Weekly Standard, among the lists offered by RU is one culled from readers of the notoriously anti-Semitic weekly the Spotlight.
The Southern Poverty Law Center adds that even after Spotlight closed down, Zodhiates maintained ties with its successor:
Response Unlimited, based in Waynesboro, Va., and headed by Christian Right activist Philip Zodhiates, charges $100 for the rental of every 1,000 names of subscribers to the now-defunct Spotlight newspaper. Founded by veteran anti-Semite Willis Carto, The Spotlight carried anti-Zionist, anti-Semitic and wildly conspiracist articles interspersed with ads for Klan, neo-Nazi and related hate groups.
Zodhiates also peddles lists of subscribers to the American Free Press, which replaced The Spotlight when that tabloid was shut down amid legal and financial troubles surrounding Carto. The Free Press began immediately after The Spotlight fizzled in 2001 and picked up many of its predecessor paper’s propagandists. Today, the Free Press carries stories on Zionism, secret “New World Order” conspiracies, American Jews and Israel. Mixed in are advertisements for outfits like Pete Peter’s Scriptures for America and Kingdom Identity Ministries — practitioners of Christian Identity, a theology that claims that Jews are the literal descendants of Satan.