Seth Conrad Rich was a Democratic campaign staffer, data analyst, and DNC employee. Born in Omaha NE, he got involved with Democratic politics throughout high school and college, working for the Nebraska Democratic Party and several Democratic campaigns. After graduating in 2011, he took a job at a polling firm in Washington DC, relocating there. Two years later, Rich was hired as national data director of the DNC Voter Expansion Project, where he worked to educate voters and investigate cases of people being unable to vote. He was shot dead in Washington DC on July 10, 2016 in the early morning hours after walking home from a bar. Though the police concluded that Rich's shooting was likely to be a botched robbery, critical observers noted that nothing was stolen from him. This led to many theories that Seth Rich had been murdered in connection with his DNC job, which were aggressively dismissed by the family and most mainstream media outlets.
Family and early life
Seth Rich was born on January 3, 1989 to Mary and Joel Rich in Omaha NE. He had one older brother, Aaron Rich. Growing up in Omaha, Rich attended the Friedel Jewish Academy and Beveridge Middle School before going to Central High. At Central High, he was active in numerous extracurricular activities, participating in the debate team (which reached the national championships), choir, soccer club, and Student Democrats organization. Rich spent his summers, meanwhile, at Camp Ramah in Conover WI.
Following his 2007 graduation from Central High, Rich attended Creighton University studying political science. He was heavily involved with student government there, serving on the Creighton Student Union for 2 years. Rich graduated with a political science degree in 2011.
Rich's interest in politics brought him into the political realm while still a teenager. As a senior in high school in need of volunteer hours, a teacher introduced him to Senator Ben Nelson's 2006 reelection campaign. One of Nelson's staffers described Rich as a "great kid" but also "the real deal". In college, Rich continued to work for political campaigns and parties, including the Nebraska Democratic Party, the state senate campaign of Heath Mello, and as an intern in Ben Nelson's office. While a sophomore at Creighton, Rich was the field organizer for Scott Kleeb's 2008 Senate campaign.
Not long after his 2011 graduation, Rich was hired by DC polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner as a research data associate. He moved to DC and worked at the firm for 2 years. At GQR, Rich wrote computer programs to sift through survey data. Initially worried he wouldn't know anyone in DC, he quickly fell in love with the city and its people, making countless new friends and organizing social outings with them.
Dr. Andrew Therriault, a data scientist who was Rich's mentor at GQR, helped him get a DNC job in 2014. Seth Rich was hired as the national data director for the DNC Voter Expansion Project, the youngest person in DNC history to hold a deputy director job.
At the Voter Expansion Project, Rich worked on several initiatives dedicated to making voting easier. He worked on a computer program that would draw voters a map to their polling place, likely as a part of the DNC's Arbor Project announced in the summer of 2014. During the 2014 election, Rich worked around the clock to record incidents of people being prevented from voting. In 2015, Rich addressed a panel of election officials on behalf of the DNC, asking them how to get information on provisional balloting so that they could work to ensure more people's votes got counted.
In the 2016 Democratic primaries, there were thousands of cases of people being turned away from voting, almost all of them affecting Bernie Sanders supporters. Pratt Wiley, national director of voter expansion, confirmed that he and the Voter Expansion Project investigated the reports of voting irregularities. Seth Rich's role in the investigation is unknown, but as national data director and someone who flagged voting issues in the 2014 election, it's likely that he was involved in some way.
Shooting and death
The night of July 9, 2016, Rich went to Lou's City Bar in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of DC. He was a regular at the bar, and had become good friends with the bar manager Joe Capone. According to Capone, Rich was upset that night about relationship troubles he was having. He had just been offered a job with Hillary Clinton's campaign in Brooklyn, which would have required him to move away from DC, where his girlfriend lived. The decision was causing tension over whether their relationship could survive a move away.
According to a bartender, Rich stayed at Lou's until it closed around 1:30 AM on July 10. He would sometimes go to another nearby bar after Lou's closed, but a friend said that he did not go there that night. Rich only had a 1.8 mile walk from Lou's to his home, which would have taken about 40 minutes, but he took much longer. It appears that his time was occupied by a lengthy phone call with his girlfriend. After about half an hour walking home, he called his girlfriend at 2:05 AM and spoke for 89 minutes. The call dropped, and a couple minutes later, he called her back and spoke for 43 more minutes.
Shortly before their call ended, his girlfriend heard noise on his end of the line, which he told her not to worry about. Around 4:19 AM, Rich told her that he was almost home and ended the call. His girlfriend, who was staying in Michigan at the time, felt he sounded calm and went to bed thinking there was nothing wrong.
At 4:19 AM, Seth Rich was shot multiple times on the 2100 block of Flagler Place NW in Bloomingdale. A neighbor, Mark Mueller, reported hearing two sharp gunshots in rapid succession at exactly 4:19 AM. Most reports stated that DC MPD officers who were on patrol nearby heard gunshots and went to the scene, where they found Rich. A Washington Post article made a different claim, saying that officers were alerted to the scene by ShotSpotter gunfire detectors.
Police officers found Rich lying on the ground with multiple gunshot wounds, at least one (some sources say two) in the back. He was initially "conscious and breathing" when police arrived. Rich was unaware that he had been shot and wasn't in pain; to the contrary, he was quite talkative with police and emergency responders. However, he was disoriented, giving out a previous address when he was asked where he lived. According to his brother Aaron, the emergency responders were surprised he didn't make it. Seth Rich was said to be taken to an unnamed nearby hospital, where he died of his injuries.
Rich had bruises on his hands, knees, and face, indicating a struggle had taken place. The police theory held that Rich was a robbery victim, though none of his possessions were taken. He was carrying a watch (whose band appeared to be damaged in the struggle), wallet (with credit cards), cell phone, and expensive Jewish chai pendant, none of which were stolen.
- Ben Nelson 2006 campaign: Volunteer (2006)
- Nebraska Democratic Party: ???? (????-????)
- Heath Mello campaign: ???? (????-????)
- Ben Nelson office: Intern (????-????)
- Scott Kleeb 2008 campaign: Field organizer (2008)
- Greenberg Quinlan Rosner: Research data associate (2012-2014)
- DNC Voter Expansion Project: National data director (2014-2016)
Political assassination theories
The political sensitivity of Seth Rich's job at the DNC and the mystery behind his death caused many to speculate that Rich's murder was a targeted assassination. Rich was murdered right around the time of two major controversies involving the 2016 Democratic primaries: credible allegations of election fraud targeting Bernie Sanders and leaked DNC emails proving that party leaders conspired to benefit Hillary Clinton politically. It was immediately suspected that Rich's murder had some connection to the rigging of the Democratic primaries.
One popular theory claimed that Rich was killed for being the DNC email leaker. This theory was bolstered when Wikileaks, which had published the leaked emails, offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to Rich's killer in August 2016. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange refused to identify Rich as the source, but somewhat suggestively implied it. However, Rich's job at the DNC did not involve system administration, meaning he wouldn't have had access to the emails that were leaked, and there's no indication that he had hacking skills. Kim Dotcom claimed in May 2017 that he had been in contact with Rich going back to late 2014, and knew he was the leaker, but provided nothing to support his claim. Ultimately, little to no evidence exists for Rich being the source of the DNC emails.
On the other hand, Seth Rich's job as voter expansion data director almost certainly involved him in an investigation of the fraudulent 2016 Democratic primaries. The DNC Voter Expansion Project was investigating voting irregularities in the primaries, an investigation that Rich quite likely would have been part of. In 2014, he worked intently to flag incidents of people being turned away from the polls, and in 2015, he asked for data to ensure provisional ballots wouldn't be left uncounted - both would be rampant issues in 2016. Furthermore, Rich's job as data director and apparent work on the Arbor Project probably made him familiar with NGP VAN's voter file database, which was connected to the voting irregularities and would have allowed him to track unauthorized voter registration changes.
Rich was said to be passionate about protecting the right to vote by his family and DNC coworkers, and his job reflected it in 2014 and 2015. It's extremely likely that he fulfilled a similar role in investigating voting issues during the 2016 primaries. An honest investigation would have led Rich to the conclusion that Sanders supporters were being targeted for disenfranchisement, a conclusion untenable to the Clinton-supporting DNC. Rich's higher-ups might have ordered him to cover up or ignore the evidence, something he almost certainly would have had too much integrity to do. That could have been a motive for murdering him, before he could blow the whistle.
Some details of the murder itself have raised questions. DC police and the family insist that Rich's murder was a botched robbery, despite no conclusive evidence that anyone attempted to rob him. Supposing that the robbery narrative is true, Rich's bruises indicate he was struggling with a robber in front of him, which doesn't fit with him being shot in the back. If he was fleeing from a robber, that could explain the shots in his back, but it would be unlikely for the robber to shoot Rich if he was running away; armed robbers generally only shoot when a confrontation risks their own life.
After nearly a year, with multiple financial rewards being offered for information about Rich's murder, the police have seemingly come no closer to finding any leads. The fact that the killer could shoot Seth Rich and quickly evade police who were in the immediate vicinity, while leaving few traces of their identity on the ground or on camera, could imply a certain professionalism about his murder. Interestingly, a Washington Post article claimed that the officers were not in Rich's immediate vicinity, and had to be alerted by ShotSpotter, which has now become the department's official narrative. This unexplained narrative discrepancy justifies what would otherwise be a serious question: why didn't the police catch the shooter?
In the meantime, the DC police have maintained a veil of secrecy about the case. No autopsy report, or even the cause of death, has been released to the public. No video footage, not even from the police's bodycams, has been made public. Even though the police appear to have stalled on finding Rich's killer, they refuse to share any details about their investigation, even innocuous information that would be unlikely to compromise it.
At the same time, important doubts remain about the theory that Rich was killed in a politically-motivated hit. Most significant is why the assassin would leave him alive. It does not seem likely that a professional assassin specifically targeting Rich for murder would fail to ensure he was dead.
- Seth Rich eulogy
- ABC7 Omaha affiliate on Seth Rich's murder
- Washington Post article on how Seth Rich wanted to make a difference
- Omaha World-Herald news article on Rich's death
- Rollcall article on Rich's shooting
- Washington Post overview of Seth Rich's life, death, and legacy
- NBC4 DC local affiliate on Rich's shooting
- DC local affiliate on Rich's shooting
- Seth Rich asks a panel of election officials in 2015 about provisional ballot counting
- MPD report on Rich's shooting and death
- Omaha World-Herald article on Wikileaks offering a reward for information on Rich's death
- Kim Dotcom's claim about Seth Rich
- Shotspotter narrative discrepancy
- Obituary in the Omaha World-Herald
- Family of Seth Rich appears on Crime Watch
- Camera footage obtained from Flagler Market
- Pratt Wiley honoring Seth Rich: WUSA9, WJLA
- George Webb says that Bob Fitrakis was one of the last people Seth Rich spoke to
- Profiling Project report on Seth Rich
- Narco News, "Spinning “Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics” in Venezuela" by Justin Delacour, 2004/07/31: "As the Washington Post’s Scott Wilson reported, prominent members of the Venezuelan opposition traveled to Washington in January 2003 and began consulting informally with Democratic Party strategist James Carville. Soon thereafter, the Democratic Party polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (GQR)—the company of Carville’s associate and Clintonite pollster Stanley Greenberg—popped up in Venezuela working on behalf of the opposition.
In a clear demonstration of U.S. bipartisanship at the service of Uncle Sam’s reactionary foreign policy, GQR joined forces with the Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies to carry out “polls” on behalf of the opposition. In March 2003, GQR released a misleading statement that its findings contrasted with “the assumption of many analysts that Venezuela is divided between the upper- and middle-class opponents of Chavez and his lower-class supporters.”
The strategy was clear; in order to beat Chávez, GQR —like Datanálisis—sought to deny the government of its base.
The only problem was that GQR’s denial of a class divide and Datanálisis’ claim that the poor were now even more disapproving of Chávez than middle and wealthier strata were strongly contradicted by the actual results of the GQR-POS “poll”. The “poll” showed that the poor (stratum E) and the relatively poor (stratum D)—which together represent about 80 percent of Venezuela’s adult population—were more than twice as likely to continue supporting Chávez than the middle to wealthier strata."