It is with sadness that we announce Heroic Media Group, LLC will be closing our doors for good.
This comes not by our decision, but as a necessity brought about by a few bad actors who have chosen to slander our good work for their personal gain.
We sought to reconcile in September and again formally in October. This only served to embolden these people and necessitated further legal action on our part. In February, we issued a formal demand letter through our legal counsel hoping their harassment and slander would cease. Regrettably, their behavior only grew worse. Having no other recourse, we directed our attorneys to file a formal complaint with the court which we must now pursue.
Let it be known that ours was a small woman-owned business that formed to serve not only small businesses, but also good people who stepped up to run for local, state and national offices. We believe that candidates not beholden to corporations are free to serve their constituents and our work was offered freely through in-kind donations for services. We knew we were taking a heavy loss to do this work, but never expected to be subjected to harassment for doing so and certainly not by some of the very same candidates we had helped in their 2016 races.
As lifelong volunteers, Democrats, LGBT and civil rights activists, we have been appalled by the behavior of some who represent themselves as Democratic Party leaders and yet made statements about our company and our work.
Our concern was that this behavior by a few would be damaging to the reputation of our company and its officers and could reflect negatively on the candidates with whom we were working. Therefore, we made the decision to handle the ongoing matter privately to prevent undue influence on their elections. As a result, the damage to our business and our operating capital has been devastating.
There is no place for coercion, harassment, intimidation or threats in any lawful, civil society.
While we close our business, we feel strongly that addressing this behavior is necessary and the last service we can provide to help ensure no other volunteer, activist, or candidate must endure the same behavior we have faced over the last year. This ends now.
We thank you for your support and patience as we transition through this final process.
And for the many witnesses who stepped up quietly to offer support, copies of emails, video, photos, text messages, and witness statements - we thank you. You recognized what was wrong and for you, that mattered more than personalities or titles. We could not do this without you.
~ Heroic Media Group, LLC
Interested in helping us fight back? You can contribute anonymously here:
Their Actions and Accusations:
- Harassment of our candidate clients, threats made if they didn't stop working with us. (We provided in-kind donated marketing services).
- Allegations that Kerri Barber, a former candidate and appointed precinct committee-person, was improperly using Vote Builder to solicit clients for profit.
- Allegations that Heroic Media was charging excessive fees to candidate clients; "fleecing candidates".
- Allegations that Heroic Media was engaged in dishonest and legally questionable business practices.
- Allegations that Kerri Barber had made false statement that were "detrimental" to the Democratic Party.
- The Executive Board then took steps to illegally remove Kerri Barber's husband as a member of that board, illegally removed 20 appointed precinct committee person to rig an illegal vote.
- These persons continued to harass candidate clients at public events, party events, within the community- sometimes screaming at them- for continuing to stand by the work that Heroic Media offered.
- These person threatened our candidate clients, withheld party tools and labeled these candidate clients as "tainted" because they chose to work with us.
- These persons did then make false statements within the community about our work, our business practices, our personal character and discouraged others from working with us.
- These persons did encourage others to illegally record private conversations within a private residence - a clear violation of Illinois' eavesdropping laws.
- These persons did engage in cyber stalking, sending screen shots of Kerri Barber's private comments to her cell phone, despite their having been blocked on social media, in what we believe was an an effort to taunt and harassing her.
- These persons did engage in improper campaign activity and grossly mischaracterized a person's place of employment, we allege then did contact that employer, resulting in the individual losing their job through no fault of their own.
- Encourage, coordinate, and compel county Democratic chairs to remove Kerri Barber, Kae Dickinson and several other board members from a private group without cause and against the organization's bylaws. These individuals then registered the group as a private corporation, barred the previous board members from participation and attempted to destroy evidence on behalf of the plaintiffs in our lawsuit. (Illinois Secretary of State business registry, file #71511685)
Action We Took:
- 1 Call to County Party Chairman Bisset to reconcile what appeared to be a misunderstanding, a call which he grossly misrepresented and used to his advantage, September 2017 (Meeting minutes from District Chair Ruth Scifo show admitted retaliation and that this was due to comments made by K. Barber. Additional emails correspondence from Chairman Bisset support this.)
- 2 Calls, emails with CC to Bisset to county party secretary to verify propriety of Vote Builder usage and confirm the false nature of Bisset's false accusations, October 3, 2017. Report Received. (Note, the IP address and data tower for Heroic Media Group and K. Barber is located on Three Oaks Rd in Cary, IL not in Algonquin.)
- Submitted to an independent audit to review our billing practices. This auditor was consistently rated as the top forensic auditor in the State for NFP auditing. See the report here
- Client/Witness Affidavits obtained (October 2017 - present)
- Witness statements and documentation (September 2017 - present)
- 1 call, 1 email to the State Democratic Party Vote Builder administrator, requesting he cancel the account, September 2017, neither the call nor the email was returned.
- 2 Calls to Chairman Madigan's office tasked with managing harassment complaints, 2018.
- Referred to Attorney Michael Casper, representing the Democratic State Central Committee. Mr Casper advised that he was aware of the issue, but that the SCC had "No jurisdiction over its own members and their conduct".
- 1 Cease & Desist delivered via certified mail, October 2017 See here
- 1 Demand letter delivered via certified mail, February 2018 See here
- 1 Complaint filed April 18, 2018 See the full complaint here
Criminal Complaint: 18LA000135 HEROIC MEDIA LLC, ET AL VS BISSET, MICHAEL, ET AL http://caseinfo.co.mchenry.il.us/pca/
Our interview with Hard Lens Media on our civil defamation case. https://youtu.be/UJJeXdYg2lg
Watch this carefully as defamation laws are in place to govern proper campaign activity as well as general public interaction. No, your first amendment rights do not absolve you of adherence to these laws.
- Police report April 23, 2018 filed against State Senate Candidate Nancy Zettler for cyber stalking/harassment by electronic means, Village of Cary Police: 18-2426 (Here is what Illinois State Law says: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/publicacts/fulltext.asp?Name=095-0849)
- We reached out to State Senator Melinda Bush for assistance and direction as she has championed recent legislation concerning party employees and sexual harassment. Her chief of staff directed us to her website for private citizen activist. We were also directed to the Illinois Chairman's Association for assistance.
- Illinois Democratic Party Chair's Association posts an article, "An Argument to Protect Your PCs" from Chair Zahorik about the importance of protecting PCs. This was the organization we were directed to for assistance.
July 20 - Our first Court appearance in the 22nd Judicial Court. Details to follow.
- Cook County Court 2018-CH-06436
- Westbend Mutual Insurance Files Counterclaim Against SCC Member/County Chair
Imagine being a member of your local party and contributing with donations only to discover that those contributions paid for a liability policy that another member hoped to use to pay for their legal expenses brought about by their bad behavior.
They are quite literally using party funds for their own benefit.
That is exactly what happened in Cook County Court Case 2018-CH-06436.
State Central Committeewoman and now County Party Chair Kristina Zahorik filed a lawsuit after Westbend Mutual Insurance denied her claim for legal expenses related to our Defamation case. Ironically, this is the same policy that both Kerri Barber and her husband helped pay for as members of the same party.
Westbend has now filed a counterclaim against Zahorik, former Chair Bissett, and Paula Yensen citing Illinois law against 'willful acts' that violate the law.
Westbend cited the apparent intentional acts that contributed to our reasons to file in our Defamation case in McHenry County, IL. Recall that, of the small amount of evidence we provided, it was all the defendants bragging and celebrating their actions. That is the clear evidence of intentional action.
The defendants in this case (Zahorik, Bissett and Yensen) are required to file an answer by October 17, 2018 with a judicial decision expected by November 26, 2018. Heroic Media, LLC with Kerri Barber and Kae Dickinson are not parties to this counterclaim.