MICHAEL CONNELL’S DEATH DRAWS SCRUTINY…. Just a week ago, Michael Connell, a top Internet consultant for the RNC and both the Bush and McCain presidential campaigns, died in a plane crash. He was alone, flying a small, single-engine plane, and the details of what caused the crash have not yet been determined. The FAA is investigating — as it does whenever any plane crashes — and has not yet filed a report.

The Huffington Post‘s Tom Edsall, who notes that there was “no immediate evidence of wrong-doing or sabotage,” goes on to call the incident “intriguing,” and highlights the fact that Connell’s death has “provoked a groundswell of commentary among conspiracy theorists on the web.”

The most common unsubstantiated allegation on these sites is that Connell was about to provide crucial information in the case of alleged vote fraud in the 2004 Ohio presidential contest, and that that information would implicate Karl Rove and others in the Bush administration. Just last month, Connell was deposed in the ongoing case, King Lincoln Bronzeville Neighborhood Association v. Blackwell. According to accounts of the November 3rd deposition, Connell denied any knowledge of attempts to fraudulently manipulate 2004 Ohio vote counts.

There is, however, a more immediate and relevant question: How much will Connell’s death, even if the accident was entirely without malfeasance, impede congressional committee investigations into the more controversial activities of the Bush administration over the past eight years — including the ongoing investigation into thousands of missing White House-RNC emails sent and received by some 22 White House political aides, including Rove. These emails are believed likely to shed light on the political firings of U.S. Attorneys, and to show if the White House had any role in controversial decisions to prosecute former Alabama Democratic Governor Don Siegelman.

Edsall, who has a reputation for credible, quality journalism, spoke to a “close friend” of Connell, who worked “extensively” with the consultant before his death, and who believes Connell “was more involved in that than a lot of people were let to believe.” The friend added that Connell “may have been ‘developing second thoughts’ after years of being convinced that ‘working for the Republican cause was doing God’s work.’” Edsall added, “As it stands now, whatever Connell knew about the activities of Karl Rove and other Republican operatives will go with him to his grave.”

The implication, I suppose, is that Connell had damaging information, may have been prepared to share it, and his plane crash was the possible result of foul play.

Without tangible evidence, I remain extremely skeptical about all of this. Indeed, it seems to me the political world has already learned volumes of scandalous information about the activities of the Bush White House, and if these guys were in the habit of killing people to cover up wrongdoing, they probably wouldn’t have started a month before Bush leaves office for good.

I recall all kinds of truly insane ideas from far-right activists surrounding the deaths of Ron Brown and Vince Foster in the 1990s, so I’m especially reluctant to see a repeat now. That said, Edsall’s piece raises the visibility of the story, so expect to hear more about it in the coming weeks.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.