Monday, October 23, 2006

Two Weeks Before Election Day, New Morals Scandals Rock Republicans

Despite an Aggressive New GOP TV Ad Campaign Aimed at Turning Voters' Attention Toward Terrorism, New Revelations of Personal Misconduct Hit the 'Party of Moral Values' From Coast to Coast

By Skeeter Sanders

As the 2006 election campaign enters its final two weeks, President Bush and top GOP leaders dramatically ratcheted up their rhetoric about the war on terror -- even as more Republicans found themselves embroiled in new scandals over their personal or professional behavior.

The Republican National Committee unveiled a tough -- and controversial -- TV ad on Friday, warning voters of new terrorist attacks in the U.S. if they vote to have the Democrats take over control of Congress on November 7.

The ad features an image of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden -- who, five years after the September 11 attacks, has still not been captured and whose whereabouts remain unknown -- and footage of al-Qaida fighters in training.

The ad quotes bin Laden, referring to the 9/11 attacks, as warning that "What is yet to come will be even greater." It concludes with an ominous message: "These are the stakes. Vote November 7 [for the Republicans]."

The ad campaign represents a determined effort by the GOP -- still reeling from the fallout caused by the Mark Foley and Don Sherwood scandals -- to shift voters' attention back to their strong suit: national security and the war on terror.

Ad Fails to Overshadow GOP Scandals

But the ad had barely begun airing when new morals scandals involving Republicans exploded into the public limelight:

* The office of a Louisiana congressman already under fire for his handling of the Foley scandal has been sued by a former staffer for alleged sexual harassment.

* The Republican candidate for governor of Nevada is under investigation by police in connection with an incident in which the candidate allegedly assaulted a woman outside a Las Vegas restaurant.

* Also in Nevada, a Republican congressman has been accused by a former aide of making dozens of campaign fundraising telephone calls from his district and Washington offices, in violation of federal law.

* A New Mexico congresswoman whose husband came under suspicion more than a decade ago in a child-abuse case faces allegations of removing the case file while she served as the head of the state's child welfare protection agency.

* More evidence emerged Sunday of Foley's apparent pedophile sexual orientation, as The Washington Post revealed that the disgraced former congressman befriended numerous teenaged male pages -- and singled out those he considered "hot" for sexual solicitation.

* Meanwhile,
the former clerk of the House has reportedly testified that Foley is "one of a problem group" of House members and congressional staffers who allegedly spent too much time socializing with the teenaged pages "outside their official duties" -- raising the possibility that the Foley scandal could spread.

* And if that wasn't enough, an attempt by the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee to drag an upstate New York Democratic House candidate into a sex scandal blew up in the NRCCC's face -- and the candidate is now threatening to sue the NRCCC for libel.

Alexander's Office Sued for Sexual Harassment

Representative Rodney Alexander (R-Louisiana) -- whose former page was was one of the first to receive inappropriate e-mails from Foley -- is now confronting a scandal of his own, as his office has been sued by a former member of his staff for sexual harassment, according to the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call.

Elizabeth Scott, who worked as a scheduler for Alexander form 2005 until earlier this year, filed suit in U.S. District Court in Washington accusing the Congressman's chief of staff, Royal Alexander (no relation) of engaging in "a course of misconduct" toward her, including "inappropriate sex-based comments, ogling and touching."

Scott's attorney, Michael Hoare, said that his client complained to Representative Alexander about is chief aide's behavior, but that the congressman took no disciplinary action against him. The lawsuit also charges that a hostile work environment ensued after Scott filed her initial complaint.

"Working conditions became so intolerable that she felt compelled to quit her job," the suit says. Scott is seeking back pay and unspecified damages for emotional distress.

The lawsuit was filed on September 27, but was not made public until Roll Call published a story about it last Friday. It was quickly picked up the following day by The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, which quoted an Alexander spokesman, Adam Terry, as saying that the congressman's office brought in "an independent third party" to investigate Scott's allegations and that the investigator "found the allegations [to be] without merit."

Terry also challenged the timing of Scott's initial complaint as suspect, saying that it was made "a day after she was demoted following a poor job-performance evaluation."

The 26-year-old Scott, an Alabama native, was a student at the University of New Orleans until she and her fellow students were forced to flee Hurricane Katrina last year. She eventually came to Washington, where she continued her studies online while she worked in Congressman Alexander's office.

Did a Nevada GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Assault a Woman?

Friday the 13th proved to be a very unlucky night for Representative Jim Gibbons, the Republican nominee for governor of Nevada, as he is under investigation by police amid allegations that he made unwanted sexual advances toward a woman on that night and assaulted her when she refused them.

The Las Vegas Sun, citing police and eyewitness accounts, reported last Wednesday that Gibbons and his campaign adviser, Sid Rogich, had just finished dining with supporters at a Las Vegas restaurant and had spent several hours afterward in the restaurant's bar, where they met four women -- two of whom were attorney's who worked in Rogich's office building and the third who knew the lawyers.

Shortly afterward, Gibbons left the bar. That's when things get murky.

The Sun quoted an eyewitness, a night desk clerk at a nearby hotel, as saying that she saw a man fitting Gibbons' description grab a woman's arm outside the front door of the hotel. The witness told the newspaper that the woman "yelled and pointed a finger at the man, who attempted to calm her down." The pair then moved out of the witness' view.

The witness described the man as "being in his late 50s or early 60s, medium to tall in height with salt-and-pepper hair." The Sun noted that Gibbons is 61 years old, "of taller-than-average height, and has white hair tinged with black."

The witness said that the man wore dress slacks and an open dress shirt, but Rogich told the Sun that Gibbons "was wearing a coat and tie at the restaurant, and thus the man [outside the hotel] couldn't have been him."

Las Vegas police said they received two 911 calls -- both of them from a woman who alleged that she had been assaulted. Greg McCurdy, deputy chief of the Metro Las Vegas Police Department, told the Sun that the woman "sounded drunk on the phone and was laughing," but did not mention Gibbons by name.

But when police spoke with the alleged victim the following day, she declined to press charges against Gibbons, telling officers that she chose not to legally pursue the matter "mainly because of who he is. . .I just don't want to go up against something like that," the Sun reported.

Adding to the mystery is the fact that two video surveillance cameras that could have provided visual evidence in the investigation of the alleged incident were not functioning that night. But there were camera phones clicking away while Gibbons and Rogich were at the bar with the four women.

Did any of those camera phones capture the alleged assault? Neither the Gibbons campaign nor police will say.

Ex-Aide Says Nevada GOP Congressman Made Illegal Campaign Fundraising Phone Calls

While the Gibbons campaign tries to control the damage wrought by the alleged assault, another Nevada Republican -- a congressman in a tight race for re-election -- has been accused by a former aide of making dozens of campaign fundraising telephone calls from his congressional offices in Washington and his home district, in apparent violation of federal law.

The former aide, Jim Shepard, said he personally witnessed Representative Jon Porter make as least five such phone calls last spring. An e-mail written by Shepard on June 18 warned Porters' chief of staff, Mike Hesse, that the calls could become "a major problem" and that, "We can NOT let him do this anymore."

Copies of the e-mails were obtained by the Las Vegas Sun, which quoted Shepard as saying that Hesse responded to his concerns "by chastising him for putting them in writing."

Hesse flatly denied that Porter made such calls. "The accusations being printed by your paper are completely false and baseless," Hesse told the Sun. "They rely solely on the claims of one former, disgruntled staffer who is lying. I believe that unbiased observers will question the legitimacy of the story and its sole source."

Hesse also said he had "no recollection" of Shepard's e-mail.

Federal law makes it a crime for anyone who is "an officer or employee of the federal government, including the president, vice president and members of Congress, to solicit or receive a donation of money or other thing of value in connection with a federal, state or local election, while in any room or building occupied in the discharge of official duties by an officer or employee of the United States, from any person."

Violators of the law can be imprisoned for up to three years and fined up to $5,000. House ethics rules also ban solicitations of campaign contributions in any House office, room or building.

According to Shepard, Porter made anywhere from five to 15 fundraising calls "from both his D.C. congressional office and his district office" in Henderson, Nevada. Shepard, who worked for Porter as his executive assistant and scheduler from March to June of this year, told the Sun that he saw Porter make the calls on at least five occasions.

"I was shocked and appalled at Porter's blatant disregard of the law," said Shepard, a 10-year veteran of Capitol Hill who previously worked for Senators John Ensign (R-Nevada) and David Durenberger (R-Minnesota).

New Mexico Congresswoman Suspected of Impeding Child-Abuse Probe of Her Husband

Representative Heather Wilson (R-New Mexico), who recently made headlines for voicing strong concerns over the original version of a newly-signed law authorizing President Bush to establish a system of military tribunals for terrorism suspects deemed "enemy combatants," is making new headlines that she'd prefer not to make.

For more than a decade, Wilson has been dogged by accusations back home that while she was the head of New Mexico's child protection agency in 1995, she impeded an investigation of allegations that her husband made inappropriate physical contact with a 16-year-old boy two years earlier.

Wilson's home-state critics have long charged that one of her first official acts as secretary of the state Department of Children, Youth and Families was to remove a confidential working file on the molestation allegations against her husband, Jay Hone, an Albuquerque attorney, and transferred it to the department's attorney in her Albuquerque office.

Soon after the alleged transfer, the file disappeared.

Eleven years later, the file was obtained by the news site, which posted it last Thursday. It contains an Albuquerque Police Department incident report that Hone touched the boy -- whose identity was withheld to protect his privacy -- "in a manner that was not welcome." The case was filed with the DCYF as a case of child abuse, although criminal charges were never filed against Hone, partially due to the disappearance of the file.

According to the police report, dated March 23, 1993, an investigating APD officer wrote he was told by the boy's therapist, identified in the report as Patrick Linderman, that Linderman had interviewed the boy and was told that Hone -- who was referred to throughout the report by his first name only -- had taken him to his home, "Where that had pizza and a 'movie' to watch."

"There was no one else in the house; [Wilson] was out of town and [Hone's] son wasn't home," the report continues. "While they were watching the movie, [the boy] said he had to go to the bathroom. Returning to the living room, as he was sitting down, [the boy] said [Hone] 'grabbed' or 'touched' his [buttocks]. [The boy] yelled 'Hey!' at [Hone], 'What are you doing?' [Hone] told him he was just reaching for another slice of pizza. Afterwards, nothing else happened."

The report noted that the boy had no parent or guardian and was living in a group home. It also said that the boy "does not want Mr. Hone arrested and that he just wanted to talk to somebody about it."

Wilson's handling of the Hone case drew blistering criticism from Bob Schwartz, who served as the Bernalillo County district attorney at the time the alleged incident was first reported. "It was absolutely inappropriate, because she has an obvious conflict of interest," Schwartz told a local TV station that was investigating the file's disappearance. "If this file is behind Secretary Wilson's desk, then she shouldn't be behind that desk anymore. She should resign."

More Evidence Emerges Of Foley's Apparent Pedophile Sexual Orientation

The Washington Post reported Sunday that
disgraced former Representative Mark Foley displayed a marked sexual attraction to teenaged boys, further lending credence to this blogger's weeks-long belief that Foley is not a gay man -- as the long-secretive ex-congressman now claims he is -- but is actually a pedophile, as there continues to be no evidence that Foley ever had sexual relations with adult males.

Citing interviews with nearly three dozen present and former Capitol Hill pages, the newspaper reported that Foley "befriended a wide circle of teenagers during their stints as House pages," later singling out certain boys to write to as their tenure on the Hill expired -- even going so far as to offer one former page a job as a permanent member of his staff -- "because I was a hot boy," the former page said.

Meanwhile, ABC News reported on its Web site Friday that Jeff Trandahl, the former clerk of the House of Representatives, testified before the House Ethics Committee that Foley is one of "a problem group of [House] members and staff who spent too much time socializing with pages outside of their official duties."

The network's chief investigative reporter, Brian Ross, quoted GOP sources close to the committee's investigation as saying that Trandahl testified that a top aide to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) was informed of all issues relating to the page program years ago.

Hastert has insisted that he learned of the Foley affair only when the six-term Florida Republican abruptly resigned form Congress on September 29. Trandahl's testimony appears to provide further evidence that key members of Hastert's staff had known about Foley's online peccadilloes with the teenaged pages long before then.

More ominously, however, Trandahl's testimony also suggests that other congressmen and members of their staffs might, at the very least, have taken an improperly personal interest in the pages.

A GOP Ad Against a Democratic Candidate Backfires

Not only have the GOP morals scandals -- combined with the worsening situation in Iraq -- all but torpedoed the Republicans' campaign strategy of hammering home on the issue of national security and the war on terrorism, but a clumsy effort by the Republicans to drag an upstate New York Democrat into a sex scandal blew up in the GOP's face.

At least four television stations in central New York state refused to broadcast a a campaign commercial produced by the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee against Democratic candidate Michael Arcuri, the Observer-Dispatch of Utica, New York reported Friday.

The ad accuses Arcuri, the Oneida County district attorney, of calling a phone-sex hotline while staying in a New York City hotel in 2004 at county expense. His Republican opponent, state Senator Raymond Meier, sharply condemned the ad as "way over the line" and demanded that it be withdrawn, according to the newspaper.

Arcuri was in New York City in his capacity as president of the New York State District Attorneys Association, a position he held from July 2003 to July 2004.

The Arcuri campaign acknowledged that a call was placed from Arcuri's hotel room to 800-457-8462, a number that today is a sex line. But telephone records released to the Observer-Dispatch by Arcuri show
that a subsequent call to a number with the same last seven digits -- but with a 518 area code -- was made one minute after the 800 number was dialed.

-457-8462 is the number of the state Department of Criminal Justice Services in Albany, the state capital. Sean Byrne, executive director of the New York Prosecutor Training Institute, told the newspaper he had inadvertently misdialed the 800 number from Arcuri's hotel room.

Now Arcuri is threatening to sue the NRCCC for libel. But the NRCCC insists that the ad is "totally true," according to spokesman Ed Patru, and stands by it -- much to the anger of Meier, who made it clear that his campaign did not pay for the ad.

The controversy pointed out a little-known fact of campaigns for federal office: candidates for the House and Senate have no control over the content of ads created by the national parties.

Election Prediction: A Divided Congress At least, a Lame-Dick President at Most

With nothing going right for the Republicans two weeks before Election Day, it now appears likely that President Bush will see his powers curbed significantly during his final two years in office, even if the Democrats succeed in taking control only of the House.

While this blogger still considers the Senate a toss-up -- I'll frankly be surprised if the Democrats win the seven seats they need to take over the upper chamber -- I can no longer flatly rule out the possibility that Bush could end up a "lame-duck" president fully two years early, forced to deal with a Democratic-controlled Congress.

To see the Republicans go down to defeat in large part to the morals scandals that have overwhelmed them (alienating them from their most loyal base, conservative Christians) is, for this blogger, poetic justice -- indeed, sweet revenge -- for their failed attempt to remove Bill Clinton from the White House for his sexual indiscretions with Monica Lewinsky.

After all, the Republican Party has devoted the last twenty years to billing itself as the party dedicated to preserving traditional family values. What a bunch of hypocrites!

What the GOP is experiencing now is living proof that "what goes around, comes around."

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Volume I, Number 49
Copyright 2006, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.


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