High Crimes and Misdemeanors on the Republican Campaign Trail
November 2008 is a long way off, and there's been widespread concern that the presidential campaign season has already drawn on so long that it will exhaust public attention. Fortunately, the McCain, Giuliani and Romney campaigns have generously sustained our interest this summer with one corrupt campaign official after another stepping down after doing more than the law will allow. Here's a rundown on the GOP campaign scoundrels of 2008.
1. McCain campaign's outhouse outreach efforts in Florida
On July 11, Sen. John McCain's Florida campaign co-chair Bob Allen, a state assemblyman with an unrelentingly anti-gay record, knocked on a park bathroom stall in Titusville, Fla., and offered the man within a $20 bill to give him a blow job. The man was an undercover officer.
At first it seemed to be a familiar kind of tale -- the secret passions of a conservative who had taken a strong moral stand against gay adoption, and even presented to his state's Committee on Homeland Security & Public Safety a bill that would have tightened the loopholes against public masturbators.
Recently, however, the story has taken on new dimensions with various accounts from Allen. To see the big picture, he explains, you must take into account that there was a lightning storm (from which he took refuge in the bathroom, he says), the park's "stocky" black people (i.e., their presence scared Allen into paying), and his panic that he might "become a statistic" if he didn't act fast.
Fearful of being mugged, the awfully jumpy Bob Allen told the police that he cut the blow job deal so that he could reach a guarded security area, the nearest of which was several miles away from him -- a plan which resists easy understanding. Maybe Allen hoped the oral sex could somehow stun his adversary?
Rather than quit his duties as assemblyman, Allen has apologized to the local NAACP for his "stocky" comment, explaining that in the course of being "accused of being a bathroom cruising pervert, and then a racist," he has come to understand the black (not gay) civil rights struggle better.
He plans to run for the state senate in 2010.
2. Romney's Secret Service wannabe
In 2004, law enforcement officers, having towed an illegally parked car, were surprised to find within it, according to the Boston Herald, "a set of red-and-blue flashing lights hidden in the grill [...] a siren and public address system, multiple police radios, strobe lights on the wheels, a police baton and a metal plate with a photo of a state police patch that said "official business."
The car belonged to Gov. Mitt Romney's "director of operations," Jay Garrity, who quit the candidate's presidential campaign in July after it emerged that he was now in trouble in two states for pretending to be a cop during the course of his duties in Romney's "logistics" department. He had handed out fake State of Massachusetts badges for use by colleagues and was said to have used his cop status to blaze through turnpikes without paying.
"I have resigned from the Mitt Romney for President campaign so that the media attention on me will not become a distraction to the campaign's efforts," he said.
Just two days after Garrity's resignation, the Herald reported that Romney's event planner, Will Ritter, had uploaded a MySpace page painting himself as a "Jason Bourne-esque" figure in the description of the newspaper whose duties include "very secretive work" in "special ops."
3. Romney's fraudmeister
More Romney. One of 35 co-chairs of candidate Mitt Romney's national war chest, a businessman named Alan Fabian, was in trouble this August for an alleged $32 million swindle -- one of the largest cases of its kind ever prosecuted in his home state of Maryland.
The way it supposedly worked was this: As head of his Virginia-based consulting company, Maximus, Inc., he'd first put in fake orders for computers. Instead of getting a Dell, the outfit was secretly paying for Fabian's beach houses and private jet travel. So he's facing 23 charges, including money laundering, mail and bankruptcy fraud, perjury and obstruction of justice.
Fabian was what's known in campaign finance terms as a "bundler." The bundler has emerged as clever rich people have sought to bypass newer campaign finance laws that cap off how much a single person can give. Instead, the bundler promises to bring in an entire network of moneyed friends.
He'd also been a bundler for the president. The Romney campaign has said it will be giving back the $2,300 that Fabian gave directly (the maximum) but not necessarily the heap of cash that he brought in, all bundled up. According to a representative of the governor's 2008 campaign, "The money he helped raise was donated by people who have not been accused of any wrongdoing, and so there is no reason for returning it."
4. Giuliani's coke connection in South Carolina
Three men have now been indicted in a federal narcotics investigation that led in June to the arrest of Thomas Ravenel, the state treasurer of South Carolina -- as well as Rudy Giuliani's state campaign chair. The son of powerful former U.S. Rep. Arthur Ravenel, R-S.C., Ravenel has been described by one journalist as "breezy", by some as arrogant and by a federal grand jury as one of a small group who bore a "tacit understanding" that they planned to distribute among themselves less than 500 grams of cocaine.
Prosecutors have not alleged that Ravenel, the real estate developer, actually sold the cocaine. But he could be in prison for up to 20 years and face a $1 million fine if convicted. In response, Giuliani's campaign issued a statement explaining that Rudy's man in the Palmetto State "has stepped down from his volunteer responsibilities with the campaign."
Ravenel, a defender of flying the Confederate flag and speaking to white supremacist groups, has courted controversy in the past by making a defiant speech against the NAACP, to which he referred -- possibly while dusted to the gills -- as the "National Association of Retarded People."
5. Sen. David Vitter -- A familiar face to the House of the Rising Sun
Also coordinating Giuliani's march through the South is his regional chair, Sen. David Vitter, R-La. Cut from the same uncompromising moral cloth as Bob Allen, Vitter is on record as having said he doesn't "believe there's any issue that's more important" than gay marriage.
In July, his telephone number surfaced amid the records of "D.C. Madam" Deborah Jeane Palfrey. Of the several times he rung up her brothel, two of his calls were during House roll call votes, according to the Associated Press.
"This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible," the senator explained. He is still with the campaign, though a report in New Orleans City Business asserted that he has been "quietly marginalized" in Rudy's army and can probably forget about longstanding hopes to be a veep nominee.
6. Fred Thompson: FEC flouter
This month, liberal activist Lane Hudson made trouble for actor Thompson, filing a complaint that Thompson's "test-the-waters" fund-raising is, on top of being a major disappointment so far to GOP supporters, a pathetic sham that is allowing him to hire, poll and fund-raise, all while escaping the oversight required for real candidates. Now Thompson has two weeks to respond and faces a possible fine of $1 million.
Like singer Axl Rose, who has delayed his comeback album Chinese Democracy for 15 years on the premise that long waits build public anticipation, Thompson has held out months for the moment when, it is believed, he will throw his hat into the ring and be welcomed as the Gipper's second coming. But according to Hudson, Thompson's testing-and-retesting-the-waters promotes him to a scofflaw on the order of such scoundrels as Tom DeLay and Mark Foley. Maybe not: Long-time admirers of high GOP scandal may be disappointed by the shortage here of dirty AOL chats, far-flung webs of bribery, casino yachts whose owners turn up murdered, etc.
*Bipartisan bonus: Bill Richardson's bookkeeper to the pimps
Crime isn't a GOP-only sport. Recently this August, Kristian Forland, who ran Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson's presidential efforts in rural Nevada, got in trouble when it was revealed that he was wanted for passing fake checks. He had also been "manager" of Mona's Ranch, a legal house of prostitution in Elko, Nev. The Mona Ranch website extends a folksy invitation: "Y'all cum now, ya hear!" In his defense, Forland -- disliked by the girls for shorting them on their wages -- explained that he'd merely managed the books and "not the girls per se." He has since left the Richardson campaign.