Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
July 8, 2004
POLITICS: Blackmail

Jonah Goldberg notes a New York Press article by Michelangelo Signorile approvingly reporting on efforts by gay activists to use threats of "outing" Members of Congress and their staffs as a way of influencing their votes on the Federal Marriage Amendment, including threats to expose Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski, who apparently is widely believed to be a lesbian:

As the July 12 date nears for a vote on the federal marriage amendment, an outing panic has gripped Washington's political and media circles. Some gay activists have vowed to expose those closeted members of Congress who are supporting the amendment, as well as the closeted gay staffers of any member backing it. And it's not only right-wing Republicans who should be on notice. After initially indicating that she would vote against the constitutional amendment that would make gays and lesbians into second-class citizens, Sen. Barbara Mikulski's opposition to the amendment appears to have gone into the closet: Now that a vote is near, the Maryland Democrat—who is up for reelection in November—is suddenly not returning reporters' phone calls seeking her intentions on the vote, nor is she issuing any statements on the matter.


All of Capitol Hill, reports the Blade, is in a "panic" over activists' efforts to out politicians supporting the FMA and, perhaps more controversially, threatening to out staffers who might be gay. The argument for outing the staffers is that many of them have a lot of influence in their offices and are public figures in their own right, quoted often in the beltway press, representing their bosses. Activist Mike Rogers has been calling the offices of at least 13 members of Congress urging the closeted gay staffers to confront their bosses on the issue, and outing them to the chiefs of staff if they refuse to discuss the issue with him.

Rumors have circulated in Washington that the Blade had planned to publish a list of names of closeted staffers and members, something the paper denies even as it defends reporting on those who might be closeted gays who might be voting for the amendment.

Interestingly, Goldberg notes this morning that Mikuski has quickly issued a press release reiterating her opposition to the amendment.

Now, maybe I'm missing something, but aren't the facts described in this article a textbook case of blackmail - and probably extortion in violation of numerous federal laws - in that activists are threatening to expose the private lives of Members of Congress and their staffs unless they change their votes on pending legislation (indeed, an amendment to the Constitution itself) in a way that satisfies the activists? If I were one of the targets in this situation, I'd have to consider putting in a call the FBI and start wearing a wire.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:55 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)

Yeah, and if you were a Republican Congressmen in 1998 who was leaning voting against impeachement you might have considered wearing a wire when visiting the offices of Tom DeLay.

Posted by: C Giddy at July 8, 2004 2:24 PM

Refresh my memory here: was DeLay the one who delved into the private lives of Bob Livingston and Henry Hyde to try to get them to change their votes on impeachment? Was DeLay the one who offered a public reward for information about the sex lives of members of Congress?

Posted by: The Crank at July 8, 2004 3:01 PM

Not to change the subject or anything, but whatever happened to that bribery-on-the-House-floor case from last fall around the prescription drug bill?

As far as this goes, my guess is that if the FBI or US attorney tried to push an extortion case on this, it would blow up into a big screaming match that wouldn't do the Republicans any good.

Posted by: Devin McCullen at July 8, 2004 5:29 PM

"threatening to expose the private lives of Members of Congress..."

Heh! You know good and well that Congressmen/women give up any semblance of a private life when they run for office. They move into glass houses.

Good blog though. Good response to Giddy as well.

Posted by: Shane H at July 8, 2004 5:48 PM

"...was DeLay the one who delved into the private lives of Bob Livingston and Henry Hyde..."

Funny, the reason it got to that point was because somebody else had their private life delved into. Actually, make that a whole bunch of somebody else's. And don't kid yourself, somebody out there was being paid for, and paying for, leads to hand Ken Starr.

" try to get them to change their votes on impeachment?"

Mmmmm, I believe the goal was to reveal the hypocrisy...there wasn't a chance in hell either was going to change their vote on impeachment.

And Tom DeLay was the one who took a seemingly dead-on-the-vine impeachment process, especially with the "mandate" of the mid-term elections going the way of the Democrats and the stepping down of Newt Gingrich as speaker, and turned it from what looked like a censure into a politically motivated impeachment that died in the Senate....where he couldn't use his power to change the votes of Senators.

Anyways, that one admittedly loose interpretation of the events.

Posted by: C Giddy at July 8, 2004 9:53 PM

C. Giddy,

Nobody delved into Clinton's private life to affect the way he voted on a particular issue; it has nothing to do with Crank's comment about potential extortion charges. Your comment about somebody being paid to hand leads to Ken Starr is ridiculous. Whatever anyone may think of Ken Starr, he is a very smart lawyer, and any lawyer knows that once anyone pays a witness, especially a prosecution witness, for information, that information and witness become absolutely worthless in court.

Posted by: WD at July 9, 2004 9:48 AM


Want to confuse the issues more?

Larry Flint never delved into private lives to affect the way they voted. He did so to proove hypocrisy.

As for Ken Starr....

a) Many organizations were funded to dig up dirt on Clinton, and when they found the dirt they handed it to Starr. Starr didn't pay for it.

b) I never said that witnesses were paid...people were paid to find witnesses.

c) Ken Starr is very smart. But Ken Starr's leaks to the press indicate he is not ethical. And his performance in the Whitewater investigation would indicate that it was not something at which he was very adept.

Bottom line, Crank accuses activists of blackmail. I produce Tom DeLay's actions as somewhat equivalent. And instead of condemning DeLay, Crank points to Larry Flint's actions against Livingston and if that exonerates DeLay.

Posted by: C Giddy at July 9, 2004 10:39 AM

Your post said "somebody out there was being paid for, and paying for, leads to hand Ken Starr," which certainly sounds like an implication that an unidentified "someone" was paying for information. No lawyer worth hiring would use any such information. And if Starr had ever done anything close to unethical during the investigation, he would have been skewered for it as he was being watched as closely by the left as Clinton was by the right.

Posted by: WD at July 9, 2004 11:40 AM

eg - Wanted: If you know something about a possible tryst involving the President and can give us the name of the person involved with the President, we'll pay you for it either with cold hard cash or some other renumeration.

There, paying for leads without paying the witness.

PS - Starr was unethical, and he was skewered for it, but apparently you wrote off the skewering because the skewering was coming from the left.

Posted by: C Giddy at July 9, 2004 12:20 PM

"eg - Wanted: If you know something about a possible tryst involving the President and can give us the name of the person involved with the President, we'll pay you for it either with cold hard cash or some other renumeration."

What the *** is that supposed to mean?! If you're saying that Starr or any member of his team made that offer to anyone, that is absolutely ridiculous. Even if third parties unrelated to Starr's team made that offer to pass information on to Starr, it is highly doubtful that Starr's team ever would have used such information, and certainly not without making sure it was unassailable as to its reliability. If you are not a lawyer, it is impossible to understand how seriously 99.9% of lawyers take their ethical obligations. I don't care how much you like or dislike Starr, he didn't commit any ethical violations. You can question his judgment or motivatioin all you want, I really don't care, but there were no allegations that he violated any ethical duties as far as I know, and I am quite sure that he didn't pay anyone for information, or anyone to gather information other than lawyers or members of his investigative team, which is what you ridiculously alleged, or at least implied, in your original post.

Posted by: WD at July 9, 2004 1:57 PM

Starr used information passed on like that all the time.

Did you know that his law firm advised on the Paula Jones case prior to him heading the OIC?

Hmmm, sounds like a conflict of interest to me. Starr would never take part in a conflict of interest.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not exonerating the President or his Administration for any malfeasance during the 6 years he was investigated. But apparently you think Ken Starr's performance was exemplary during this investigation.

Again, not saying Starr made any payments, so you can drop that from your list of allegations. And I really haven't talked about his motivations either.

But judgement? I most definitely disagree with Starr's judgement. Because it was his bad judgement to leak information to the press, a lapse in ethics if ever there was one. Not only were their allegations regarding this, but the man who was assigned within the OIC to mind the ethics resigned in protest due to the ethical breaches.

Posted by: C Giddy at July 9, 2004 2:23 PM

I do suspect that Starr's office accepted investigatory leads from people who may have been paid by some of the freelancers investigating Clinton. Any prosecutor's office will take leads like that, but with a grain of salt - as WD notes, they'd be crummy witnesses. I suspect that Clinton's investigators (e.g., Terry Lenzer) were doing the same stuff.

Still not the same thing as threatening exposures to try to get leverage over a vote, which after all was the subject of this post.

As to leaks, the leaks were almost invariably of a time and nature to provide maximum damage control for Clinton. Not saying there were no leaks from Starr's staff, but color me skeptical as to which side was doing the bulk of the leaking. Just imagine if the Starr Report had hit the fan out of the blue without the public hearing about Lewinsky for months; Clinton would have been toast within 24 hours.

Posted by: The Crank at July 9, 2004 2:45 PM

What I don't understand with this: Why does hiring people who happen to be gay have ANYTHING to do with support or opposition to the Federal Marriage Amendment?

I had dear friends (that I have lost over this issue. But I still wish them well. And there are certainly other gay acquaintances that still speak to me despite knowing we disagree here) that are bi-sexual. And if I felt they were competent to a particular job, their sexual orientation would not prevent me hiring them. (though probably not as public affairs person given that I'm not entirely sure I can trust they would tell the media my beliefs on a subject and not their own given recent events)

Nor would it change my opinion that the way they choose to live their private lives is morally wrong and should be prevented by becoming American law, by constitutional amendment as seems necessary as the courts are trying to overturn legislative efforts.

Posted by: S Schreffler at July 10, 2004 8:15 PM
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