Washingtonienne Speaks

Posted May 21, 2004 at 6:46pm

As anticipated, Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) fired the bawdy blogger Washingtonienne on Friday afternoon, bringing to an end an all-too-brief affair that was the talk of Capitol Hill.

Washingtonienne, a now-former staff assistant named Jessica Cutler, gained instant celebrity status in Congressional circles for her salacious online accounts of multiple sexual liaisons, some of which she claimed to have received money for. Cutler had been placed on paid leave by the Ohio Republican earlier in the week and was actively looking for a job off the Hill even before DeWine gave her the boot. In announcing the firing, DeWine’s office said Cutler had engaged in “an unacceptable use” of Senate computers to post material on her weblog, which was deemed “unsuitable” and “offensive.”

In an interview Friday, Cutler said she may leave Washington in order to get on with her life, although some fans, like fellow blogger Wonkette, are exhorting the ex-Senate aide to write a book about her experiences.

“I don’t think I can get a job anywhere in this town for a long time,” said Cutler, who hails from New York.

Cutler, though, was stunned by the intense curiosity about her sex life, which she doesn’t see as all that extraordinary, and she expressed regret — as well as bewilderment — over how the situation surrounding her racy blogging vignettes spun out of control so quickly.

“I really wish it hadn’t happened like this,” said Cutler. “I really didn’t think it was all that interesting.”

DeWine’s office released a statement early Friday afternoon announcing Cutler’s dismissal, although she was not named in the release: “On May 18, 2004, our office became aware of allegations that an employee had been using Senate resources and work-time to post unsuitable and offensive material to an Internet weblog.

“After investigating these allegations, our office has determined that there was an unacceptable use of Senate computers to post unsuitable and offensive material to an Internet Weblog. Other inappropriate material was found in the employee’s work area as well. The employee has been terminated. Because this is a personnel matter, our office will not name the employee or have any further comment on this issue.”

Cutler said she began the blog “just to spare my friends all the time” it took to update them individually on what was happening in her life, which included liaisons with half-a-dozen men, some of whom paid her hundreds of dollars to engage in kinky sex.

Cutler added that “everything in [the blog] was true,” but even then, she still doesn’t understand what it was about her that fascinated so many people on Capitol Hill.

“A lot of people I know do the same thing,” Cutler claimed. “It’s really strange.”

Things started to go really bad for Cutler on Tuesday. By then, Wonkette had already linked to her blog and, although she totally exonerates her blogging colleague, the added attention to the site began to make Cutler nervous. She said the blog was intended “for a handful of my friends,” and she never anticipated it getting wider play.

Cutler shut down the site, but the word of the author’s identity had already leaked out. A fellow DeWine staffer approached her with a paper copy of her blog posts, and Cutler knew she had a problem. Then a senior DeWine aide, whom Cutler will not name, confronted her, and in very strong language told her that her behavior was unacceptable. This aide advised Cutler to begin thinking about getting a new job somewhere else. Cutler, who was “freaked out,” left the office and went to a bar. Although she still technically worked for DeWine — Cutler had been placed on paid leave, which she termed “ridiculous” — she wondered what to do next. As of Friday, she still didn’t know.

As for the men she told her readers about (identifying them by initials), Cutler regrets causing them any pain, although she also thinks men “get more leeway” in their personal lives than women do. “It was probably hard for the guys who I wrote about,”said Cutler. “I feel sorry for them.”

Her family is unaffected by the whole Washingtonienne flap, said Cutler, and she is very, very confident this will blow over soon. And regarding future affairs of the heart, Cutler expresses a very practical view for one who has grown up in the Internet age: “You don’t know if they’ll give you a disease or write a blog about you. It makes you wonder.”

Try the Veal. Rep. Ric Keller (R-Fla.) was on a roll the other day during a Judiciary Committee hearing on software that automatically filters profane language and sexual content out of movies on DVD.

Hollywood hates the new technology, arguing that “sanitizing” movies alters their artistic content without the permission of the studios or directors. But the makers of the new filtering technology and some family groups are all for it, arguing that it protects children.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), who chairs the Judiciary subcommittee on courts, the Internet and intellectual property, held a hearing on the controversial issue Thursday and invited both sides to send witnesses. Bill Aho, who is CEO of ClearPlay Inc., a Utah company that makes the filtering technology, was one of those who appeared before the panel.

At one point, Keller asked Aho how he pronounced his last name, a source of confusion for some Members. (It’s apparently pronounced Äh-ho.)

He was prompted to do so by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), ranking member on Judiciary, who kept referring to the witness as “A ho,” which Keller interpreted as having a less flattering meaning (as in short for a–hole).

When it was Keller’s turn to question Aho, he asked the Utah businessman about his unique name. Keller joked that the ranking member’s pronunciation had to do with his own relationship with his Michigan colleague: “I wasn’t sure if [Conyers] was getting it right, because that’s how how he usually refers to me.”

Keller got in another one-liner later in the hearing. A Member asked one of the lawyers testifying on behalf of the studios whether she believed 5-year-old boys should be allowed to watch the Playboy Channel.

The lawyer replied that she didn’t think 5-year-old boys would want to watch the channel, but she didn’t believe it would harm them.

It was too much for Keller to resist. The Florida Republican said he wished he “had a mom like you when I was 12 years old — you were one of the cool moms.”

Ditto, Mr. Keller. Ditto.

First No, Then Yes. Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.) will in fact be getting an award from officials at the University of La Verne this weekend, despite being turned down earlier for an honorary degree by the institution’s faculty members.

Dreier is set to be the keynote speaker at the university’s graduation ceremony Saturday for master’s degree candidates. School officials had wanted to give Dreier an honorary degree, a standard tribute for participants at such events. ULV, which has roughly 3,600 students and is 35 miles to the east of downtown Los Angeles, is located in Dreier’s district.

But the university’s 165 faculty members had other ideas. They voted against giving Dreier an honorary degree on May 10, a move that embarrassed university officials, who weren’t anxious to alienate a senior lawmaker who just happens to be their own Congressman.

So ULV President Steve Morgan took action himself. Morgan said he was “disappointed” by the faculty’s verdict and moved to soften the blow by announcing that he would present Dreier with the President’s Award instead. Morgan explained that the faculty didn’t want to give an honorary degree to a politician during an election year, fearing it would be seen as an endorsement of the California Republican in his bid for a 13th term.

A ULV professor admitted that it just might be a bad idea to snub the influential chairman of the Rules Committee, who also happens to be tight with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R).

“After all, the Congressman is on a powerful committee, was involved in the gubernatorial election in California and will likely be involved the re-election campaign,” Don Pollock, a communications professor, told the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, although he added that he “understood why they voted like they did.”