Youthful Indiscretions

Posted October 25, 2004 at 6:44pm

Some incumbent candidates will remember this election as the Year of Youthful Indiscretions Exposed.

We’ve learned that Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) was a streaker in college. Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.) had an ugly sexual misconduct incident during his tenure at Stanford University. Now comes news that Rep. John Sullivan (R-Okla.) beat up a Tulsa police officer, in addition to previously reported criminal arrests. [IMGCAP(1)]

The Tulsa World reports that Sullivan had “a physical altercation with an off-duty Tulsa police officer” in 1982 when Sullivan was 17.

That’s a different story than the one Sullivan told the paper in 2002 when he claimed he fought another 17-year-old.

The 1982 incident is gaining attention in Tulsa because of a campaign commercial Sullivan is running in response to an ad by his Democratic opponent, Doug Dodd. Sullivan’s ad claims he was arrested just once, although he admitted to three arrests during his 2002 interview with the Tulsa World.

Reports vary on exactly how many times Sullivan has been arrested. An anti-Sullivan site run by Democratic operatives says the Congressman was arrested four times. The Tulsa World reports three arrests. A local Tulsa television station notes two. And Sullivan will not clarify the record.

His spokesman, Shane Saunders, told HOH “No comment” and referred us to a confusing trail of published reports on the lawmaker’s criminal record.

As for the most recently uncovered arrest record documenting Sullivan’s brawl with the police officer, Saunders said his boss did not know he was fighting a cop at the time. “He assumed he was a peer,” Saunders told HOH. “We learned for some reason that this guy was an off-duty police officer.”

Sullivan’s spokesman refused to confirm or deny other reported arrests of the lawmaker when he was a young man, including one resulting from an incident in which the future Congressman was allegedly caught loitering in a part of Tulsa once known as “Ho Row.” A Web site, TheTruthAboutJohn.com, says Sullivan was charged with trespassing in that 1983 incident, one year after he was arrested for mixing it up with the off-duty cop.

Sullivan did admit to the Tulsa World, however, that he was arrested in 1985, when he was 20, for public intoxication.

The Dodd campaign says it is less focused on Sullivan’s arrest record than on the Republican incumbent’s version of history. “The more important issue is his failure to tell the truth about it,” said Walter Ludwig, Dodd’s campaign manager.

Chafee? I’m Looking at You. A new political Web site is appealing to lawmakers and other Washington insiders to submit their rantiest, most opinionated political commentary — anonymously, just the way Ben Franklin would have done it.

Based in Hyannis, Mass., the American Courant on Monday published its first opinion piece, allegedly written by “An Anonymous Republican U.S. Senator.” The writer begins by declaring that “for the benefit of the country and the benefit of my party I am voting for John Kerry.”

The alleged Senator goes on to explain that a narrow Kerry victory would be a “wake-up call” for Congressional Republicans and argues that under President Bush’s leadership “we have dropped the ball,” leading to the largest budget deficit in history, the largest expansion of the welfare state — namely the Medicare prescription drug benefit — since Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society.

To continue to justify the war in Iraq would be “nonsensical,” the writer says. So let John Kerry inherit the mess, Mr. Anonymous GOP Senator proposes, saying, “Just like [Richard] Nixon, who became the symbol of an unjust war that was initiated by Democrats, Kerry will be vilified for a war instigated by us Republicans.”

How do we know this writer is a Republican Senator? “We don’t,” says Claude Hooton, one of the Web site’s founders, laughing almost riotously at his brilliance. “That’s the point!”

Hooton, 72, was a roommate of Sen. Edward Kennedy’s (D-Mass.) at Harvard University and ran for Congress as a Democratic candidate in the 22nd district of Texas in 1962 over the protestations of then-Vice President Lyndon Johnson, who had his own horse in the race. George H.W. Bush later was elected to the same seat. Hooton is still a close friend of Kennedy’s.

Hooton’s partner at The American Courant is Dan Adams, a Republican filmmaker whose films include “A Fool and His Money” with Sandra Bullock and “Primary Motive” with Judd Nelson and Justine Bateman. Adams says they cannot verify “100 percent” that people who submit articles are who they say they are, although “we’ve been lobbying the House and the Senate and we’ve been marketing to them to send in their opinions.”

“So chances are it’s probably right,” Adams insists, saying he and Hooton cull entries and choose the most knowledgeable and authentic (sounding).

One premise of American Courant is to guard people’s identities, as was the custom around the time of the founding of the United States. “Look at the pamphlet ‘Common Sense,’” Adams says. “Everyone thought it was Ben Franklin, when it was really Tom Paine.”

Loco Politics. Kennedy has had it with the New Progressive Party in Puerto Rico. The NPP candidate for governor has been running an ad against the Popular Democratic candidate for governor, Anibal Acevedo-Vila, depicting the Commonwealth’s incumbent Resident Commissioner as chronically absent from Congressional hearings.

The ad, which has been airing for about two weeks, shows footage of Kennedy bellowing “Anibal,” followed by a cartoon-like ominous voiceover declaring: “Absente!” Kennedy has demanded that his image be removed from the ad. So far, the NPP campaign has refused to stop airing it.

David Smith, a spokesman for Kennedy, says, “It’s a deceitful use of his image and he has asked that the ad be pulled off the air.”

Flugate Update. A group of Democratic Senators last week called for an investigation into the Food and Drug Administration’s handling of the flu vaccine shortage. The Senators called the current crisis “unacceptable” and said it is “even more disturbing that when many disease experts are predicting the next flu pandemic is imminent, this country seems to be woefully unprepared.’

The letter stated many other good reasons for an investigation of the flu vaccine shortage.

Here are the nine signatories, and information on which of them got flu shots this year, and why.

• Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.): did not get a flu shot.

• Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.): got a flu shot before he knew about the shortage at the advice of his doctor after undergoing surgery for prostate cancer. Johnson says he would not have had the flu shot had he known about the shortage, according to his spokesman.

• Sen. Jon Corzine (D-N.J.): did not get a flu shot, and asked his staff not to get flu shots unless they fall under the CDC’s at-risk category, according to his spokesman.

• Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.): got a flu shot “at the beginning of October before she was aware of any shortage,” according to her spokesman.

• Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.): got a flu shot “before he knew there was a shortage,” according to his spokesman.

• Sen. Mark Dayton (D-Minn.): did not get a flu shot.

• Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.): did not get a flu shot.

• Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.): the octogenarian got a flu shot at the beginning of this month from the Attending Physician.

• Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.): got a flu shot. Reason not stated.

Joanna Stein contributed to this report.

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