Gay rights group says staff member inappropriately used Human Rights Campaign resources to out former Congressman
WASHINGTON The Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group, has fired an employee who admitted to the first publication on a Web site of Florida Rep. Mark Foley’s e-mails to a former male page.
The e-mails and later disclosures of sexually explicit computer messages from the Florida Republican to other male pages sparked a campaign-season scandal that threatens the GOP’s majority in Congress.
“He inappropriately used Human Rights Campaign resources. He was fired,” organization Vice President David Smith said of the employee. “The Human Rights Campaign believes in being very aboveboard in our political activity.”
Smith refused to identify the employee by name, citing privacy concerns, but said he was a junior staff member who worked as a coordinator in Michigan.
The Web site in question first published on Sept. 24 Foley’s e-mails to a former page from Louisiana. ABC News reported its own account of the e-mails on its Web site four days later.
Foley resigned Sept. 29 after ABC questioned him about a different set of sexually explicit computer instant messages the network says it received from a different page.
Though several news outlets possessed the more ambiguous e-mails to the Louisiana page for nearly a year before the Web site put them online, the blogger was first to put them in the public arena.
What followed was a fierce round of finger-pointing among congressional Republicans regarding who knew about Foley’s behavior and what they did or did not do about it. As the House ethics committee and the FBI opened probes into the matter, Democrats accused Republicans of failing to vigorously confront the issue because they wanted to keep Foley’s seat in GOP hands.
Republicans, in turn, have accused Democrats of peddling the story to news outlets.
The Human Rights Campaign, a solid supporter of Democratic candidates, first learned Oct. 20 that its employee had written e-mails regarding the site on a computer owned by the group, Smith said. He said the employee told a supervisor that the author of a rival blog was about to expose his role in the disclosure and his affiliation with the HRC. The employee was fired two days later, Smith said.
In his last post, Oct. 19, he castigated Hastert for blaming the scandal on Democrats. “That’s just an attempt at escaping responsibility,” the blogger wrote in that entry. “What does it matter who actually posted those first e-mails?”
It mattered to a computer-savvy West Coast blogger who suspected that the person behind the Web site stopsexpredators.blogspot.com was a Democrat. The second blogger early this month used tracer programs to find out that stopsexpredators was writing from a Human Rights Campaign computer in Michigan.
Forming his own blog, stopoctobersurprises, the second man threatened in e-mails to expose the first blogger’s affiliation unless he identified himself. When the stopsexpredators author did not respond, the West Coast blogger posted a message to let him know his location had been found out.
On Sunday, Smith said, the stopsexpredators blogger told his HRC supervisor that he was about to be identified by the stopoctobersurprises rival. The supervisor told Smith early Oct. 21, who then fired the employee.
The West Coast blogger, reached by telephone on Oct. 26, refused to provide his name or to comment on the record. He identifies himself as a fiscal conservative but social liberal who votes Republican most of the time and doesn’t care what consenting adults do in private.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, November 3, 2006.