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Antigay former
adviser to Bush arrested and charged with theft

Antigay former
adviser to Bush arrested and charged with theft

A famously antigay former aide to North Carolina senator Jesse Helms who became a top adviser to President Bush admitted to an investigator that he fraudulently returned merchandise to a department store, according to charging documents. Target Corp. loss prevention manager Pete Schomburg stopped Claude Allen, a 45-year-old native of Raleigh, N.C., on January 2 as Allen left the Gaithersburg, Md., store. Allen had allegedly received a refund for items using a receipt from an earlier purchase.

"Allen had receipts from previous purchases at Target stores and admitted to Agent Schomburg that he was committing fraudulent returns," according to the charging documents filed March 7 by Montgomery County police, two days before Allen was charged with theft and theft scheme.

Police allege that Allen made fraudulent returns worth at least $5,000 at Target and other stores in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., on 25 different occasions. Charging documents cite several instances where store surveillance tapes show Allen obtaining the refunds. His lawyer, Mallon Snyder, has denied the charges, saying they are a result of problems with Allen's credit cards. Snyder said Tuesday that he did not have any comment on the charging documents. Allen is scheduled to go on trial April 27.

Allen was the first black aide hired by Helms; he graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke Law School. As press secretary for Helms's 1984 Senate campaign, Allen infamously made a name for himself by attacking Democratic candidate Jim Hunt for his "connections with the homosexuals" and for his links "with the queers." The remark was among the reasons Senate Democrats blocked Allen's nomination in 2003 to the fourth U.S. circuit court of appeals in Richmond, Va., a step away from the Supreme Court.

According to the National Stonewall Democrats, the 1984 Helms communications strategy, overseen by Allen, employed heavy use of antigay materials and statements. One campaign mailing read, "They spilled out into the streets, waving protest signs proclaiming: GAY rights are HUMAN rights, (Incidentally, do you resent--as I do--the corruption of the word 'gay'? These people are NOT 'gays' - they are HOMOSEXUALS.). They've drawn a bull's-eye on my campaign. So now, the homosexuals have hit us! And their attacks are having an effect...will you help me counter these latest attacks coming from the homosexuals?"

Allen admitted that during the 1984 campaign thousands of letters had been mailed out claiming that Senator Helms was under attack by gay fund-raisers in New York and that cartoons had also been mailed out showing the Democratic candidate in a race car with the label "gay" placed over the door.

According to the antigay Family Research Council, Allen was a chief author of the antigay planks that were central to the 2004 Republican Party national platform. Among other items, the planks, written by Allen and other far-right activists, denigrated parenting by same-sex couples, strongly opposed marriage equality, and urged Congress to pass a law preventing courts from ruling on marriage access issues "so that activist federal judges cannot force 49 other states to approve and recognize Massachusetts's attempt to redefine marriage."

Police initially charged Allen in the January 2 incident with a misdemeanor, a charge that was dropped Thursday when he appeared in district court. But later that day, he was arrested and charged with the more serious charges of theft and theft scheme over $500 in the other incidents. Each carry a possible prison sentence of 15 years.

Allen was a domestic policy adviser to President Bush with an annual salary of $161,000 before abruptly leaving the White House in February. At the time, he said he wanted to spend more time with his family. All the alleged incidents occurred while he was working at the White House.

White House officials said Allen notified chief of staff Andy Card the night of the January 2 incident but told Card it was a misunderstanding. Bush was informed of the incident and Allen's planned departure in February. On Saturday, Bush said it would be "deeply disappointing" if Allen had not told the White House the truth about what happened.

The charging documents, first reported Tuesday by The WashingtonPost, also detail at least four other incidents in which Allen allegedly received refunds for merchandise he did not buy. According to authorities, Allen would buy items, take them to his car, then return to the store and pick up identical items from store shelves. He would then take them to the return desk and use his original receipt to get credit on his credit cards. (AP)

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