Feds target gay
Iowan senator

Feds target gay
            Iowan senator

Iowa’s
highest ranking openly gay elected official has been
indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice for
extortion, facing fines up to $250,000 and 20 years in
prison. State Senator Matt McCoy, 41, allegedly attempted
to obtain $100 for each installation of a home
security system from an ADT dealership in Des Moines,
according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The motion-sensor
system, called QuietCare, is placed in senior citizens'
homes to keep track of their safety. According to the
indictment, McCoy collected about $2,000 from the
company between Dec. 29, 2005, and March 24, 2006.

A clear target

McCoy, who was
outed on the senate floor in 2003 by ultraconservative
Republican Senator Ken Veenstra, has been reelected several
times since first winning his state House seat in
1992. Veenstra lost his bid for reelection in 2004
after outing his colleague, as did several other
antigay Iowa officials.

“Since
coming out as an openly gay man,” McCoy said,
“I have been a continuous target of groups
targeting gays to advance their own agendas of
intolerance and hate. Clearly, there is significant
speculation about what has motivated federal officials
to take this action against me.”

The senator says
that U.S. Attorney Matthew Whitaker, an admitted
conservative, targeted him to show his conservative loyalty
to the Bush administration in the wake of the U.S.
Attorney firings by the Department of Justice. McCoy
is an outspoken advocate for gay rights issues,
including an efforts to defeat a proposed gay marriage ban
as well as to confirm an openly gay man to the
state’s Board of Education and also to ensure a
$400,000 allocation to provide drugs for AIDS patients.
McCoy has successfully pushed an anti-bullying law in
public schools and antidiscrimination laws for LGBT
people in housing and the workplace.

Local observer
David Yepsen noted the unique circumstances of the case.
“[T]he indictment was unprecedented and is full of
political wrinkles,” he wrote in a March 15
Des Moines Register column.
“Old-timers at the Statehouse say that although
legislators have been charged with state misdemeanors,
they can't recall a sitting legislator being indicted
by the federal government.”

15-month investigation

Two FBI agents
arrived on McCoy’s doorstep at 6:30 a.m. in April
2006; this was his first notification that he was
under federal scrutiny. The Department of
Justice had begun its investigation four months prior
by reading e-mails, listening to telephone conversations,
scouring bank records, and by questioning friends and
colleagues.

McCoy said that
Whitaker approved the secret taping of McCoy’s
conversations with an acquaintance he'd met at Alcoholics
Anonymous meetings.

“We do not
know how they came to investigate me,” McCoy said.
“We believe that at some point an individual I
was looking at going into business with got involved
with [federal investigators] because they were jealous
or in trouble. This person had a history of some petty
crimes and issues related to drugs and alcohol, which
I was aware of while we were discussing going into
business together.”

After
exploration, the FBI brought evidence of extortion to
Whitaker through 12 hours of recorded discussions.
McCoy said that after he and his legal counsel
reviewed the tapes, it’s nearly impossible to extract
any evidence of extortion. “What they’ve done
is taken these tapes and parsed them together, to
somehow speculate that this whole attempted extortion
revolved around this conversation.”

 

Facing the gavel

In the wake of
the indictment, the Polk County (Iowa) Democratic Central
Committee voted overwhelmingly to approve a resolution
stating their support and confidence in McCoy.

“Senator
McCoy has served the state of Iowa in an impeccable
manner.” Polk County Democratic chairman Tom
Henderson said in a statement. “Matt has always
been willing to assist those in need, whether it is
assisting his constituents with their problems or
providing for needed health care programs for our less
fortunate.”

McCoy says that
he is looking forward to his day in court to clear his
name. To do so has already cost him $65,000 in attorney fees
and for hiring a private investigator. He expects the
total bill to reach $100,000 by the time the trial is
over. A trial has been scheduled for early October.

“I’ve served two terms in the house, and this
is my third term in the senate,” McCoy said.
“In all my years of elected office, I’ve never
seen anything like this.”

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