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Washington Culture to Blame for Foley Vindication

Washington Culture to Blame for Foley Vindication


Lane Hudson became a household name when he revealed to the Human Rights Campaign that he was the anonymous blogger who exposed the scandal that brought down congressman Mark Foley. Now he responds to Advocate writer James Kirchick's analysis of how the Foley investigation led to the shamed lawmaker being vindicated of all crimes.

The recent news that congressman Mark Foley had been vindicated of all charges associated with allegations that he'd sent sexually explicit e-mails and instant messages to former congressional pages is not entirely surprising -- but not for the reasons that have been discussed at length previously in The Advocate. The investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has to be viewed in a much larger context.

During their investigation of Foley, law enforcement officials ran into a pretty big obstacle: Congress. After investigators were initially denied access to Foley's office computer by the House Office of General Counsel, Florida Department of Law Enforcement commissioner Gerald Bailey appealed directly to House speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Rather than intervene and provide investigators with an opportunity to discover whether laws had been broken, Pelosi forwarded the letter without comment to the House Office of General Counsel. The counsel's office promptly denied the request once again.

This is important because it is indicative of an astonishingly pervasive mode of operation in our nation's capital. It is part of every aspect of Washington society: politicians, media, advocacy organizations, lobbying firms, and staff. It's like the cocktail party circuit that everybody wants to be a part of, so they smile and say polite things. Anything that upsets the delicate balance of the party is frowned upon in a very serious way.

Accordingly, each of these elements of Washington operates to preserve the status quo, thus inherently being averse to anything that would promote change or threaten existing power structures. It is what's wrong with Washington, and it is what may have prevented the full truth about Foley's actions from being known to the American public.

It is the same mentality that prevented Republican leadership from dealing with Foley's proclivities before they became public. It is the same mentality that saw both Democrats and Republicans protest the FBI's search of congressman William Jefferson's office following the discovery of $90,000 in his freezer. It is the same mentality that prevented Democrats from using their newfound congressional majority, complete with subpoena power, to investigate and prosecute the gross abuses of the law by the Bush administration.

Organizations and their lobbyists are also a part of what prevents change -- in our case, achieving civil equality. Much time, effort, and money go into building relationships with members of Congress and their staff. These relationships, in essence, become intangible assets to our advocacy groups. Because of their investment, anything that threatens these assets is looked upon unfavorably, disavowed, and avoided.

It is the reason the Human Rights Campaign fired me when I volunteered to them, for fear of them being blindsided with the information, that I was the anonymous blogger who exposed the Foley scandal. It is also why they pushed the information out as quickly as possible. They wanted no association with something that had the potential to change the balance of power in Washington. I understood this well, and that is why I acted anonymously.

James Kirchick questions the motivation behind exposing the behavior of Mark Foley. This is couched in a larger discussion on the ethics of outing, which naturally lends itself to how it affects our movement.

I have long contended that I did not out Mark Foley -- rather, I helped to expose unethical and possibly illegal behavior. Whether or not to out closeted politicians is a complicated issue, and I don't purport to know better than anyone else. People who do this will be judged individually. They know this.

Recently, at the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association national convention, this was a topic of discussion on a panel that I sat on. I shared with the panel and the audience the conclusion that I have reached on this and the advice I had for journalists considering the outing of a politician. When someone lives a closeted life, they lie on a daily basis to themselves and those around them. In the case of politicians, it's an even more complex lie.

It's an unhealthy way to live. In so many cases, people in power become confident that they have successfully covered up their biggest secret, and that leads them to believe they can get away with almost anything. My advice to the journalists was this: "Where there is smoke, there is probably fire."

Being gay isn't wrong. Abusing power and betraying the public trust is. Truth is always a good thing.

I find these to be good principles to live by, whether being an advocate or a professional. If more of our brothers and sisters lived by these principles, we wouldn't need to discuss the issues raised by Kirchick. Let's hope that we can get to a place where these issues are a thing of the past.

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Lane Hudson