The other Packwood scandal – ex-Sen. Bob Packwood’s misuse of influence and campaign funds – includes related articles – Cover Story
In the stranger-than-fiction world of Washington politics, it’s worth remembering that former Sen. Bob Packwood once had to be dragged from his office and then carried onto the Senate floor–feet-first–before he’d vote on a campaign finance reform measure.
It was the cleaning woman who tipped off the sergeant-at-arms and a couple of aides to Packwood’s hiding place on that February midnight in 1988, but even after the authorities unlocked Packwood’s office door the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee refused to surrender, using his shoulder to try to keep them out.
The police prevailed, but Packwood won where it counted; the campaign finance reform bill, like similar ones before and since, was killed by a Republican-led filibuster. Packwood was thus freed to return to what we now know was his senatorial style: trading favors, wielding power, selling access, chasing campaign cash–and groping women.
We know because six years later it was again women–former staffers, campaign aides and lobbyists–who blew the whistle on Packwood, charging him with what amounted to a decades-long pattern of sexual misconduct. And when the Senate Ethics Committee began to investigate, Packwood again tried to bar the door–denying the charges and then saying he couldn’t remember what he’d done, all the while stonewalling investigators and working to discredit his accusers. But for all his altering of diary entries, Packwood could not rewrite history.
In the end the Ethics Committee’s unanimous vote recommending Packwood’s expulsion from the Senate was based on more than his abuse of women. While the committee’s investigation had confirmed “at least 18 separate unwanted and unwelcome sexual advances” and numerous instances of evidence-tampering, it also concluded that Packwood had “abused his position of power … by engaging in a deliberate and systematic plan to enhance his personal financial position by soliciting, encouraging and coordinating employment opportunities for his wife from persons who had a particular interest in legislation or issues that [he] could influence.”
In fact, the diaries reveal far more than that. Packwood’s diaries and supporting documentation–correspondence, staff memos, records of votes and committee testimony, plus reports filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC)–indicate that:
* Packwood not only sought financial favors from persons needing his legislative or regulatory help, but also did their bidding: speaking at committee hearings; instructing his staff to write memos to address their concerns; sponsoring and tailoring legislation; putting in a good word with regulators; championing the nominee for a government job.
* He was almost always soliciting campaign funds, and he judged most contacts, meetings and some political decisions according to how much support–and money–they would generate. In a September 1992 diary entry he recounted a visit from a local businessperson. “He gave me $1,000,” Packwood said, adding, “that’s worth 10 minutes.”
* In some cases Packwood knowingly skirted or violated federal campaign laws.
* Packwood and key supporters and lobbyists operated in a small, incestuous, revolving-door world. Former aides became lobbyists, fundraisers, campaign consultants and corporate executives; lobbyists and executives became friends and sycophants.
* In addition to using his own Senate office and employees for political campaign purposes–and attempting to cover it up–Packwood advised his Republican colleagues to destroy any evidence of such activities in their own offices.
* Some of Packwood’s “requests” for contributions to his legal defense trust fund stopped just short of extortion.
Packwood’s diaries depict a world in which money rules, and where the people and special-interest groups that provide it have extraordinary power. The evidence provided by the Packwood case suggests that the current political and campaign financing system works because the people in office need the people with the money–and vice versa. The system creates, in Packwood’s words, “a happy relationship”–for an extremely narrow group of individuals and interests.
Bob and the Fat Cats
October 18, 1989: I did have time to come back to the office, talk to Tim Lee and Tim says he’ll be happy to put up $10, 000 a year for Georgie. Talked to Ron Crawford. He’ll put up $7,500 a year for Georgie. That’s three out of three and I haven’t even hit up [Name Deleted] or Steve Saunders. I’ve got to handle this carefully. I don’t want in any way there to be any quid pro quo. I’m not going to do anything for these guys that I would not do anyway. … I think I’ll ask them for $5,000 apiece and hold it in reserve and indicate to Georgie that if she can make $20,000 I’ll make sure she gets another $20,000. Then I’ll come up with more and that will give me enough of an asset base to be able to buy a small two bedroom townhouse.
March 27,1990: I said, “Well, if you’re going to support Georgie in the style to which I’d like her to become accustomed…” And he laughed. He says, “Yeah, I’ll guarantee the $7,500 for five years.” And he said, “If you’re chairman of the Finance Committee I can probably double that.” We both laughed. I don’t intend to do that. I frankly don’t intend this supplement to Georgie to last more than five years in any event. I’d also talked with Tim Lee today to re-verify his $10,000 and $10,000 from Bill Furman for Georgie. She’ll have basically $30,000 to $40,000 in income for five years as long as I remain in the Senate.
April 15, 1990: [Furman] said, “Bob, there’s no quid pro quo. You’ve done so much for my company and done so much for this state and I just want to do anything I can to make your continued existence in politics possible.”
May 2,1990: Furman of course is eternally appreciative to me. He says that but for what I did for him in 86 with the transition rules he’d be out of business. Now he’s prosperous beyond imagination and gives me the entire credit. He’s going to put up half the money Tim Lee’s putting up for Georgie’s business. They just wanted to thank me.
December 10, 1990: I tossed and turned most of the night, worried about the divorce, worried that Tim Lee is going to have to testify with [Name Deleted] at the trial. It will be “Republican fat cat buys off senator with job to senator’s wife.”
Why were these people so eager to give Packwood money (indirectly, by giving jobs and income to his then-wife, Georgie)? For them, Packwood was an important friend to have.
* Tim Lee had interned for Packwood in the mid-1970s and later became owner of a trucking brokerage company called Superior Transportation Systems (STS), whose annual revenues exceeded $20 million by the mid-’80s. Lee often lobbied Packwood on trucking and shipping issues, and in 1985 Packwood arranged for him to testify at a hearing of the Senate’s surface transportation subcommittee, which Packwood chaired.
When Lee wasn’t lobbying Packwood, he was using his Packwood connection to influence the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). In at least one case, this worked out well for everyone. Packwood sponsored legislation and the ICC issued a license benefiting Scott Paper Co., a key STS client, and Scott Paper’s political action committee (PAC) made campaign contributions to Packwood.
Lee became a key Packwood fundraiser, and even got his company involved. FEC records show that Packwood’s campaign paid STS more than $12,000 for office rent and fundraising expenses for the ’92 campaign; it also paid an STS employee more than $17,000 for campaign-related work. Lee, his wife, Lynn (a former Packwood staffer), and top STS employees also contributed at least $5,000 to Packwood’s campaign.
Lee and Packwood also shared a passion for stereo equipment, and documents show that Lee installed a receiver in Packwood’s office and gave him a sub-woofer for his apartment. But Lee was willing to do much more. In an April 1990 letter to Georgie Packwood (obtained by the Ethics Committee), Lee offered to set her up in the antiques business. He would create a corporation with $30,000 to $50,000 in capital, make her 40 percent owner and pay her a salary of $20,000 to $25,000 a year, plus her share of the profits.
“I think it would be a lot of fun for both of us,” he wrote, adding in a handwritten postscript, “Let me know if you need help with [your son’s] schooling.” Georgie Packwood, suspecting her husband’s involvement, declined the offer.
* Bill Furman, Packwood told his diary, was “eternally appreciative” for Packwood’s help. In fact, Packwood’s “help”–in the form of a key 1986 tax adjustment he pushed through as chair of the Finance Committee–prevented the loss of some $40 million in revenues for Furman’s Greenbrier Companies, which manufactures and leases rail cars.
Furman and Lee were close friends and business associates, and Furman seemed to share Lee’s commitment to keeping Packwood in office, where his committee assignments and regulatory contacts could help them. Furman, his wife and Greenbrier employees contributed almost $6,000 to Packwood’s ’92 campaign; in 1993 Furman made a $5,000 contribution to Packwood’s legal defense fund.
* Steve Saunders is another former Packwood aide-turned lobbyist. In a diary entry dated November 6, 1989-three days after Packwood asked Saunders if his firm could put Georgie on a “retainer” of $7,500 a year-Packwood notes that “at a request of [Saunders] I stopped in at the Finance Committee to read two questions” wanted by Saunders client Mitsubishi Electric Corp. In a letter to his clients, Saunders explained that Packwood “rearranged his schedule to attend the hearing” on the Japanese patent system and asked the questions that had been drafted for him. In another memo, which discussed Saunders’s request for higher fees from Mitsubishi, Saunders cited his effectiveness in lobbying Packwood.
July 11, 1990: Ron wanted me to meet with [Abbott Laboratories executives] because they want to retain Ron because, as Ron says, “People hear that you’re tough to get to and they know I can get to you.” I said, “Well, that’s a happy relationship for all of us.”
October 8, 1991: The advantage Ron brings to me in the Washington PAC scene is that much of his income is dependent upon his relationship with me. He has got a vested interest in me staying in office.
Packwood’s ties with lobbyist and former aide Ron Crawford were even more tangled. Crawford delivered–sometimes literally–to Packwood the support of his clients, including Shell Oil, the National Cable Television Association, the American Bus Association, Abbott Laboratories and the National Rifle Association (NRA)–and Packwood sometimes ran interference for them. According to a September 13, 1989, diary entry, Crawford had sought Packwood’s help for Shell Oil. “He said, `I know how much you hate the oil companies.’ I said, `Ron, I still hate the oil companies but I’ll do you a favor.”‘
It’s unclear whether other actions by Packwood were done as a “favor” to Crawford, a bid for campaign support or out of some objective political conviction. In any case, Crawford’s clients often benefited. In June 1990, for example–six days before Crawford made a written job proposal to Georgie Packwood–Bob Packwood was the only member of the Commerce Committee to vote against a bill to reregulate the cable television industry. The National Cable Television Association, which had paid Packwood $5,000 in honoraria in the 80s, made two $5,000 contributions to his campaign on one December day in 1991; shortly after he was reelected the group kicked in another $5,000.
And in April 1991 Packwood introduced a bill–at Crawford’s request–to exempt from the firearms excise tax custom gunsmiths who made fewer than 50 guns a year. In an October 1992 diary entry, Packwood noted, “I don’t think we need the custom gun smiths’ deal now, not to get the NRA’s help, not as long as I was able to vote against cloture on the Crime Bill. We should have them sewed up. They should do a general mailing to their membership, and a get-out-the-vote mailing.”
Packwood and Crawford also did campaign business together. In 1991 and ’92 Packwood’s campaign committee paid Crawford’s firm, F/P Research Associates, more than $65,000 for fundraising and consulting services. In November 1991, Packwood was the primary Senate sponsor for the appointment of Carol Crawford, Ron’s wife and also a former Packwood staffer, to a seat on the International Trade Commission. “Well, I had called a lot of Senators,” Packwood told his diary. “God, I’ve worked hard on this. When the vote came we won it 59-33.”
Ron Crawford contributed $2,000 to Packwood’s 92 campaign, and in 1993 Carol and Ron Crawford each contributed $1,000 to Packwood’s legal defense fund.
Buying and Selling
March 27, 1993: Breakfast with some of the Oregon home builders… We chatted for a while about some of the things we wanted and then I got into my complaints with the National Home Builders. The Oregon home builders all-said they were mad. They felt they’d been double-crossed, and I said the home builders could make it up to me with a contribution of $10,000 for my legal defense trustfund.
April 21, 1993: … Well, I’m not sure that’s the story but I’ve been good to the Seafarers…. So, he wanted to bring the guy in to apologize [for a $10,000 contribution to AuCoin]. He did, and he said, Senator what can we do to make it up to you? I said, You could give $10,000 to my legal defense fund. He said, How can we do it? I said, PACs can give. It’s a gift. It’s legal. He says, Tell me who to make the check out to and you’ll have it tomorrow. And they left.
May 28, 1993: [Name Deleted] from the [American Trucking Association] was in. I then hit him up for some money for my legal defense trustfund He said send me the information. I’ll be happy to help.
June 14, 1993: At 2:45, [Name Deleted] was in, just to talk about making permanent the low-income tax credit. He, of course, had promised to do something on the legal expense trust fund He has performed nothing yet.
6:15, [Name Deleted], the lobbyist for the Laborers Union, came in, gave me a $10,000 check for the legal expense trust fund. Nothing was said, of course, about striker replacement.
Ron Crawford wasn’t the only one with “a vested interest in [Packwood] staying in office.” Various medical groups and corporations, for example, made Packwood the No. 1 recipient of health care dollars in 1992. In fact, there were many special-interest groups, lobbyists and corporate executives whose support for Packwood had much more to do with what he, in a key committee position, could do for their bottom lines than with any meshing of political ideologies.
With the establishment of Packwood’s legal defense fund, special interests had another way to get on the powerful senator’s good side and he had another way to get money out of them–as much as $10,000 a year. The Auto Dealers and Drivers for Free Trade PAC, which had made some $65,000 in independent expenditures in Packwood’s ’92 campaign (in addition to its $10,000 PAC contribution), kicked in a total of $25,000 to his legal fund. Other top contributors included the Laborers’ Political League, with $15,000; and at $10,000 each the Airline Pilots Association, the American Trial Lawyers’ Association, Seafarers Political Activity, Sen. Robert Dole’s (R-Kan.) leadership PAC, Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah), millionaire industrialist and truck leasing magnate John Rollins, and Robert Asher, former president of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
According to records filed with the office of the secretary of the Senate, the
Oregon home builders never ponied up. But Packwood still managed to collect more than $657,000 for his lawyers’ bills.
Looking on the Bright Side
January 4, 1993: Well, I’ll say again, if worse comes to worst, if they don’t expel me. They can strip me of my seniority, they can punish me, they can make me pay money to the Senate, which I can pay for out of my campaign funds, except I’d hoped to use that to set up a historical trust, I may be reduced in six years to my pension and Social Security, and on that, I will live quite happily.
July 28, 1993: [Altered. Packwood’s original entry recounted his instructions to other Republican senators to destroy any evidence of politicking from their offices.] I got a copy of the articles from the committee and came back to the office and thought to myself–is this job worth it. The damn reformers are trying to make us saints. We are humans. We are politicians but on average we are more moral and honest than most professions. Why try to make us different.
Packwood remained proud and defiant almost to the bitter end. He acknowledged no wrongdoing and expressed no remorse, saying only in a shaking voice that he would leave the Senate “not with malice, but with love.” And when Packwood’s colleagues stood on the Senate floor to praise him and his career, with occasional references to his “mistakes,” they too overlooked the matter that hit closest to home: his abuse of his office for financial gain and the detailed evidence of the cozy relationships that develop between congressmembers and lobbyists.
Others have also glossed over the “other” Packwood story. In the cynical, seen-it-all-before world of Washington media, where reporters and editors are forever waiting for the proverbial smoking gun to drop in their laps, the Packwood papers should have been investigated with the fabled fine-toothed comb. Instead, the lurid and banal aspects of the diaries got the high-profile ridicule treatment, while the diary entries and supporting documents that revealed in cynical, matter-of-fact detail the powerful role special-interest money plays in the daily business life of a U.S. senator soon became yesterday’s news.
Packwood, meanwhile, now receiving an $88,922 annual pension, is said to be working on a book about the sordid affair. There is, after all, more money to be made.
“Perfectly Ethical and Legal”
“THEY’RE TRYING TO CLAIM I’M USING the campaign money for … legal defense purposes,” Packwood told his diary on August 7, 1993, adding: “which is perfectly ethical and legal.” In fact, some contributors to Packwood’s campaign committees became unwitting underwriters of his lawyers’ fees.
Here’s how the money flowed:
At the beginning of 1993, Packwood’s campaign committee still had $887,627 left over from the ’92 campaign. And despite the allegations of sexual misconduct and the fact that Packwood wouldn’t be up for reelection for another six years–the money kept pouring in.
PACs and individuals contributed $52,016 to Packwood in 1993 and $79,984 in ’94. In the first six months of this year, after Packwood had been returned to the chairmanship of the Senate Finance Committee, he collected $170,982 in contributions, more than the two previous years put together. The combination of money left over and new contributions totals $1,190,609, but by the end of June Packwood’s accounts showed a balance of just $250,765.
What happened to the other $939,844? At least $636,937 of it went to pay legal bills associated with the Ethics Committee investigation. And not even Packwood, whose support for women’s rights had always produced a large number of campaign contributions from women, missed the irony. At a January 1993 press conference, he had noted “there would be a tremendous political criticism … if I took die money that I’ve raised from women to use for my defense against women.”
Months later he was defending that very thing to his diary. (Speaking of his diary, Packwood used at least $20,000 in campaign funds to pay his former secretary to transcribe it.)
It’s not that Packwood wasn’t getting help with his lawyers’ bills. Through September 30, PACs and individuals had contributed $657,373–including a $50,000 refund7′ from Washington law firm Arnold and Porter–to his legal defense trust fund.
FEDERAL ELECTION LAWS IMPOSE LIMITS on direct contributions to a candidate’s campaign committee, but they leave huge loopholes through which other types of money can flow. So while Packwood’s campaign fund was flush with cash, enabling him to spend more than $2.5 million on a television-commercial blitzkrieg, he still got a lot of help from his friends.
When all the votes were counted and the checks tallied, Packwood and his supporters had spent $11.20 for each of his 717,455 votes–77,604 more than Les AuCoin, who, even with help from Democratic party committees, spent less than $4.50 for each of his.
Here’s a partial rundown of the Packwood Inc. investors and what they spent:
Re-Elect Packwood Committee $8,036,879 National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) 240,379(1) NRSC (primary election contribution) 17,500 NRSC (soft money to Oregon GOP) 96,500(2) Oregon GOP 55,292(3) American Medical Association (independent expenditure) 227,808 Auto Dealers and Drivers for Free Trade PAC (phone banks) 65,539(4) National Rifle Association (postcard mailing) 22,613(5)
(1) According to the FEC, this exceeded the legal limit for combined “coordinated expenditures” by state and national party committees by $166. (2) In his diary Packwood recorded a March 6, 1992 promise from Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas), then NRSC chair, for $100,000 in soft money. Gramm has said, Nothing wrong was done’ (3) In 1993 the Oregon Republican Party paid a $10,000 fine to the FEC for failing to disclose its expenditures for ads against Packwood opponent Les AuCoin. (4) A March 20, 1992, diary entry indicates Autopac coordinated this expenditure with the Packwood campaign. Apparently die Auto Dealers are wiling to do some spending against [Name Deleted]. Of course we can’t know anything about it. [Name Deleted’s] going to do it. We’ve got to destroy any evidence we ever had of [blank) so that we have no connection with any independent expenditure.” If the account is true, die expenditure would violate the Federal Election Campaign Act. (5) An October 6, 1992, diary entry indicates that an NRA official showed the group’s anti-aucoin mailing to Packwood. “God, is it tough!” Packwood told his diary. The NRA insists-despite this contact with Packwood-that the expenditure was legal because it constituted a “communications cost” with its
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