March 17, 2009

One of the benefits we can all hope for from the Great Repudiation is that it may finally mean that the long Washington careers of some of the right's creepiest characters will finally be washed up. We can hope, anyway.

Exhibit A: David Bossie of Citizens United, who showed up on MSNBC to talk about his Supreme Court case involving the vicious Hillary-bashing "documentary" he made; Bossie is suing because the ads for the movie were considered campaign contributions and thus regulatable under McCain-Feingold:

"It seems to me the number one thing the First Amendment protects is communication about who we elect to run our government," said Theodore B. Olson, the Bush administration solicitor general who is representing Citizens United.

Because the movie is partially financed with corporate funds, it fell under restrictions in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 -- as the McCain-Feingold law is formally known -- on "any broadcast, cable or satellite communications" that refers to a candidate for federal office within a certain time frame before an election. The law's requirement that ads clearly state the name of the group paying for them made Citizens United's planned 10-second media ads unworkable, the group said.

Yes, it's that Ted Olson who is lead attorney in this case. Funny how these old bad pennies keep turning up in the same places, isn't it?

Because the Washington Post kind of left some information out about Bossie in its piece, as Media Matters observes:

As Media Matters for America has previously noted, Bossie was fired in 1998 from his job as chief investigator for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform -- which was investigating alleged Clinton White House campaign finance abuses -- for his role in releasing selectively edited transcripts of Hubbell's prison conversations, comments indicating that Clinton had done nothing wrong. The Washington Times reported on May 7, 1998, that according to Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), then-chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, "David Bossie had 'chosen to resign,' although House Speaker Newt Gingrich [R-GA] said Mr. Burton 'fired the one person he should have fired.' " The Washington Times quoted Burton saying, "A mistake was made in not including in the 30 pages of transcripts a couple of comments made by Mr. Hubbell about himself and the first lady. They were relevant, and they should not have been left out." The Washington Post reported in a May 7, 1998, article that then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) told Burton: "I'm embarrassed for you, I'm embarrassed for myself, and I'm embarrassed for the [House Republican] conference at the circus that went on at your committee."

Eric Boehlert at Salon did probably the most thorough examination of Bossie's career back in 2004, when he was involved in the Swift Boat smear of John Kerry:

Bossie's style during the investigation was to lob scattershot allegations toward an appreciative press corps that rarely seemed upset when the charges he gave them to amplify -- that Whitewater was a criminal enterprise, for instance -- failed to pan out as factual. As Democratic strategist James Carville once put it, "He made collective fools out of about 80 percent of the national press corps." But none of this appears to have marred Bossie's reputation with reporters, even when then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich -- no stranger to hardball partisan politics -- reportedly ordered Bossie fired from his congressional staff position in May 1998.

As Boehlert explored, his career as a Clinton-hater has been relentless and consistently of the same lowbrow character:

# During the 1992 presidential campaign, Bossie got into a fistfight with a Little Rock, Ark., private investigator, Larry Case, who said he had damaging information on Clinton. Bossie told police that Case had punched him after Bossie refused to pay Case a $10,000 advance as they were preparing to board a flight at Little Rock National Airport.

# That same year, Bossie set out to prove that a young pregnant woman named Susan Coleman had committed suicide in 1977 after having an affair with Clinton. Coleman's mother told CBS that Bossie hounded her relentlessly with his false story, even following her to an Army hospital in Georgia, where she was visiting her husband, in recovery from a stroke. Bossie and another man "burst into the sick man's room and began questioning the shaken mother about her daughter's suicide," CBS reported.

# Also in 1992, President George H.W. Bush, repudiating Bossie's tactics, filed an FEC complaint against Bossie's group after it produced a TV ad inviting voters to call a hot line to hear (almost certainly doctored) tape-recorded conversations between Clinton and Gennifer Flowers.

# In 1994, Bossie traveled to Fayetteville, Ark., with an NBC producer, where the two allegedly "stalked" and "ambushed" Beverly Bassett Schaffer, a former state regulatory officer and a lawyer who had played a small role in the so-called Whitewater conspiracy. The two confronted Schaffer outside her office and, after she refused an on-camera interview, reportedly chased her across town, until she found refuge in the lobby of an office building.

# In February 1996, Citizens United mailed out a fundraising letter bragging that it had "dispatched its top investigator, David Bossie, to Capitol Hill to assist Senator Lauch Faircloth in the official US Senate hearings on Whitewater." Another mailing reported that Bossie was "on the inside directing the probe." Democrats subsequently cried foul that a federal employee was actively raising money for a partisan group, so D'Amato forced Bossie to submit an affidavit proclaiming his independence from Citizens United.

# In November 1996, Bossie improperly leaked the confidential phone logs of former Commerce Department official John Huang to the press. And he did that by deceiving other GOP congressional aides, according to an account published in Roll Call, which quoted one Republican aide comparing Bossie's deceptive presence to "Ollie North running around the House."

# In July 1997, James Rowley III, the chief counsel to the House Government Reform Committee, which was investigating allegations of campaign finance wrongdoing by the Clinton administration, resigned his position after committee chairman Burton refused to fire Bossie. In his one-page resignation letter, Rowley, a former federal prosecutor employed by Republicans, accused Bossie of "unrelenting" self-promotion in the press, which made it impossible "to implement the standards of professional conduct I have been accustomed to at the United States Attorney's Office." (Bossie's habit of self-promotion paid off; during one four-week stretch in early 1994, Bossie and Brown were profiled by the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times and the Washington Post, each marveling at the power the activists were wielding.)

... When the Clintons exited the White House, Bossie seemed rudderless as he jumped from one political target to the next. During the 2000 presidential campaign he coauthored another quickie attack book, "Prince Albert: The Life and Lies of Al Gore," but it didn't seem to play much of a role in the disputed election. During the summer of 2001, Bossie played the Gary Condit game, going on cable TV to tie the Democratic congressman to a dead intern. ("Gary Condit doesn't have much credibility left," Bossie said.) No evidence linking Condit to the murder ever emerged, and he was never charged. The next year, when the Enron scandal broke, Bossie appeared on Fox News and repeated GOP talking points that both political parties deserved blame because, after all, Enron's former CEO, Kenneth Lay, slept in the Lincoln bedroom once while Clinton was in office. But that in fact never happened. Also that year, Bossie appeared on TNN'S late-night show, "Conspiracy Zone With Kevin Nealon," where he dissected, yet again, the supposed mysteries surrounding the suicide of Clinton aide Foster. Plus, Bossie guaranteed that Sen. Hillary Clinton would run for president in 2004.

We can only hope that right-wing smear merchants like Bossie are washed up, of course. In reality, sadly, they live on politically like so many zombies in a Romero movie. And they never, ever give up.

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