Republican Rep. Christopher Lee fell from power this week with a velocity seldom seen in the annals of Washington sex scandals, a blinking red caution for those who need one that the speed and reach of the Internet can crash a political career in the time it takes to push a button. The now-famous photo of a shirtless Lee moved across cyberspace at p.
ET Wednesday, for just about anyone who wanted to see it. Three hours later, Lee reed.
What happened in between in the congressional complex remains unclear. But Republicans, still scrambling for their footing less than two months after assuming control of the House of Representatives, where Lee represented New York state, insisted that Lee, who is married and has a young son, did not need to be pushed.
He refused to discuss any contact he might have had with Lee, saying only that he became aware of the issue after the photo appeared online Wednesday and then learned of Lee's reation after 6 p. Boehner's 5-week-old Republican majority, of course, benefited from Lee's exit and the distraction that largely departed with him.
Roll Call, a newspaper for congressional denizens, reported last summer that the Ohio Republican had warned Lee and other newer members of Congress to knock off their unseemly partying with female lobbyists. Lee, 46, was moving quickly up the House Republican ranks after winning the seat in despite a Democratic wave nationwide. A successful businessman, just last month he won a coveted seat on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee after only one term in office.
His immolation was swift by any measure, but it began last week, according to Remy Stern, editor-in-chief of the website Gawker. In a phone interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, Stern said Gawker first became aware of the story late last week when the woman who had the exchange with Lee sent the website an e-mail tip about the encounter, including an attachment photo of a bare-chested Lee flexing an arm muscle.
Through data embedded in the photo file, Gawker determined the photo was taken in Washington, D. Gawker was then able to link Lee's g-mail address to his Facebook. Stern said Gawker also checked to make sure the woman had no political agenda or grudge against Lee. He also said that the website did not pay the woman and that her only condition was anonymity. On Tuesday, Gawker e-mailed Lee's press secretary to inform him the story they were pursuing. Minutes later, Lee's Facebook vanished. Lee's press secretary then sent Gawker a copy of an e-mail that it said the congressman had sent to his staff on Jan.
Stern noted that Jan. Gawker informed Lee on Tuesday night that they were planning to post the story the next day.
Gawker got no response from Lee, Stern said. ET Wednesday. It told the story of a year-old Maryland woman and government employee who had an online encounter with Lee in response to an ad she placed last month in the "Women Seeking Men" section of Craigslist. Gawker reported that Lee identified himself as a divorced lobbyist and sent the photo of him posing shirtless in front of a mirror.
It said the woman eventually broke off the contact with Lee after becoming suspicious that he had misrepresented himself. Just over three hours later, The Associated Press received an e-mail statement from Lee making a vague reference to the incident and announcing his reation. By Thursday night, politicos from Washington to Buffalo, New York, were bandying names of possible candidates in the yet-to-be announced special election for Lee's seat.
They included White House spokesman Bill Burton, a Buffalo native who had been approached about making a run, according to a knowledgeable official who asked not to be identified revealing private discussions.
The official and several other Democrats said Burton is unlikely to seek the seat in the Republican-leaning district. Jack Quinn.
Extramarital scandal and the fall of its casualties are Washington rituals as old as Congress itself. But searching for love in lawless cyberspace defies the illicit nature of prospective liaisons and carries the risk of leaving damning evidence that can be beamed around the globe in moments.
Still, Lee was not the first congressmen sunk by the lure of love over the Internet.
And Boehner knows well the challenge such transgressions pose to party leaders. InRepublican Rep. Mark Foley reed one day after e-mails he had written three years earlier to a former congressional surfaced.
The scandal quickly focused on Republican GOP leaders. Boehner, at the time the House majority leader, and former New York Rep. Tom Reynolds, who headed the party's re-election campaign, said they had spoken with then-Speaker Denny Hastert, also a Republican, about some details of the matter months earlier. On Thursday, as Lee's staff tried to carry on until the winner of a special election takes over the seat, Boehner refused to describe any role he may have played in Congress' latest scandal.
Last March, Boehner, then head of his party as minority leader, dealt quickly with Republican Rep. Mark Souder, when he learned during a weekend that Souder was having an affair with a part-time aide who was married.
That Monday, Boehner spoke by phone with Souder and then reported his conversation to the House ethics committee. By Tuesday, Souder had reed. Later that summer, Roll Call reported that Boehner had warned Lee and some other colleagues about inappropriately hanging out with female lobbyists. So why then, Boehner was asked Thursday, do there still seem to be so many scandals in Congress?
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He was one of Congress' rising stars at lunchtime and was out of office by dinner. Slideshow Sex scandals and elected officials. ZIP: 83241