Sex, power and money in Washington

One of our more popular pages is devoted to the history of sex and crime in DC.  We thought, given the recently flurry of sexual abuse scandals by our most powerful, that a few excepts from the page would be useful, especially since two of the prime offenders have been Presidents: Clinton and Trump. 

RELIABLE SOURCE, WASH POST – The Mayflower hotel was also Judith Campbell Exner’s home away from home when she trysted with John F. Kennedy at the White House. And yes, history buffs, it was the hotel’s Town & Country lounge where FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover lunched daily for 20 years alongside his live-in aide, Clyde Tolson.

The Mayflower now joins the list of Washington’s greatest bed-and-breakfasts: The Jefferson, where Clinton confidant Dick Morris sucked the toes of $200-an-hour call girl Sherry Rowlands; the former Vista (now Westin Washington) where Marion Barry was caught smoking crack as gal-pal Rasheeda Moore looked on; and the Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City, where Marv Albert bit the back of a female companion, Linda Tripp secretly taped Lewinsky talking about her affair, and Deborah Jeane Palfrey (a.k.a. the D.C. Madam) sent escorts for what she calls legal, non-sexual “dates.”

NY TIMES – Dr. Frank Farley, a psychologist at Temple University, said that many politicians are what he calls Type T personalities, with T standing for thrill-seeking. “Politics is an uncertain business,” he said. “You’re at the whim of the electorate. There’s no tenure. It’s often hard to know what the criteria for success are. It’s either all or nothing – you either win or you lose. And so it inspires a risk-taking person to go into that line of work. But on the public side, they’re supposed to show stability and responsibility, and so this risky nature may show itself more on the private side.”. . .

Dr. Judy Kuriansky, an adjunct professor of clinical psychology at Columbia University’s Teachers College, said that “sex and power are extremely connected, because they’re basically an expression of this huge energy that these people have.” Not uncommonly, she said, politicians speak out vigorously against the very behavior that they then indulge in, as is the case with Governor Spitzer. “You project wrong onto others that is symptomatic of your own behavior,” she said. “It’s called a defense mechanism. Basically, it’s unconscious.” Moreover, she added, “Even though Spitzer is a lawyer, when you get into a position of power, you think you’re above the law.”

US NEWS & WORLD REPORT, March 30, 1998: When Kathleen Willey dropped Nathan Landow’s name into her amended deposition for the Paula Jones case in February, shudders went through Vice President Al Gore’s camp – and not just because Willey had presented a credible account of hormones run amok in the Oval Office. For more than a decade, Landow, a 65-year-old multimillionaire Maryland developer, has served as Gore’s most enthusiastic fund-raiser. . . In Willey’s original January 11 deposition in the Jones case, she denied that anyone had tried to influence her deposition, and Landow’s name never came up. But a month later, in a written revision, Willey noted that she had “discussed” her deposition with Landow. In subsequent testimony before Starr’s grand jury, Willey has reportedly alleged that Landow tried to pressure her into recanting her story of sexual harassment at the hands of President Clinton. Through his lawyers, Landow has issued a vociferous denial that he made any attempt to influence Willey’s testimony. But sources close to Landow acknowledge that in October, weeks after Willey received a subpoena in the Jones case, Landow paid a private

PAUL M. RODRIGUEZ AND GEORGE ARCHIBALD WASHINGTON TIMES, 1989: A homosexual prostitution ring is under investigation by federal and District authorities and includes among its clients key officials of the Reagan and Bush administrations, military officers, congressional aides and U.S. and foreign businessmen with close social ties to Washington’s political elite, documents obtained by The Washington Times reveal. One of the ring’s high-profile clients was so well-connected, in fact, that he could arrange a middle-of-the-night tour of the White House for his friends on Sunday, July 3, of last year. Among the six persons on the extraordinary 1 a.m. tour were two male prostitutes . . . Reporters for this newspaper examined hundreds of credit-card vouchers, drawn on both corporate and personal cards and made payable to the escort service operated by the homosexual ring . . . Among the client names contained in the vouchers – and identified by prostitutes and escort operators – are government officials, locally based U.S. military officers, businessmen, lawyers, bankers, congressional aides and other professionals . . .

ODESSA MADRE – “You don’ pull on Superman’s cape. You don’ spit into the wind. You don’ tug the mask off the Lone Ranger and, baby, you don’ mess with Odessa, okay? I may be old, and I may be ugly, but I ain’t dumb. That’s why I was the ‘Queen.'” – Odessa Madre

Courtland Milloy, in a wonderful 1980 Washington Post story, describes Odessa Madre this way: “Perhaps no other person has seen so much of the District’s narcotics, numbers and ‘tenderloin’ trade and is still alive to tell about it. According to one police affidavit filed in U.S. District Court here in 1975, ‘She practices a resourceful and shrewd form of circumspection that has enabled her to survive and thrive in her illegal activities over the past 40 years.’ After monitoring her activities with two court-ordered wiretaps, one police source was quoted in court records as saying that Madre frequently gave parties at her home and that /as a matter of course, Miss Madre set out a number of bowls of cocaine, heroin and marijuana for her guests’ pleasure.’ But she protested that decription in a recent interview: ‘Everybody knows I can’t stand them reefers.'”

By 1980, Madre had been picked up 30 times on 57 charges over a 48 year span, seven of them spent in a federal prison. She bought a Lincoln Continental when she got out and purchased a Cadillac Seville after serving a later three year sentence.

Madre grew up in a mixed neighborhood of blacks and Irish, the latter heavily populating the DC police force and, in the end, often looking out for their childhood friend. “Negroes and Irishmen got along real well,” Madre told Milloy. “They would fight amongst themselves, but we wouldn’t fight each other. If somebody outside Cowtown came to fight the Irish, the Negroes would chunk bricks at them. We were like a big happy family.” Writes Milloy: “Thus began a long and prosperous relationship with members of the Metropolitan Police Department. When Madre’s childhood friends grew up, they became captains, lieutenants and even superintendents in the police department, like their fathers. As the year passed and Madre became the notorious ‘Queen,’ many of her childhood buddies couldn’t forget that she had once been their compatriot in the ‘Great Rock Chunkin’ Wars’ against the Italian and German kids.”

Long time residents remember Madre walking into her club followed by her girls and sitting at a table with 12 long stemmed roses. They also recall that the girls got Sunday off and could be seen observed relaxing on the porch of Madre’s place.

In 1952 the Kefauver committee, targeting organized crime in DC, found a pattern of payoffs by local mobsters to the cops, funneled, it appeared, largely through Madre. Milloy notes that “Two sergeants testified they had been demoted and assigned to school-crossing duty because they had refused a payoff from Madre and had participated in the arrest of know gamblers – including her. The superior officer who demoted them was John Murphy, they testified. ‘Yeah, I knew him,’ Madre said. ‘Grew up with him in Cowtown.’ There was also testimony from other policemen that Madre had paid police superintendent James Barrett $2,000 a month in ‘ice’ payments for nearly a year. ‘Somebody had to give ’em the money.'”

Madre’s own evaluation of it all: “You say was it worth it? Child, you wonder does crime pay? I’ll tell you, yes. It pays a helluva lot of money. And money is something. I don’t care who you are, when you got money you can get a lot of doors open because there’s always some larcenous heart who’s gonna listen to you. “And when you show ’em that money . . . if you got a wad, honey, they’ll suck up to ya like you was a Tootsie Roll.”

Sam Smith – in an abrupt and somewhat tardy move, the Review finally started to pay attention to the Jeff Gannon story. We originally thought it nothing more than a case of some guy being paid to ask softball questions at a White House news conference, hardly more despicable than the far more common practice of reporters asking them for free. But then came the sex angle and the realization that the only remaining grounds for termination of public office in Washington are an illegal nannie or gay sex.

Sex and corrupt politics in DC is nothing new. For example, during the Civil War there were 450 brothels in the capital. Part of the mythology of Washington, however, is what might be called the Jim Lehrer Illusion, which is to say that all people in DC do is sit around and rationally debate policy alternatives. In fact, Washington politics is also heavily driven by cowardice, bribery, blackmail, deceit, fear, loyalty to old buddies and even older bodies, cooptation, sex, and just plain crime. Journalists who pretend otherwise either don’t understand what is going on or are covering for someone.

The public often misunderstands the importance of Washington scandals, assuming them to be a simple dalliance, individual failing, or private offense. What makes both sex and crime in DC different, at least when those in power are involved, is that there is far more opportunity for blackmail and far more skill at covering things up.

The blackmail may be used by members of one branch of government against those of another, by lobbyists against members of Congress, by the police against whomever they wish, and by foreign powers. For example, one way to keep a congress member bought is for a lobbyist to provide him with high class prostitutes. And it is noteworthy that both the Israelis and Boris Yeltsin apparently knew about Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky before the American public did.

The city’s ecology lends particular importance to gay sex simply because greater public antipathy makes it an even easier target for the blackmailer, witness the case a few years back when DC police officers were found to be running an extortion racket against those who visited gay bars.

Finally, the exposure of impropriety almost inevitably raises the issue of hypocrisy since the participating official often has inveighed against the discovered offense or attempted to ban, punish, or otherwise suppress the revealed practice. One of the more ironic examples was when, during the 1960s, a white southern senator was caught with a black prostitute. Said a civil rights leader, “Oh he’s just one of those sunup to sundown segregationists.” Washington is full of sunup to sundown moralists.

There is this quality to the tale of a gay plant at Bush news conferences. One wonders, for example, if in the wake the Gannon matter George Bush will now come out in favor a Sanctity in News Conferences amendment to the Constitution.

Further, the military subtext of Gannon’s site suggests similar ruminations. One might even speculate on the homoerotic themes of military service and behavior or even on war as the ultimate closeted gay sado-masochistic affair. If so, what a price the world has paid for its homophobia.

The ability to cover up scandal or crime is also much greater in Washington. This may be accomplished by relying on the social club rules of the federal city, through the aid of acquiescent journalists, by official spin or censorship, or by resort to the capital’s various law enforcement agencies, each one beholden for budget and top appointments to some federal department.

For example, both the Attorney General and the U.S. Attorney (who handles all DC crimes) are appointed by the president. The FBI, DEA, National Park police and the Secret Service, not to mention the Aqueduct police, all work for the president. And the Metropolitan Police Department and the Capitol Police are under the thumb of Congress, which approves their budgets and exercises behind-the-scenes authority. There is not a single police agency within the boundaries of Washington that does not report to the politicians of Congress or the White House.

WAYNE MADSEN REPORT There was no mistake that when Deborah Jeane Palfrey’s phone records were made public by order of US Judge Gladys Kessler, shortly before she asked to be reassigned from the case, that Palfrey’s Pamela Martin & Associates escort agency had some very intriguing clientele. If one were to have mapped the phone numbers on Palfrey’s list, McLean, Virginia would have looked like the epicenter of an earthquake. McLean is the home to the CIA, Washington’s top politicians, and assorted foreign and domestic business movers and shakers who travel in and out of the CIA’s shadow. . .

As she left her Orlando condo for her mother’s home [shortly before her alleged suicide], Palfrey was noticed taking a few suitcases with a white paper file box. Palfrey told the [building] manager the box contained some important papers, possibly having to do with her escort business. . .

In fact, it is a certainty that one of the actual “corporate clients” of the PMA agency was the CIA itself. Palfrey’s escorts included college professors, a naval officer, a legal secretary for one of Washington’s top international law firms, essentially those who would be reliable to pick up needed intelligence from a designated target. PMA’s clients included as many foreign political and business leaders as American ones. It was the potential for blackmail and seeking favors that made PMA, in business for over 13 years, a favorite for the CIA. No other escort agency in the Washington area provided the top-level credentials possessed by PMA. For that reason, PMA was the agency of choice for the CIA. . .

THE PALFREY SUICIDE – Few deaths could cause as much relief in Washington as did the alleged suicide of DC Madam Deborah Jean Palfrey. One need only consider the rapid demise of Governor Eliot Spitzer after it was discovered he had used a similar escort service to realize that Palfrey was not welcomed by many of the capital’s powerful men as a living repository of their sexual habits.

We are not speaking of a small number. Palfrey estimated her business involved some 10,000 clients – most in and around the most powerful city in America.

This is not to say that Palfrey did not commit suicide, only that her name may be reasonably added to those whose cause of death can not be – and may never be – firmly determined.

She will not be the first such death in recent American politics. At least nine persons involved in some way with the Clintons also committed suicide under less than certain circumstances, most notably Vincent Foster.

  • 2006 – Rep. Mark Foley resigns over sexually explicit emails to male pages
  • STARBUCKS CASE – The handling of the 1997 Starbucks murder case continues to raise eyebrows. Why, of all the 301 slayings that took place in DC that same year, did only these three killings attract the attention not only of the FBI but of Attorney General Reno herself? Reno has overruled her own US Attorney and called for the death penalty in the case. There are two reasonable explanations for the federal intrusion in the case. One is that the murders took place in Georgetown, home of some of the city’s most powerful residents. The second is that one of the victims was formerly a White House intern, Mary Caitrin Mahoney, allegedly familiar with some of the licentious activities occurring

MICHAEL POWELL, SARI HORWITZ, TONI LOCY, WASHINGTON POST: November 30, 1997; A type of extortion scheme known crudely as “fairy shaking” led to the arrest of a D.C. police lieutenant and toppled the police chief of the nation’s capital. It’s quite simple as extortion goes: Trail a married man out of a gay sex club. Take his license plate number. And later threaten to expose him unless he pays hush money. The term “fairy shaking” needs no definition within certain circles of the D.C. police department: A few rogue cops have been doing it for years and getting away with it, several law enforcement sources said. And it stands at the center of the case against Lt. Jeffery S. Stowe, until recently the roommate of D.C. Police Chief Larry D. Soulsby . . . It’s common knowledge that men go to the clubs that line a secluded block in Southeast Washington — clubs such as the Follies Theater and La Cage — to relax, listen to music and have sex . . . In September, someone was watching for the most vulnerable among them. The observer noted which parked cars had baby seats and bore other evidence of the straight, married life. And he wrote down the license plate numbers. In the days that followed, three men who were married with children received anonymous letters saying they had been photographed at the gay sex clubs. The letters demanded $10,000 cash from each in exchange for keeping their secrets. This wasn’t your typical, everyday extortionist, authorities say. He knew the extortion game better than almost anyone in town. He was, according to an arrest affidavit, Lt. Jeffery S. Stowe, commander of a D.C. police unit that investigates extortion and other crimes. Within two hours of Stowe’s arrest last Tuesday, his best friend on the force resigned: Chief Soulsby.

  • 1996: Dick Morris, the chief political strategist for President Clinton, resigns when the Star publishes details of his relationship with Sherry Rowlands, a $200-an-hour prostitute – including his foot fetish.
  • 1992 – Senator Bob Packwood is accused of harassing a large number of women
  • 1990: the House reprimands Massachusetts congressman Barney Frank, for – among other things – using his political influence to fix parking tickets for an intimate friend who was also a male prostitute and ran a homosexual whorehouse out of the Frank residence. Other members who got into trouble included Gary Studds of Massachusetts who seduced a young male House page and was censured by the House. Dan Crane of Illinois had sex with a female page, cried and begged forgiveness on the floor of the House and lost his next election.
  • 1987: Three weeks into his presidential campaign, a news team stakes out Gary Hart’s Washington house. The team will report that Hart has had a rendezvous with a young woman while his wife is away. A photo of the woman, Donna Rice, sitting on his lap near a yacht named “Monkey Business,” also surfaced and Hart’s campaign was sunk.
  • 1983 -GOP Illinois congressman Dan Crane is censured for having sex with a female page; Democratic Rep. Gary Studds is censured for having sex with a male one.
  • 1980 – Rep. Dan Quayle goes on a Florida golfing vacation with seven other men and Paula Parkinson — an insurance lobbyist who later posed nude for Playboy. Parkinson describes Quayle as a husband on the make, but says she turned him down because she was already having an affair with another congressman. Marilyn Quayle says, “anybody who knows Dan Quayle knows he would rather play golf than have sex.”
  • 1976: Elizabeth Ray says she has been paid $14,000 a year in public funds by Ohio Rep. Wayne Hays, chairman of the House Administration Committee. “I can’t type, I can’t file, I can’t even answer the phone,” Ray tells the Washington Post. “Supposedly, I’m on the oversight committee,” she said. “But I call it the Out-of-Sight Committee.” Hays is 64; Ray is 27.
  • 1974: Rep. Wilbur Mills is stopped by Washington police at 2 am for erratic drIving. He is intoxicated and his face is scratched. A burlesque dancer known as “Fanne Fox, the Argentine Firecracker,” leaps out of the car and dives into the Tidal Basin. Her rescue is filmed by television reporter Larry Krebs. Mills is reelected but loses his chairmanship.

“The Capital Underworld,” 1932: “Washington’s underworld has two or three distinctions of which in a modest sort of way it can really boast. One of these is the ease of securing immunity. The capital may witness few crimes, but in few cases is the culprit ever brought to justice. Another distinction is the complete and unrestrained freedom of the neighboring counties of Maryland, where an amazing White Slave traffic, operating through a chain of tea houses, furnishes recreation to capital residents. . . . . Police occasionally interrupt these too-obvious law-breakers, but the great rank and file of bootleggers and petty criminals who ply their trade in the nation’s capital enjoy an immunity almost unsurpassed even in New York and Chicago. This is due to three factors. The first is the influence of Henry Mencken’s Free State of Maryland, which surrounds the District of Columbia on three sides. The second is the natural laziness of the capital police. The third is the prestige and pull exercised by so large a number of those enjoying official status, a factor which makes convictions difficult and disrupts police morale.”

19TH Century – In 1863 General Meade replaced General Hooker three days before the Battle of Gettysburg. Meade will only have a fort named after him, while Hooker lends his name to a whole synonym. The following is from a report by the Smithsonian Institution on archeological work done near the site of the National Museum of the American Indian:

“With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, the sleepy town of Washington was dramatically transformed as its population swelled with newcomers. The new arrivals included many men who had signed up to fight for the Union. Throughout the war, thousands of soldiers were encamped throughout the city, either awaiting orders to fight, manning forts to protect the Union capital from Rebel attack, or languishing from disease or wounds in hospitals throughout the city. Along with the soldiers came government bureaucrats, freed and escaped slaves, businessmen, salesmen, and con men, as well as the camp followers and prostitutes who sought to profit from the increased demand for their services. The Army’s provost marshal, who kept a list of the city’s bawdy houses during the war ostensibly to keep them under surveillance, concluded that there were 450 registered houses in Washington in 1862. While some prostitutes worked in brothels, the majority probably plied their trade as streetwalkers. By 1863, the Evening Star newspaper estimated that Washington had about 5,000 prostitutes . . . When the war came to a close, Washington remained overcrowded, and its roads, parks, and the canal were in shambles as a result of four years of overuse and neglect. The area between Pennsylvania Avenue and the Mall, which is presently occupied by the Federal Triangle complex, had become an infamous crime-ridden neighborhood rife with the stench of the nearby canal, which had become little more than an open sewer. Known for its rampant prostitution, the area was widely referred to as Hooker’s Division, a wry double entendre. Indeed many of its occupants were “hookers,” a term for prostitutes used since the early nineteenth century. Furthermore, the region was reported to have been visited frequently by the troops in Union General Joseph Hooker’s division, which was encamped nearby.” MORE

  • .In the Capitol Rotunda is a fresco called “The Apotheosis of Washington,” painted by Constantine Brumidi. It features 13 angels welcoming George Washington into heaven. The angels were alleged modeled on 13 local prostitutes. 
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