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Sunday, October 08, 2006

Studdly Crane 

Tangential followup.

I haven't posted anything about the current page scandal because it frankly bores me. But a comment made in Jennifer's blog caught my eye:

I am in favor of whatever it takes to upset the GOP applecart and all of their gold plated apples. A prominent Pedophile? If he is the catalyst then so be it!

Assume for the moment that I am a Democrat. (I'm not.) If I were a Democrat, I would think it unwise to upset the other major party via a sex scandal. Unfortunately, sex scandals have a way of happening in both parties. It's guaranteed that some time within the next few years, a major sex scandal will adversely affect a Democratic U.S. Representative or Senator. And not because they're the party of Jefferson - it's because they're a party populated by human beings.

So I began thinking about the last Congressional page sex scandal, and the wonderful artful symmetry that occurred in that case. Two Congressmen - one Republican, one Democratic - ended up getting the brunt of the criticism on that one. The good thing about this is that neither party could claim moral superiority over the other (and no, I don't believe that the Republicans could claim superiority because Daniel Crane "only" had a heterosexual relationship).

But let's turn back to those thrilling days of yesteryear.

On July 14, 1983 the House Ethics Committee concluded that Rep. Dan Crane (R-Ill.) and Rep. Gerry Studds (D-Mass.) had engaged in sexual relationships with minors, specifically 17-year-old congressional pages. In Crane's case, it was a 1980 relationship with a female page and in Studds's case, it was a 1973 relationship with a male page. Both representatives immediately pleaded guilty to the charges and the committee recommended reprimand for the two.

But Crane and Studds aren't the only two who were implicated in sex scandals. In 2004, the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct prepared a timeline. Excerpts from the sex parts:

Majority Chief Page James C. Howarth (1983)

Sexual relationship with a 17-year old female House page who was under his direct supervision [R. 43(1)], used cocaine, and preferential treatment of employee (allowed page to miss work)
Rep. Jim Bates (CA) (1989)

Sexual harassment and improper campaign activity in congressional office
Rep. Gus Savage IL) (1990)

Improper sexual advances toward a female Peace Corps volunteer (March 1989)
Rep. Barney Frank (MA) (1990)

1) Use of personal residence for prostitution by third parties, 2) improper contacts with probation office on behalf of personal assistant, 3) improper dismissal of assistant’s parking tickets, and 4) sexual activity in the House gymnasium
Rep. Donald E. “Buz” Lukens (OH)(1990)

Convicted of misdemeanor offense of contributing to the unruliness of a female minor (sex with an underage woman) (May 26, 1989); made improper sexual advances to Capitol elevator operator (Oct. 17, 1990)
Rep. Mel Reynolds (IL)(1995)

Misuse of congressional staff for personal purposes, misuse of official resources, failure to repay personal debts and obstruction of justice; convicted in state court of criminal sexual assault, aggravated sexual abuse, solicitation of child pornography and obstruction of justice (Aug. 22, 1995)

The listings are much more voluminous in the post-Watergate era, not because people got worse, but because people are probably more inclined to report such things.

And the things that they did report were much different in the old days. Let me cite just one example: in 1832, Representative William Stanberry was accused of insulting the Speaker during a floor debate, and was censured by a vote of 92 to 44 on July 11, 1832. Representative John Quincy Adams refused to vote on the resolution to censure Representative Stanberry - and some people tried to censure Adams for refusing to vote.

Back to pages. MTV provides a history of the page program:

Pages, who have to be at least 16 and at the junior level in high school, have been sprinting behind the scenes of Congress since 1829, when Senator Daniel Webster appointed the first Senate page. The first House page was appointed in 1842, and female pages have been on the scene since 1971. According to rules posted by the Congressional Research Service, academic standing is one of the most important criteria in selecting pages, with thousands of applicants each year. The program's history includes pages-turned-congressmen such as Dan Boren and Christopher Dodd, civil-war hero William Cushing and Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

Instantly identifiable for their harried looks, navy blazers, pressed white shirts, pants or skirts — dark gray for Republican pages, blue for Democratic ones — and black shoes, the pages have been the subject of scandal before. In 1983, the program was almost discontinued after Republican Representative Daniel Crane and Democratic Representative Gerry Studds were censured for having sex with, respectively, a 17-year-old female and 17-year-old male page.

In the aftermath of that scandal, the minimum age for pages was raised from 14 to 16. Stricter supervision was ordered for the pages as well, including housing them in a dorm a few blocks from the Capitol where boys and girls live on separate floors....

Jennifer Crider, press secretary for Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, said that while hectic, the page program is strictly monitored and overseen by the House clerk, as well as Democratic and Republican page supervisors and dorm monitors. "There is a lot of adult supervision," said Crider, adding that most pages spend their first time living away from home in Washington, D.C. For that reason, their schedules are tightly controlled, they are assigned adult chaperones and their computers are also monitored.

"Some members are friendlier than others and they'll chit-chat with pages on the floor, but the notion that there's a deep, long-lasting relationship is not usually the case."

There are currently 72 House pages, 48 of whom were selected by Republicans and 24 by Democrats, and 30 Senate pages, 18 of whom were selected by the Republicans and 12 by the Democrats....

[M]ost pages interviewed since the Foley scandal broke have said they had a cordial, business-like relationship with their sponsors....

Postscript: according to Wikipedia, Daniel Crane resumed his dentistry practice after losing his re-election bid in 1984 (after the scandal broke). Gerry Studds was re-elected several times, and after retiring from Congress in 1997, became a lobbyist for the fishing industry.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

16- and 17-year-olds are, for all intents and purposes, adults. They are old enough to say "no", old enough to report it, and old enough to kick a senator's ass for trying to grab his own. Scandal schmandel.
Oh... thanks for the history lesson. I'm much too young to remember those goings-on. :)
"16- and 17-year-olds are, for all intents and purposes, adults."

Ah, but will you agree with this a few years from now?

The idea that someone suddenly gets very mature on their 18th birthday may be a legal fiction, but I see no reason to change the law on this score.

Of course, in this case the point appears to be moot (unless there's something that I haven't heard), since the Congressman didn't actually have sex (or even "sexual relations") with any minors.
I'm not saying a fully adult man should be allowed to prey on minors. But I believe there's a difference between 17-yr-old boys and 12-yr-old girls, wouldn't you agree? It's sick, no matter how you look at it.
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