The Female Political Sex Scandal No One’s Talking About

Slade Sohmer can’t believe the American media is passing on a female political sex scandal. Shouldn’t we be all over this?

Like the American political system itself, the political sex scandal is a male-dominated field.

Eliot Spitzer and his black socks. Mark Sanford’s Appalachian Trail hiking. Larry Craig’s bathroom foot-tappin’. Arnold Schwarnegger’s maid service. Anthony Weiner‘s love of Twitpics. Chris Lee‘s amateur Craigslist skills. David Vitter’s personal House of the Rising Sun. We remember these scandals because the national media ate them whole and fed us the chewed-up pieces like a proud mother bird.

There have been sexual transgressions committed by females in elected office, but these women are not household names. Can you remember the late Helen Chenoweth-Hage, Idaho’s first Republican congresswoman, a holier-than-thou Clinton critic who admitted to a six-year affair with a married rancher when she worked for his consulting firm? Have you even heard of Katherine Bryson, a Utah state representative, who in 2004 was caught canoodling on a webcam her husband had set up to catch a thief? These names and situations are simply not stored in the Sexual Rolodex of America.

Maybe we’re just not interested in women who play around because the details aren’t juicy enough. Maybe the women haven’t been high-profile enough. Maybe the women are just better at not getting caught with incontrovertible evidence (see: Haley, Nikki). But what if there was a tailor-made sex scandal involving the first female Majority Leader in Minnesota Senate history? And what if she led the charge against marriage equality and co-authored the legislation that would amend the state constitution to define marriage as only between one man and one woman? Would the media care?

Apparently not. Stunning family values hypocrisy and a first-of-her-kind powerful woman engaging in extracurricular activities with a subordinate isn’t enough to warrant Amy Koch national attention.

For the uninitiated, here’s what happened: Last Wednesday, according to Star Tribune, Deputy Senate Majority Leader Geoff Michel whisked Koch into a meeting room where he and three Republican colleagues confronted the Majority Leader about an alleged affair with a key Senate staffer who reported directly to her. They said they had credible information from multiple sources.

After a meeting that lasted for hours that night and resumed on Thursday morning, the Republican from Buffalo resigned her leadership post and announced she would not seek re-election.The next afternoon, Michael Brodkorb, the Senate’s powerful communications chief, was asked by an old junior high school friend who also worked in the Senate to meet at the Moose Country restaurant in Mendota Heights. Once there, Brodkorb was shocked to see Secretary of the Senate Cal Ludeman walk in and tell him he was out of a job and barred from Senate offices.

The fresh account provides new details on what could be the most tumultuous 72 hours in state Senate history. The events snuffed out Koch’s fast legislative rise and leveled a chief aide who had helped lead the Senate’s Republican caucus and served as deputy chair of the state party.

Party leaders have steadfastly refused to discuss whether the departures are related, as have Koch and Brodkorb.

As Koch tries to hang on to her last year in elective office, rumblings of an ethics investigation have begun, with a member of that committee saying that she may need to leave the Senate if the allegations prove true.

Nearly a full week later, the details that Americans traditionally lust after are shockingly scarce. But what’s more noteworthy is that news reports outside of Minnesota are even more scarce. A woman of power rolling in the deep with a staffer? A woman who ran on a platform of family values and felt so strongly about the sanctity of marriage she tried her best to ban same-sex marriages in her state getting caught philandering outside the bonds of matrimony? C’mon, we love this stuff. Where’s the attention?

Consenting adults should be allowed to do whatever they want as long as its legal. But when an elected official introduces S.F. No. 1975 to amend the Minnesota Constitution to read, “A marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in Minnesota,” does that legislator not forfeit the right to privacy? Does she not deserve some semblance of public scorn?

Maybe this is a local Minnesota story. But there’s no such thing as a local story any more. In this 24-hour, attention-deficit, fill-thine-airwaves-with-linkbait news cycle, how has Koch escaped the purview of we American perverts who routinely get off on the tawdry tales of others?

Female political sex scandals are exceedingly rare. Perhaps it’s because, anecdotally, women run for office to do something and men run for office to be somebody (then, do someone). Perhaps it’s because, statistically, women traditionally engage in extramarital affairs for more emotional reasons than men, and as such they don’t put themselves in a position to be caught as easily. Perhaps it’s just a numbers game—since there are far more men in American politics, greater numbers of men will cheat on their wives, and therefore be exposed more often. Simple math, really.

But it’s odd, given the infrequency of these scandals and our maddening love for the particulars, that no national media outlet has taken the ball and run with it. Don’t you think?

Originally appeared at HyperVocal.

Slade Sohmer is co-founder and editor-in-chief of HyperVocal. Tweet him @hypervocal.

—Header photo AP/kare11.com

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Comments

  1. Another politician with a “wide stance” bites the dust.

  2. Based on what some folks say media was be all over this because supposedly men get a free pass on stuff that women simply don’t. No I’m not saying that this one instance proves them wrong altogether but I do find it interesting that unlike Spitzer, Schwarnegger, and Tiger Woods (not a politician but very famous still) people haven’t exactly been all over this woman like white on rice. (In fact I didn’t even know about this until I saw here just now.)

  3. Is any else disappointed with this reporting? I (sort-of) understand the point the author is trying to make (though I sense a strong undercurrent personal hatred), but this is the wrong way to do it.

    We need to be asking why we care about sex scandals *regardless of gender*. We need politicians who are good at representing their constituents’ best interests, and good at providing productive, efficient, governance.

    If the best person for the job also sleeps around on their spouse, that should not matter to us as the electorate: it is not what impacts us.

    So while the author does make a sort-of point about gender portrayal in the media, doing it by shining a spotlight on yet another “sex scandal” is the wrong way to do it, as it only encourages the exact sort of behavior we should all be trying to avoid.

    • Character matters – if the electorate elects an open polyamorist then we would be shocked if there wasn’t some extra stuff going on. However, if a person knowingly violates the trust of their spouse then that indicates a frailty, a lack of conviction, and in Slade Sohmer’s case a total hypocrisy. American politics is not a game of direct democracy, it is a game of republicanism and as new choices and maneuvers occur all the people have to go on is their invested power in one person. If that person lacks moral decency, honor, and truth then that person will necessarily make for a poor official.

      The problem with defending slut-behavior like Sohmer and Bill Clinton is not that they sleep around, it’s that they violate trust and therefore have low character as republican leaders. Cheating and sleeping around are called such because there is an expectation of exclusivity and family that goes with most relationships, and those unable to tend to that standard should have the moral courage to admit to themselves and others that they are who they are. The truth is that, especially in Sohmer’s case, many politicians use that republican endowment for perks that they wouldn’t otherwise be entitled too. It’s an abuse of democracy and the public trust.

      • I’m an idiot, not Slade Sohmer but Amy Kock.

      • I strongly suspect that you are trying to convince yourself that “character” truly matters in order to force personal views upon others.

        It should not matter if they broke a vow to their spouse, that is truly within the family. If sexual relations were such an extreme reflection on governance, then we wouldn’t need to be focusing on the relations, there would be ample evidence that the person was bad at governance.

        Instead, people resort to complaining about sexual relations precisely because there is no sufficient evidence of ineffective governance.

        So go ahead and force your morality on others, but please be more honest about what you are doing.

        • I’m a moral relativist – I do not believe in right or wrong, which also means that anybody can believe and judge whomever and whoever they want. I judge, you judge, we all judge. Things like familial obligations, fidelity, privacy, and “good governance” are all judgements and they’re all fine and not fine with me at the same time.

          I am not “forcing” my morality on anybody. I’m stating a fact. Our politicians are not meant to push buttons that the electorate chooses, they are semi-autonomous republican (non hereditary) leaders who are democratically elected and held accountable to the constitution, general will, and arguably other universal principles.

          When a woman cheats on her husband while telling her electorate biblical trappings to the contrary she is clearly replacing her values with foreign ones that indicate a lack of consistency. She is dishonest. A liar. And she is most likely hurting people. Character fucking matters, buddy.

        • bobdole says “So go ahead and force your morality on others, but please be more honest about what you are doing.”

          The author is not forcing morality on anyone. It is right that our public leaders be held to their own standards. In this case we have a person who wanted to force a form of morality on her constituents, but didn’t live up to that same morality. Hypocrisy should always be called out.

  4. Richard Aubrey says:

    If there is no evidence about Nikki Haley’s transgressions, then there is no evidence. So why mention it? Except that she’s a republican.
    You’ll note the republicans deep-six their guys and the dems try to make them president or vice president.
    You’ll recall how many media were all over John Edwards. Yet the NYT had the resources to fake up a completely bogus story about John McCain and a lobbyist.

  5. Hmmm. Not sure how this story fits in with the mission of The Good Men Project. Unless the point of the GMP is to say “See? Women do bad things too!”

    • I am hardly a feminist enthusiast, but I have to agree with you. Frankly, there is no big conspiracy of silence on this story because it really isn’t much of a story, except for the gay media because she co-authored a ban on gay marriage in her state. But this is hardly as juicy as texting pictures of one’s genitalia or hiring a same-gender prostitute, and furthermore, she is a pretty low-level, minor politician. And regardless of what the author claims, male politicians and religious leaders of all ideological persuasions will continue to provide the great number and most entertaining sex scandals — I mean, there wasn’t even a slippery cigar in this one.

  6. Yes. I find this odd.

    Yes marital fidelity DOES refect upon a person’s character, respect for self and others, and integrity in keeping a vow – ALL relevant to holding public office. Regardless of political party and/or gender.

  7. Perhaps it’s not covered because it doesn’t fit the narrative. After all, coverage of this story would require acknowledging that

    1. A woman has a position of authority and influence, and
    2. That a woman committed a wrongful act.

    Radical-feminist dogma cannot accept either possibility, so it cannot be true. There MUST be a man to blame somewhere in this story, and there will be no coverage until he is found.

    In all seriousness, sexual peccadillos are not especially important or interesting… but they ARE titillating, and that’s what translates into dollars. So the lack of coverage on this issue really is puzzling. Maybe too many media decision-makers are terrified of being called “anti-woman,” the same way they give airtime to reactionary lunatics to avoid the charge of “liberal bias.”

  8. We could do what the Republicans do and blame the “liberal media” :-)

    Not really a serious comment.

  9. I truly beleive women get away “soctt free” on this issue. And take the issue of teachers bedding their young students down. Have you heard of any of these teachers going to jail. The only one that I remember is the Mary Jo Laterno or whatever her name was. Seems to be another double standard on this one.

    • Agreed Sherri. The double standard seems to have been in effect as long as I can remember(and I’m 57 ). If you really want to see how bad it is, there’s a site called Register Her or something like that. Check it out. F.Y.I.’ Mary Kay Latourino didn’t go to jail for having sex with that 12 year old boy. She was origionally given Probation and ordered to stay away from him. When she didn’t, she went to jail for violating her probation.

    • For the most part you are right. While they don’t get away with no jail time all the time they do often get much more lenient punishments for crimes that would have people calling for blood when the genders are reversed. One other thing I notice in these teacher/student rape cases is that when its male teacher/female student and the female student in question may still have feelings about the male teacher even after the case breaks people go right to presuming that he’s brainwashed her, got her in his web, aka he manipulated her. Those same people tend to be quiet when its female teach male student, well assuming they don’t then say the male student brainwashed her, got her in his web, aka manipulated her.

      Its sad but in this world when people here about these cases a lot of them are still running a gender check on the people involved and THEN choosing a response.

  10. Peter Houlihan says:

    “does that legislator not forfeit the right to privacy? Does she not deserve some semblance of public scorn?”

    Nope. I don’t think the private lives of politicians should be fair game, or even considered relevant. But if we’re going to hound men about it we should hound women too. I do think that if a politician bases their entire campaign around their family life, like Sarah “Momma Grizzley” Palin, then theres a fair argument to make that the truth of the image their campaign is based on should be examined, but its a two way game: Do politicians focus on their family image because the media does, or do the media focus on politician’s marriages because they’re brought to the fore.

  11. Richard Aubrey says:

    RLH. I suppose you have some other reason for the Edwards/McCain difference?

  12. Oh, and she’s opposed to gay marriage, and has voted to ban it in her state.

    I wish I could mail her a scarlet letter.

  13. So, the fact that I read about this in other media pretty much demolishes Slade’s thesis, right? Also, generally, IOKIYAR. Cf. “Diaper Dave” vs. Wienergate.

Trackbacks

  1. […] the affair wasn’t her fault: Two years ago, Koch co-authored a Defense of Marriage bill declaring, “A marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid […]

  2. […] the affair wasn’t her fault: Two years ago, Koch co-authored a Defense of Marriage bill declaring, “A marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid […]

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