Anatomy of a Smear: The Democratic Party’s Politics Of Personal Destruction

Looking back on Alan Grayson’s last U.S. Senate race, it’s time for a new phrase to enter the political lexicon: "The Chuck Schumer Special." That’s when Schumer employs the party machinery to try to destroy a decent Democratic candidate who won’t kowtow to him.

It happened in Pennsylvania to Rep. Joe Sestak, and it’s happening there now to Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman. It happened to a Democratic Governor in New England who wanted to run for the Senate: Schumer told him that he would cut off his head, and then sh*t on his shoulders. And it happened in 2016, when Alan Grayson ran against Schumer’s boy-toy, Rep. Patrick Murphy.

Talk about Grayson being in the wrong place at the wrong time, as far as Schumer was concerned. Murphy, just as adept as Schumer at selling off his vote, had raised more money from Wall Street than the Republican Chairman of the House Finance Committee. Not quite as much as Schumer’s $27M, but hey, you have to start somewhere... And, on top of that, Murphy’s father had promised $10M if Baby Patrick was handed the nomination. (Which actually morphed into only $500,000, in the event, but that’s another story.)

So what did Schumer do? He revved up the party’s smear machine against Grayson. It started with an "ethics complaint" filed by Patrick Murphy’s County Democratic Party Chair, to a group called the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE). That isn’t the House Ethics Committee, but it’s close enough to make it confusing. As it turned out, nothing in that complaint turned out to be true, but it generated some lovely headlines for Schumer-- "Grayson Under Investigation," etc., etc.

The OCE is, by law, required to proceed in secret, like a grand jury. In Grayson’s case, though, to heck with that. The OCE leaked out when it would interview Grayson, and reporters flocked to ask him about it that day. More anti-Grayson headlines. The OCE also leaked to Patrick Murphy’s campaign when Grayson’s own campaign staff would be interviewed. Murphy’s staff called a Grayson staffer during the lunch break, to taunt him.

The OCE’s 'junior G-man' effort generated a huge pile of nonsense. For instance, there is a law that says that a Congressman can’t be a government contractor. Grayson was a small shareholder, along with 10,000+ others, in a public company, traded on the New York Stock Exchange, that had leased space to a post office-- six years earlier, before Grayson was ever elected to Congress. The OCE "raised questions" about that.

That's how it went. Grayson paid one of his Congressional staffers one day a week to do bookkeeping for him-- unlike so many others in Congress, who send their staffers on personal errands, and bill it to the taxpayers. (One congressman used to have his staffers work on his farm, at taxpayer expense.) So Grayson did the right thing, but the OCE "raised questions" about that, too. More headlines.

The OCE also went around and around in circles about what it called Grayson’s "hedge fund," which turned out to be just a legal entity in which Grayson put his own money. Yes, admittedly, two percent of the money was invested by two Grayson friends, whom Grayson had known for a quarter of a century. Grayson disclosed every single investment that the entity made, in his personal financial disclosures. It wasn’t illegal, it wasn’t immoral, and it wasn’t unethical. Absolutely nothing wrong with this, but there was a lot more heavy-breathing headlines about Grayson’s "hedge fund."

After the OCE inflicted more than $500,000 in legal fees on Grayson, with Grayson having to respond to every legal theory that the OCE could dream up, the OCE ended with a report-- a report that did not find a single actual ethics violation. That didn’t matter to Senator Harry Reid (D-Senile), though, whose staff put out a statement in Reid’s name suggesting that Grayson lacked a "moral compass"-- the Harry Reid equivalent of "get off my lawn!!" This was shortly after Harry Reid somehow managed to break his face and his ribs at the same time, and go blind in one eye, supposedly in a "exercise bicycle accident." Reid clearly had already arrived at the "crazy old coot" stage of life, by that point, but it was just more negative publicity for the Grayson campaign.

I've read the OCE’s smear report on Grayson; it uses the term "if" 32 times, and "may have" 56 times, including 13 times on the first page alone. The House Ethics Committee found the OCE report so vacuous that it dismissed the OCE report, according to the Orlando Sentinel, without an investigation. This is an amazing result when you consider that if a leaf blows in through an open window, the House Ethics Committee will investigate it.

Not for the first time, and not for the last, Schumer and Reid deployed the rotten tools of what the Clintons called "the politics of personal destruction" to take Grayson down in the 2016 Senate primary. Just for good measure, they also ran a million dollars of ads for Murphy and against Grayson, wasting party money to defeat a progressive. It was only the second time that the DSCC had spent party money in a contested Senate primary, the first being Sestak’s Senate race in Pennsylvania.

What Schumer and the party nomenklatura demonstrated is that as lousy as they may be at defeating Republicans, they certainly know how to throttle and suffocate progressive Democrats. Murphy, a pathological liar (who lied about cleaning up the Gulf of Mexico after an oil spill, when his boat never left Connecticut) went down to a resounding defeat, running far behind Hillary Clinton in Florida. Now, as Grayson decides whether to launch another campaign against Little Marco Rubio, Grayson has to weigh this possibility: will they try to do it again? As for progressives, we have to ask ourselves, what can we do, what will we do, to end this garbage, and seize power back from a corrupt and broken system? I included a Grayson for Senate contribute page that you can reach by clicking on the thermometer just above.