The Case of the Kissing Senator

Documents Related to the Investigation of Senator Robert Packwood Senate Select Committee on Ethics

US Senate 104th Congress, first session
US Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1995, Volumes 1–10

The Packwood Report

by the Senate Ethics Counsel on Senator Robert Packwood, Introduction by Helen Dewar
Times Books, 325 pp., $10.00 (paper)

Strom Thurmond, who will turn one hundred in the Senate if he wins his eighth term next year and lives through it, gives a speech designed, Ronald Reagan—style, to poke fun at fears about his age and mental faculties. “If I’m ever struck insane,” he says, “I hope it will be in Washington because the people there won’t know the difference.” Having completed the ten-volume, ten-thousand-plus-page Documents Related to the Investigation of Senator Robert Packwood, I have to say that the distinguished senator from South Carolina has a point.

The “Investigation,” of course, refers to the thirty-three-month inquiry conducted by the Senate’s Select Committee on Ethics which began as a look into allegations by “a number of women that Senator Packwood had engaged in sexual misconduct.” It branched out into a look at whether or not he tried to intimidate or discredit those women, got waylaid during a protracted battle over whether or not the senator was required to turn over his personal diaries, resumed and expanded into an examination of “possible alteration of the diaries,” and ultimately included an investigation into whether or not he had approached lobbyists about creating jobs for his wife, whom he was divorcing, in order to minimize future alimony payments.

The investigation began on December 1, 1992, eight days after The Washington Post published a piece in which seven women accused the senator of making unwanted sexual advances, and one day after Los Angeles lawyer Gloria Allred sent a letter to the committee on behalf of the Women’s Equal Rights Legal Defense and Education Fund filing a formal complaint against the senator and requesting the investigation. Allred, who once represented the boy whom Michael Jackson was accused of fondling, did not actually represent any of the women, and none of them had contacted her, but she was “concerned that maybe they didn’t know how to file a complaint, concerned that the senator might be let off the hook.”

On September 6, 1995, twelve days after Packwood reversed a previous position and requested public hearings on “all pending Ethics Committee matters” concerning himself, the committee effectively denied that request by finding him guilty of “engaging in a pattern of sexual misconduct in at least 18 instances between 1969 and 1990,” “intentionally altering diary materials he knew the committee had sought,” and “inappropriately linking personal financial gain to his official position.”

The “Documents” consists of every piece of paper related to the committee’s investigation, which was conducted by five lawyers, an “investigator,” and an expanded committee staff of six. They include, for example, hundreds of pages of mind-numbing legal correspondence, but also the many festive notes exchanged by the senator and some of the complainants. “Happy Birthday,” the senator writes to former campaign volunteer Gena Hutton in what are obviously less stressful times. “Life just gets better and more exciting.” The complainant referred to only as C-1 (except when the committee staff forgets to black out her name) muses …

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Letters

Over the Edge April 18, 1996