Sometimes it's hard to believe how dirty things can get.

Today on his blog, Jon Ellis* hints at how nasty some South Dakota democratic political operatives have gotten in the past in campaigns, with an example provided from the Johnson/Pressler race way back in the 1990’s:

Cockburn famously came to South Dakota during the 1996 Senate race between Larry Pressler and Tim Johnson where he talked about his book, ?Washington Babylon.? Cockburn spoke in three cities less than two months before the election, and he came to Sioux Falls as the guest of former Sen. Jim Abourezk.

Cockburn had a small chapter in the book that dealt with Pressler. He accused Pressler of being bumbling and inept and of trying to solicit a bribe in the Abscam scandal (Pressler was one of the senators who did not accept a bribe in the FBI sting.)

But the worst accusation in the book said that Pressler had gotten married to quell rumors that he was gay.

Read that here.  I think the article does the incident a disservice, as it lightly skates over it. At the time, it was a horrendous smear against Pressler, which despite the Johnson campaign’s protestations, seemed at the time to be just a little too close to the Johnson campaign.

However, Pressler said KELO-TV reporter Vernon Brown had heard Jordan?s remarks, as did one of Pressler?s aides.  Pressler also cited a letter to him from a Rapid City woman, Jane Rogers, that said she was told months ago by a member of Johnson?s staff that ?some bad stuff was going to come out about you later in the campaign.?

The letter continued: ?Johnson?s staff member went on to say that a book had been written which accused you of being gay.?

Johnson on Friday denied his staff had put any information out relating to ?Washington Babylon,? the book by Alexander Cockburn that said Pressler married in 1981 ?amid speculation that he was gay.?

?Jim (Jordan) denies any such conversation ever took place and interestingly, Vernon Brown has not confirmed any such conversation took place, so what you have is a desperate political stunt on the part of Pressler?s staff, trying to fabricate conversations that never occurred.

?I think it?s sad and I think it?s pathetic,? Johnson said.

Earlier this week, Johnson said he didn?t believe the allegations about Pressler made by Cockburn.  And, he criticized former Sen. Jim Abourezk for promoting Cockburn and his book as doing a disservice to voters.  Johnson said he deplored and was ?genuinely saddened by Jim Abourezk?s personal attack upon Larry Pressler.?

But Pressler said Jordan?s comments and the letter from Rogers show Johnson knew of the gay issue in advance and its use against Pressler.

He said he was considering legal action against Johnson.

The question reporters should ask Johnson, Pressler said, was ?what did Johnson know and when did he know it??

Read that here.   Between this incident, and the one where Tim Johnson compared the Republican party to the Taliban, as Johnson approaches the twilight of his public service, you have to wonder what his legacy is going to be?  One of service, or one of no-holds-barred politics?

* (Yes, I mistakenly credited this to David Montgomery. Jon – sorry for denying you the props!)

9 Replies to “Sometimes it's hard to believe how dirty things can get.”

  1. anon

    I think that is Ellis’ blog political Poliblog.

    I was a Pressler supporter. He’s quite a unique individual.

  2. Katzy

    Back in the day before I really paid attention to politics and only read a headline here and there or heard a news blurb now and again, I remember that I believed the smear about Pressler. His wife was the object of attacks also and I believed them too at the time. I have since smartened up considerably, but this just goes to show how the majority of voters IMO operate who don’t really pay attention to the facts, they just blindly believe anything they hear on MSM.

  3. PP at the SDWC Post author

    My bad… I was a little bleary eyed between my insomnia, and a small child claiming they needed to throw up this am.

  4. Anonymous

    Reminds me of the election where McGovern beat Joe Bottom for the senate back in 1962. The DAY BEFORE the election, on the front page of the Argus Liar . . . eh, Argus Leader, was “Bottom had DUI” and went on to say that Joe Bottom had a drinking problem. The next day there was a retraction, but too late, and McGovern barely beat Bottom by a only a few hundred votes, 50.1% to 49.9%.

    Whether McGovern’s staff or his supporters planted the story, and of course the complicity of the Argus in printing it before checking the facts, this dirty ploy worked, the damage was done.

  5. Anooner

    Some operatives, plural? Glad to see you’re still willing to take some editorial liberties Pat. That link is about one person, and I think most would agree that political deviousness freely moves back and forth across party lines with great ease. So Larry denied being gay, what about walking into the closet?

  6. Elais

    Tim Johnson is absolutely correct in comparing the Republicans to the Taliban. The Taliban oppose abortion, homosexuality and insist that the law be based on their religious text. What party does that resemble most?

  7. mhs

    Wow, Anon 11:35, you are a student of history. My Dad was field director for Sen Case and worked Joe B.’s campaign. I’ve heard that story a few thousand times along with alleged massive stuffing of ballot boxes in Davison County. Thought I may be the only one of this generation that knew that campaign. Thanks for remembering.

  8. Transparency

    Politics get dirtier than not having any ethics review and being reviewed by your boss for ethics violations?

    Funny for the unofficial GOP site to be claiming this when we are ranked 2nd to last in the nation in governing principles designed to prevent fraud. By your design.