None Dare Call It “Bullying”

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on May 13, 2012

I think that this is far more relevant to the 2012 presidential election than what Mitt Romney may have done nearly 50 years ago in a brief fit of immaturity and meanness. But then, I guess I am weird like that:

Here’s what happens when the president of the United States publicly targets a private citizen for the crime of supporting his opponent.

Frank VanderSloot is the CEO of Melaleuca Inc. The 63-year-old has run that wellness-products company for 26 years out of tiny Idaho Falls, Idaho. Last August, Mr. VanderSloot gave $1 million to Restore Our Future, the Super PAC that supports Mitt Romney.

Three weeks ago, an Obama campaign website, “Keeping GOP Honest,” took the extraordinary step of publicly naming and assailing eight private citizens backing Mr. Romney. Titled “Behind the curtain: a brief history of Romney’s donors,” the post accused the eight of being “wealthy individuals with less-than-reputable records.” Mr. VanderSloot was one of the eight, smeared particularly as being “litigious, combative and a bitter foe of the gay rights movement.”

About a week after that post, a man named Michael Wolf contacted the Bonneville County Courthouse in Idaho Falls in search of court records regarding Mr. VanderSloot. Specifically, Mr. Wolf wanted all the documents dealing with Mr. VanderSloot’s divorces, as well as a case involving a dispute with a former Melaleuca employee.

Mr. Wolf sent a fax to the clerk’s office—which I have obtained—listing four cases he was after. He would later send a second fax, asking for three further court cases dealing with either Melaleuca or Mr. VanderSloot. Mr. Wolf listed only his name and a private cellphone number.

Some digging revealed that Mr. Wolf was, until a few months ago, a law clerk on the Democratic side of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. He’s found new work. The ID written out at the top of his faxes identified them as coming from “Glenn Simpson.” That’s the name of a former Wall Street Journal reporter who in 2009 founded a D.C. company that performs private investigative work.

The website for that company, Fusion GPS, describes itself as providing “strategic intelligence,” with expertise in areas like “politics.” That’s a polite way of saying “opposition research.”

[. . .]

Liberal bloggers and media have since dug into [VanderSloot's] past, dredging up long-ago Idaho controversies that touched on gay issues. His detractors have spiraled these into accusations that Mr. VanderSloot is a “gay bashing thug.” He’s become a national political focus of attention, aided by the likes of partisan Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald and MSNBC host Rachel Maddow. Bloggers have harassed his children, visiting their social media accounts and asking for interviews and information.

Mr. VanderSloot has said his attackers have misconstrued facts and made false allegations. In February he wrote a long reply, publicly stating that he has “many gay friends whom I love and respect” who should “have the same freedoms and rights as any other individual.” The Obama campaign’s response, in April, was to single out Mr. VanderSloot and repeat the slurs.

Bullying? Most certainly. Recent? Very. Actually providing an insight into the character of a particular presidential candidate? You bet your bottom dollar that it does.

But don’t expect the Obamaphile hacks who worked themselves into a lather over what Mitt Romney may have done half a century ago, or the Washington Post, who kicked off the entire silly debate over what Romney did as an 18 year old, to do any digging into this particular story.

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