- The Washington Times - Monday, July 16, 2001

With the admission that he had a sexual relationship with missing former intern Chandra Levy, Rep. Gary A. Condit of California joins a long list of philanders from both sides of the political aisle.
The list includes several U.S. presidents whose affairs, while known by many, were long sheltered from the public by a respectful press.
In the post-Clinton era, it is unlikely that many of Congress' future playboys will escape the media's reaches. With the tawdry details of the now-infamous blue dress, President Clinton's affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky set a new standard for political escapades and their coverage by the media.
Mr. Condit, as a result of his actions or extreme bad luck, may succeed yet in one-upping the former president: Not only did the Democratic congressman from Modesto finally admit to having an affair with a young former U.S. Bureau of Prisons intern, but she has vanished without a trace, leaving him to account for her disappearance.
In Washington, not unlike other power centers around the world, decadence has been a mainstay in politics, says historian Wilfred McClay. The city, he observes, operates under its own unspoken rules where favors are routinely exchanged for influence, power is a turn-on and distance from home removes a good man or woman from the moral boundaries under which they were raised.
"Something happens to these politicians when they get elected and go to Washington and get surrounded by a lot of people at their beck and call, " Mr. McClay said. "They get to feeling very important, and there's a degree of anonymity, an everybody-does-it mentality.
"The people from back home are not watching, so there are things they can do, and very few people can resist the temptation," said Mr. McClay, a professor of history at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, who grew up near Washington.
He describes a "doubleness" to D.C. living, where lawmakers often conduct themselves "like traveling salesmen on an extended business trip."
"I'm sure the opportunities come fast and furious, and at the same time, your wife is 3,000 miles away and so is everyone who really knows you. As long as [members of Congress] continue to fill the potholes and take care of their constituents in the district, they can get themselves re-elected."
Different fates have befallen those politicians who have been caught in affairs or sexual scandals, but the circumstances surrounding them and the politicians' subsequent conduct have determined whether they have exited politics or stuck around.
In 1987, a liaison aboard a Florida yacht with Donna Rice dashed all hopes of a presidential bid for Colorado Democratic Sen. Gary Hart. Reporting on that meeting and the couple's overnight rendezvous in Washington earned a Pulitzer Prize for a team of reporters at the Miami Herald who took Mr. Hart up on his public call to prove he was a cheater. Despite that, Mr. Hart remained married but never recouped his political clout.
In 1989, Rep. Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, who is openly homosexual, ran into intense scrutiny for hiring a male prostitute as his aide and paying him for sex. Despite revelations that the man was running a prostitution ring out of the congressman's apartment, Mr. Frank remained in office, where he is now serving his 11th term.
In 1974, Rep. Wilbur Mills, Arkansas Democrat, was stopped by Washington police for driving erratically. Fearing the authorities, his companion, stripper Fanne Foxe, exited the vehicle and plunged into the Tidal Basin, her subsequent rescue filmed by television news crews.
Mr. Mills blamed alcoholism for the incident, and just a month later was re-elected. He served out his term, but declined to run again.
In 1976, Rep. Wayne Hays, Ohio Democrat, joined the annals of scandal when a woman who worked on his House Administration Committee told reporters she was his mistress, paid for with taxpayer money.
"Supposedly I'm on the oversight committee, but I call it the out-of-sight committee," said Mr. Hays' reputed paramour, Elizabeth Ray. A married man, Mr. Hays denied the infidelity but was ultimately ruined politically.
More recently, Rep. Bob Livingston, Louisiana Republican and one-time House speaker-designate, tanked a promising career in politics with admissions that he, too, had "on occasion, strayed from my marriage."
Timing proved everything for Mr. Livingston, who in 1998 was in the middle of debate on Mr. Clinton's impeachment when news of his own affairs surfaced. He soon resigned from Congress.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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