Politics are often a game of carefully crafted public persona. In the wake of a multitude of sexual predation scandals including accused pedophile Roy Moore, accused serial sexual harasser Donald Trump, and others, one would think that Republicans would be a bit more sensitive to the issue. Instead, they seem to be flaunting predators among their ranks.
On Friday, Adam Putnam, a Republican candidate for Florida governor, tweeted out photos from a Republican dinner at Mar–a–Lago. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the sold–out event was headlined by Sarah Palin. Yet, of all the opportunities for publicity at the dinner, Putnam decided to tweet photos of Donald Trump Jr. and disgraced former lawmaker Mark Foley.
In case you don’t remember who Foley is, the Florida legislator was forced out of Congress in 2006 after being caught sending sexually suggestive text messages for years to teenage boys who had been working as congressional pages. Not only did Foley lose his congressional seat over the scandal, but the U.S. House also ended up canceling the page program altogether.
Putnam, meanwhile, had been connected to former House Speaker and serial child molester Dennis Hastert, who prosecutors said had molested at least four teenage boys while working as a schoolteacher and wrestling coach. Hastert went to prison for over a year on related charges of paying hush money to one of his victims, and is now banned from having contact with minors unless another adult is present.
Even one of Foley’s friends, FL political blog publisher Peter Schorsch, thought the publishing of the photos was idiotic, although most of his ire was directed at Putnam’s social media and campaign managers. As of early Sunday afternoon, no one had taken down the tweet yet.
Democrats had a shrewder reaction: “It’s despicable that Adam Putnam is so desperate to sell out to Donald Trump that he would hang out with a sexual predator accused of harassing children,” Florida Democratic Party spokesman Kevin Donohoe said, according to Schorsch.
An investigation published earlier this year by the Tampa Bay Times noted that Foley had used his congressional campaign fund as recently as 2017 to “dine on the Palm Beach social circuit” four times. The newspaper found about 100 examples of these so–called “zombie campaigns.”
According to the Times:
In their political afterlife, former politicians and their staffers are hoarding unspent campaign donations for years and using them to finance their lifestyles, advance new careers and pay family members, an investigation by the Tampa Bay Times, 10News WTSP and TEGNA-owned TV stations found.
Their spending makes a mockery of one of the fundamental principles of America’s campaign finance laws: Donations must be spent only on politics, not politicians’ personal lives.
Democrats also blasted Putnam for bombing during a TV interview with Fox 13 Tampa earlier this week. In that interview, the Republican candidate was asked to explain a comment he made last year in which he described himself as a “proud NRA sellout.”
“I’m still confused by this word sellout. A sellout, meaning giving one’s beliefs for personal ambition or gain. Do you still embrace the term sellout?” the interviewer asked. “I embrace our rights to safely and responsibly exercise the Second Amendment,” Putnam replied.
As Schorsch pointed out, “That interview may endear [Putnam] with Republican primary voters, but Putnam can also count on footage from it being used against him in October and November when he is trying to win the votes of swing voters.”
Putnam also can now count on these tweeted photos to be used for that purpose as well. As for Don Jr., we’ll let special counsel Robert Mueller deal with him.