D.C.’s Political Boot Camp

An Intern’s Guide to Capitol Hill

 Washington, D.C.—Last week, cops busted 15 Capitol Hill interns with fake IDs for underage drinking at a popular bar near the Senate office buildings. The incident once more underlines Washington's increasingly dubious status as a boot camp for promising young people. Many are the sons and daughters of power brokers who have ponied up large amounts of cash to help candidates get elected. Sending their kids away to intern is part of the payoff.

The missing Chandra Levy, 24, was an intern at the Bureau of Prisons. Levy has joined Monica Lewinsky, whose affair with Bill Clinton set off impeachment proceedings, in the pantheon of interns caught up in scandal. On August 1, 1998, Christine Mirzayan, 28, an intern at the National Academy of Sciences, disappeared while walking home from Georgetown. Her body was discovered the next day at the foot of a wooded bluff.

It's common to see young women with older men in Washington. And revelations about such carryings-on are not uncommon. The flow of interns continually refreshes the pool of young people available for potential sexual liaisons. While Newt Gingrich was speaker of the House, he took up with a young aide, Callista Bisek, whom he has since married. Garry Bauer, the conservative Christian candidate for president, was accused of spending too much time with a young campaign aide. Bauer steadfastly denied the relationship.

Police images depict missing intern Chandra Levy with different hair styles.
photo: Metropolitan Police Department, Washington, DC
Police images depict missing intern Chandra Levy with different hair styles.

These days, the city is rife with rumors about what happened to Chandra. In addition to suspicions that Democratic congressman Gary Condit may know something about her fate, there are other theories circulating: She could have been murdered by a thug in her neighborhood, where there have been a number of street crimes in recent months. Or she could have been lured into a van in the Dupont Circle area, where passengers were trying to pick up women of Chandra's age the day before she disappeared. Or she stumbled onto a heroin deal and was shot. Or someone who knew her accidentally got into a brawl with her and killed her by mistake. Police reports say that Chandra was actively using her computer on the morning of May 1 to find out how to get to the Klingle mansion, an out-of-the-way building in Rock Creek Park, which suggests she may have taken a taxi to meet someone or that she could have gone there to commit suicide. Police have repeatedly said Condit is not a suspect.

The police say they will re-interview members of Condit's staff. Condit doesn't have a car and is sometimes chauffeured by a staff member. One staff member's car has been searched.

Condit's well-known affection for motorcycles has reportedly led the police to look into any possible links between him and the Hells Angels.

Another theory has the D.C. police balking at investigating secret sex-rings in the city for fear of somehow implicating themselves. On November 26, 1997, The Washington Post reported that then police chief Larry Soulsby resigned after his best friend on the force was arrested for "fairy shaking"—extorting married men leaving gay sex clubs in the southeast part of Washington.

Then there is Condit's own family. The New York Daily News reported last week that one of Condit's two brothers, Burl Condit, is a Modesto cop who in 1999 was caught up along with other officers in a scandal that involved selling the department's old guns. He was never charged with any wrongdoing. Darrell Condit, the younger brother, has a jail record dating back to the 1970s and was once called a drug addict by a judge. He has been arrested on a variety of charges including theft, DUI, possession of heroin and psilocybin, and smoking marijuana while in jail. He also was charged with assaulting Modesto deputies in 1989 with a hammer handle, and on one occasion threatened political retaliation against a cop who stopped him in California.

Sex scandals have laid low many powerful politicians. Senator Gary Hart's presidential ambitions ended with revelation of his relationship with Donna Rice in 1987. Two years later Massachusetts congressman Barney Frank hit the news when it was revealed he had hired a male prostitute as an aide. He is still in office. In 1974 Wilbur Mills, a leading Democratic congressman, made headlines when a stripper named Fanny Foxe leaped from his car into the Tidal Basin when Mills was stopped for erratic driving. In 1976 Elizabeth Ray, an aide at the House administration committee, claimed she was the mistress of Democratic congressman Wayne Hays, making the legendary statement: "Supposedly I'm on the oversight committee, but I call it the out-of-sight committee." Hays admitted the relationship while denying hiring her for sex, but his political life shortly came to an end. In the midst of President Clinton's impeachment storm, House speaker-designate Bob Livingston admitted he "strayed from my marriage" and quit.

Based on a dozen or so interviews, here's a brief rundown on Washington's summer boot camp for interns—how they got their jobs, whom they most admire, what they want to do with their lives, where they smooch and hang. Some are paid about $3000 for the summer, while others are paid nothing.

Best make-out spot

  • Georgetown waterfront
  • National Cathedral at night
  • Gravelly Point near Reagan National Airport (planes distract would-be watchers)
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