The Sex Scandal That Put Bush in the White House

How GOP operative Roger Stone destroyed the Reform Party in the 2000 presidential campaign

Buchanan says that when he ran for president in 1992, 1996, and 2000, he was dogged by "an unsubstantiated rumor" that he had an illegitimate child while a Georgetown undergrad between 1957 and 1961. "I don't know who ginned it up," says Buchanan. "Do I have suspicions? Sure. Reporters realized these people were doing something to damage me and decided not to write it. The same kind of thing was used against McCain." But in the 2000 campaign, a new allegation was added to the tale that made it more damaging and more likely to see print. Ex-aides were telling reporters that Buchanan had made payments to the mother to kill the story. One reputed 1992 money trail, albeit perfectly legal, involved an intricate chain of personal checks—from Buchanan to his sister to an aide, who then delivered cashier checks to a Washington lawyer. Asked about the child and these payments, Pat Buchanan told the Voice: "I'm not going to go into that. I don't know the details of anything. It deals with a private matter. We did nothing wrong."

Bay Buchanan, who goes further than her brother and calls the baby allegation "false," concedes that in fact she did "make some payments," delivered by an aide, to the lawyer "because Pat was out of town campaigning for 10 weeks" in New Hampshire and elsewhere in early 1992. She says Pat either prepaid or "reimbursed" her and that she "thinks" the lawyer had "done some legal work for Pat." She confirmed that the lawyer was once married to a woman Pat had dated during his Georgetown years. Saying that "our opponents were pushing" the story "every time we did well," Bay Buchanan said she had not heard Stone's name associated with it, but knew "people close to Roger" were. Stone minced no words when asked about the charges: "There's no doubt this illegitimate child story is true. My understanding is that Buchanan supported the child and made educational payments. It would be honorable."

But Stone also cited "a controversy about hush money," contending that a top Buchanan aide, Scott Mackenzie, "quit because of it." Reporters in fact contacted Mackenzie in 1999 shortly after Stone discussed the Buchanan issues with him. "I have no specific memory of being one of the people who suggested this story to reporters," insists Stone now, "but this is widely known information and it's not inconceivable that someone did." Stone recalled that the story was "heavily peddled in 1996 by Phil Gramm's people," referring to the former Texas senator who was running against Buchanan that February. Stone's longtime partner Charles Black was running Gramm's campaign and concedes it "did come up," though he says he told the staff not to answer press questions about it. John Weaver, however, another top Gramm aide, says he "got reports that phone calls were being made" by the campaign. Black also concedes that he "heard about it in 1992," when he was running the Bush I campaign, but says he got it from a reporter whose name he could not recall, and that he "shut down" the Bush staff "from discussing it." Black says he doesn't "remember discussing it with Roger," but "wouldn't be surprised" if Stone was circulating it.

After Gramm dropped out in 1996, "the Dole campaign was trying to tar and feather Buchanan with allegations of a love child," says Keith Appell, a Buchanan spokesman then. A top Dole official told the Voice that Stone, who was unofficially advising the campaign, began "talking about planting the story" after Buchanan won New Hampshire and other early contests. "Roger was in touch directly or through someone else with the woman," said the official. "He would find out about it unsolicited and bring it to you. But he said the woman went cold." While Stone can't recall such efforts, he says he did hear about a second round of payments that year.

Both Buchanans say that the Washington Post's E.J. Dionne was the first reporter to chase the story at the beginning of 1992 (Dionne said he does not discuss stories he did not write). A week before Buchanan's 37 percent showing against a sitting Bush president in New Hampshire, Bay Buchanan asked Mackenzie to bring the 4 a.m. edition of the Post to her house. Relieved that no story about the child appeared, Buchanan, who says now that "the Bush campaign was pushing it," told aides about her fears. Within days, an aide was asked to make the deliveries to the lawyer—in five $10,000 chunks between February and April. The Buchanans also confirmed that Associated Press reporter John Solomon "was on the story" in late 1999 and early 2000, just as Trump and Stone were in mortal combat with Buchanan. Jay Townsend and Stephen Marks, two ex-Buchanan staffers, recalled being questioned about the child by AP reporters. Ex-AP reporter Jonathan Salant remembers looking "at all the Buchanan campaign filings to see if there were any funny payments" that might be connected to a child cover-up. Bay Buchanan, who talked to Solomon "at length," says he pressed her about the payments.

While Solomon will not discuss Stone's possible role in the story, Mattie Lolavar, a consultant with the Lichfield Group who was then on retainer for Stone, says he actively worked at "planting the story in 1999." Lolavar says she talked to and e-mailed Solomon at Stone's behest. While Stone blasts Lolavar as a "biased source" because she is now suing him in a breach of contract dispute, every reporter she initially identified as having ever been on the story was independently confirmed.

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