The Sex Scandal That Put Bush in the White House

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

In addition to Dionne and Solomon, Lolavar said the Star's Richard Gooding, who broke the Dick Morris sex scandal, was contacted by an aide working for her. While Gooding would not confirm the source, he said he was tipped to the story and chased it unsuccessfully. Lolavar also said Insight, a publication of The Washington Times, talked to her about it, and a reporter there said he called Lolavar on a tip "via a third party who made it clear to us that this was a story Stone was pushing." Stone, says Lolavar, "kept telling me it's coming out Monday, it's coming out Friday," but Solomon eventually told her his sources "clammed up." Lolavar says Stone proudly told her that, beyond the press outreach, he "got a union to put flyers under the hotel doors" of Reform officials at one party meeting that said: "Ask Pat about the kid."

Lolavar could not specify when that pink and blue flyer might have been distributed, but party officials like press secretary Donna Donavan and ex vice-chair Patricia Benjamin recall it. Bay Buchanan says: "I remember getting a call or two saying this stuff was out there." Stone says "if there was a flyer, it wasn't from Roger Stone." By mid February, with the story in limbo, Trump quit the race and Buchanan's Pat Choate became party chair. Choate now says the Trump/Stone operation was "a Republican dirty trick," designed "to disgust people and drive them away from the Reform Party. They were doing everything in their power to make a mess. You had Ventura leaving and Trump all over TV saying that Buchanan loved Hitler, ignorant statements." Bay Buchanan, who stopped talking to Stone during the campaign, says she still "doesn't understand why he would want us in the Reform Party in the first place" and then assail Buchanan as a Nazi.

This circus ended any possibility of Perot belatedly entering the race—always a major Bush concern. Russell Verney, the first national chair of the party and Perot's closest ally in it, says Buchanan launched a state-by-state delegate war, purging the Perot leadership "to make sure Perot didn't come in." Bay Buchanan agrees, saying an unusual party rule would've permitted a last-minute convention switch to Perot. The bloody battle led to a convention walkout, legal challenges that cost Buchanan ballot status in states like Michigan, and a Perot endorsement of Bush. Buchanan says he just "played out the hand" after that. He raised $7.1 million before his nomination and less than half a million afterward. He handpicked a John Birch Society vice-presidential candidate who'd claimed workers compensation for a mental disorder. He dumped $10 million of his matching funds into an invisible media buy by a Texas company that did mattress commercials. In the final week he spent two days in Alaska. He went from blasting Bush as "the Prince of Wales," unequipped for the presidency, to declaring after the election: "I'm glad we didn't take Bush down with us." He assured the Voice that he did in fact vote for himself, adding: "It didn't make any difference in Virginia."

Buchanan adamantly rejects any notion that the implicit threat of the child story had anything to do with what even old friends like Lyn Nofziger see now as his "nonexistent" campaign. "If you've got Roger trying to smear me," says Buchanan, referring to the Voice findings, "it had no influence over what I did. I wasn't intimidated into backing off the campaign by anyone or anything." Indeed, with Buchanan "staying out of the way of the Bush campaign in the battleground states," as Verney put it, the child story needed no pre-November revival. It had only ever surfaced when Buchanan did well, and aides like Townsend say he trimmed his sails in those races as well. Stone told Von Raab that his Buchanan maneuvers were a "tactical exercise"—an accurate description of his ironic orchestration of Al Sharpton's campaign this year. The master of convoluted chaos, double agent Stone has left his mark in the dark alleys of presidential politics since Watergate, but the sacking of the Reform Party may be his lasting legacy.

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