(Jonathon, the writer, is a congressional page from Central Florida.)
In a few days we found out. Stadler invited us nine male pages (conspicuously excluding the female) to a reception in an adjacent Watergate complex to his condo for supposedly to meet some defense contractors, a few pharmaceutical CEOs and their friends. Mark's wife had flown down to Lakeland for the weekend, so it looked sort of fishy. Congressman Duke Cunningham was there, along with Jack Abramoff, Tom DeLay and a whole bunch of guys from Carlyle, Enron, Halliburton, Bechtel, United Defense and Rand Corporation. Plus over a dozen guys from "K" Street where most of the lobbyists hung out when they weren't on Capitol Hill writing legislation under the table for reps and senators.
Well, it was one helluva party. The congressmen gambled and corporate heads with their politician puppets arranged for the players to "win." Big time. As in tens of thousands each on that one night alone. Yeah, the tables were rigged to make the politicians win so corporate "donations" couldn't be construed as bribery or illegal campaign financing. There's more ways than one to skin a cat, whether under the table or changing the law to fit the crime. It only takes money. Lots of it. That's how sick the system works.
Of course, now corporations can give unlimited cash under the table, thanks to the Bush Supremes that ruled in favor of phony front Citizens United. But back then there were a few rules to get around.
But this was over ten years ago – back when Mark Foley was instant messaging graphic sex to underage pages and Ted Haggard was being serviced by male escorts in Denver – all the while masquerading as born-again Christians deeply devoted to anti-gay-family-values. Pat Robertson’s political boy, Ralph Reed, was also part of the scene playing the role as Abramoff’s lapdog. However, the era may be more accurately depicted as chronic corruption related to ill-gotten gain – as the bigger picture quintessentially involves money and power, two words inseparable in the political arena.
Congressmen took in thousands in bribe money. Then the defense contractors had another surprise in store. From a back door several luscious prostitutes strode into the room. Yeah, practically naked! I couldn't believe my eyes. Congressmen and senators were allowed to choose from among the "selections." Then it was suggested they pay escorts with poker money they'd just "earned." Mind you, these were "Christian right-wing conservative" politicians sitting around the room, not the "immoral" left.
But the most startling discovery among the lineup of prostitutes was that a quarter of them were guys! Yeah, nearly nude dudes! I could only imagine what the reaction would be in congressmen's home districts should voters find out. Or if someone had a hidden camera somewhere and released videos to the media. Or the FBI. Or on the net (YouTube as yet didn’t exist).
From congressmen's choices, we could visibly detect their preferences. Talk about "open government"! Most of the men chose females; but over a quarter chose males; and two chose a combination of both. Incredible. And shamelessly they were picking hookers right in front of us. It was a glorified meat-market.
I noticed one senator, the junior from Pennsylvania, chose a male escort. He was infamous, we were informed, for picking up high-priced male hookers in Manhattan while on "business." He was the most radical anti-abortion, anti-gay guy in the room – a super-“Christian” with seven kids back home, sort of Josef Goebbels type. But a total hypocrite.
The next shock was when our own Congressman Stadler chose a "male escort" for the night. (As if we should be surprised?) He wore a tight military outfit that accented his brawny physique – had Jeff Gannon similarities. It might be said he was dressed "formally" in keeping with the "congressional" atmosphere.
As Mark Stadler clasped hands with the escort, he approached us at the other end of the room asking, "You fellows want to hang out with us at my place? I've got plenty of beer and videos. Please, join us."
It was more like a command than an invitation. We sensed another mandatory directive where we were obligated to comply. Or else.
In a way we were petrified at what we had just witnessed. Think of the open-ended obligation we carried. But we weren't surprised in the least. All nine pages happened to be gay; Stadler knew it before our arrival in DC. His application process was a ruse where the congressman wormed around the national selection regimen by investigating our sex lives more in-depth than our high school transcripts and/or any other facet of our backgrounds, including items essential for security clearance.
Stadler handed the escort a coat for the trip to his condo. It was just a brief walk, but Bob and Elizabeth Dole lived two doors down and would have suffered cardiac arrests had they seen an obvious male hooker out the window accompanying a well-known Republican congressman and his under-age page staff.
We arrived at Stadler's lavish condo to find the TV on playing gay-porn. "You boys relax and get comfortable while I go change. No reason you can't get out of those damned formal clothes," Stadler cunningly suggested.
The party can only be described as more pornographic than the video on screen. Nine teenage boys (twinks) at a congressman’s residence with a gay hooker. What would Mom do if she saw me now?" Imagine the disbelief in that dear old' church-lady's eyes. Probably die of heart attack. But imagine the congressman’s district discovering this.
Long after, I suffered a form of post-traumatic stress. The "party" was indescribable and can only be classified as hyper-scandalous – so unbelievable, the media would have been reluctant to expose even if corroborated.
The next Monday, the House was in session and Congressman Stadler took the floor to announce a proposal to amend a spending bill to include an unrelated provision restricting hate-crimes legislation aimed at gays. In other words, he wanted to exclude gays from hate-crime laws. What an absolute asshole!
Of course, it was for the audience back home, not what he truly believed. Everything revolved around photo-ops, nothing was based on conviction or the basic good of the people. Politicians in Congressman Stadler's circle claimed to be people of principle, of high moral fiber originating from the Bible – unlike the opposing party which they ridiculed day and night. Yet, the very ones pointing fingers were the ones most guilty of such behavior they supposedly despised – focusing on proposed legislation most pleasing to the base. "Men of character" they were called. Yeah, right. If only their supporters could see them in action at the Watergate. Nixon’s encounter with the scandalous icon didn’t hold a candle.
It wasn't until 2012 when the truth finally came out about the Watergate parties. They called the scandal "Pokergate" with a double meaning – for the bogus poker games and congressmen's "poker" of prostitutes. Congressman Stadler was implicated along with several more senators, representatives and top government officials – all the way up to the RNC Headquarters. In the end, Stadler got off the hook because someone in the White House pulled strings with the prosecutor from the Justice Department. Yeah, the chickenshit Dems covered for the chickenshit Republicans. Only those on the president's worst shit-list ever faced prosecution.
Years later after landing a job in Vegas, I met my former congressman while he was on another business trip. After serving three terms, Mark was hired as a lobbyist for Citrus Mutual and was of course hitting his successor up to write legislation beneficial to his client. But now his annual income ranged in 7-figures vs. 6.
I had heard through the grapevine that Stadler's wife had discovered him in bed with a guy at their Lakeland residence. Joann was supposed to be visiting her parents down in Bartow but arrived home two hours earlier than expected.
Mark persuaded her to keep it under wraps so he could complete his term and retire to a more lucrative job – lobbyist. To save-face and maintain financial security, she consented to this delicate arrangement.
How do I know all this? I was well-acquainted with the guy Rep. Stadler was porking that night. Dan was a friend of mine who was the lead-singer in a well-known gospel group; so, he had to keep his gay life secret as much as Stadler. They both attended a fundamentalist mega-church in Lakeland, and if this ever got out, they'd both be toast. Albeit Holy Toast.
Anyhow, when I met Stadler that night in Vegas, he had no clue I knew his secret. But for all he knew, I would never violate my non-disclosure agreement. Because if I did, the party was known to hire hitmen. Or arrange "small plane crashes." I remained silent.
Like the GOP class of ’94 that came in like a tsunami, the new class of 2010 were packed with young congressmen anxious to change things in Washington. Except they were of the same mold and held lots of secrets – like congressional page scandals yet to be uncovered. The beat goes on.