Like the American political system itself, the political sex scandal is a male-dominated field.
Eliot Spitzer and his black socks. Mark Sanford’s Appalachian Trail hiking. Larry Craig’s bathroom foot-tappin’. Arnold Schwarnegger’s maid service. Anthony Weiner‘s love of Twitpics. Chris Lee‘s amateur Craigslist skills. David Vitter’s personal House of the Rising Sun. We remember these scandals because the national media ate them whole and fed us the chewed-up pieces like a proud mother bird.
There have been sexual transgressions committed by females in elected office, but these women are not household names. Can you remember the late Helen Chenoweth-Hage, Idaho’s first Republican congresswoman, a holier-than-thou Clinton critic who admitted to a six-year affair with a married rancher when she worked for his consulting firm? Have you even heard of Katherine Bryson, a Utah state representative, who in 2004 was caught canoodling on a webcam her husband had set up to catch a thief? These names and situations are simply not stored in the Sexual Rolodex of America.
Maybe we’re just not interested in women who play around because the details aren’t juicy enough. Maybe the women haven’t been high-profile enough. Maybe the women are just better at not getting caught with incontrovertible evidence (see: Haley, Nikki). But what if there was a tailor-made sex scandal involving the first female Majority Leader in Minnesota Senate history? And what if she led the charge against marriage equality and co-authored the legislation that would amend the state constitution to define marriage as only between one man and one woman? Would the media care?
Apparently not. Stunning family values hypocrisy and a first-of-her-kind powerful woman engaging in extracurricular activities with a subordinate isn’t enough to warrant Amy Koch national attention.
For the uninitiated, here’s what happened: Last Wednesday, according to Star Tribune, Deputy Senate Majority Leader Geoff Michel whisked Koch into a meeting room where he and three Republican colleagues confronted the Majority Leader about an alleged affair with a key Senate staffer who reported directly to her. They said they had credible information from multiple sources.
After a meeting that lasted for hours that night and resumed on Thursday morning, the Republican from Buffalo resigned her leadership post and announced she would not seek re-election.
The next afternoon, Michael Brodkorb, the Senate’s powerful communications chief, was asked by an old junior high school friend who also worked in the Senate to meet at the Moose Country restaurant in Mendota Heights. Once there, Brodkorb was shocked to see Secretary of the Senate Cal Ludeman walk in and tell him he was out of a job and barred from Senate offices.
The fresh account provides new details on what could be the most tumultuous 72 hours in state Senate history. The events snuffed out Koch’s fast legislative rise and leveled a chief aide who had helped lead the Senate’s Republican caucus and served as deputy chair of the state party.
Party leaders have steadfastly refused to discuss whether the departures are related, as have Koch and Brodkorb.
As Koch tries to hang on to her last year in elective office, rumblings of an ethics investigation have begun, with a member of that committee saying that she may need to leave the Senate if the allegations prove true.
Nearly a full week later, the details that Americans traditionally lust after are shockingly scarce. But what’s more noteworthy is that news reports outside of Minnesota are even more scarce. A woman of power rolling in the deep with a staffer? A woman who ran on a platform of family values and felt so strongly about the sanctity of marriage she tried her best to ban same-sex marriages in her state getting caught philandering outside the bonds of matrimony? C’mon, we love this stuff. Where’s the attention?
Consenting adults should be allowed to do whatever they want as long as its legal. But when an elected official introduces S.F. No. 1975 to amend the Minnesota Constitution to read “A marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in Minnesota,” does that legislator not forfeit the right to privacy? Does she not deserve some semblance of public scorn?
Maybe this is a local Minnesota story. But there’s no such thing as a local story any more. In this 24-hour, attention-deficit, fill-thine-airwaves-with-linkbait news cycle, how has Koch escaped the purview of we American perverts who routinely get off on the tawdry tales of others?
Female political sex scandals are exceedingly rare. Perhaps it’s because, anecdotally, women run for office to do something and men run for office to be somebody (then, do someone). Perhaps it’s because, statistically, women traditionally engage in extramarital affairs for more emotional reasons than men, and as such they don’t put themselves in a position to be caught as easily. Perhaps it’s just a numbers game — since there are far more men in American politics, greater numbers of men will cheat on their wives, and therefore be exposed more often. Simple math, really.
But it’s odd, given the infrequency of these scandals and our maddening love for the particulars, that no national media outlet has taken the ball and run with it. Don’t you think?