JC is a law student who blogs at indiana barrister and in the agora (ITA). ITA is a fairly well-known conservative blog; every few weeks i stop by ITA to check up on what conservative hoosiers are blogging about. as far as right-wing bloggers go, they are relatively reasonable, though whenever i go there, sooner or later my eyes start rolling back into my head, making reading impossible.
last week, JC posted about the race for indiana's 8th district, currently represented by republican john hostettler, who is running against newly announced challenger brad ellsworth, who is currently the sheriff of vanderburgh county.
hostettler is JC's man. hostettler is also a fundamentalist christian and... well, a bit crazy. crazy enough that he tried to carry a loaded gun onto an airplane in 2004 (he says he "forgot" it was there), for just one example.
in the comments of that post, an anonymous commenter pointed out that ellsworth's 19-year-old daughter andrea, who is currently a undergrad at IU, had some incriminating photos of her holding beer bottles on her facebook page. 21 minutes later, nick blesch posted a follow-up comment noting that governor daniels's daughter maggie has similarly incriminating photos and comments on her own facebook page.
the story could have ended there. nay, it should have ended there. but of course it didn't.
JC, apparently intrigued by the revelation that daughters of democrats get drunk too, shot an email to the evansville courier & press about the "interesting comments which followed" his post. the c&p got back in touch with JC, requesting comment, which he gave, and help with acquiring the photos of andrea ellsworth "drinking" (reportedly, the photos, which have since been taken down, showed the girl holding beer bottles but not the actual act of partaking.)
soon enough, the c& printed the story, full to the brim with comments from JC:
[JC], whose own Web site features a photograph of him with Hostettler and other noted conservatives, said he has not discussed the photographs with anyone connected to the Hostettler campaign.
[JC] said the pictures demonstrate hypocrisy because Ellsworth, as the elected sheriff of Vanderburgh County, is responsible for enforcing Indiana law.
"People understand that underaged drinking is commonplace and sometimes even expected," [JC] said. "When a public official's child does it, it's not necessarily any worse. However, when it's the sheriff's family doing it and then flaunting the illegal consumption in public on the Internet, it's cause for concern.
"Put yourself in the shoes of a general 19-year-old who was arrested for underaged drinking, then they find that the sheriff's daughter does it and flaunts it online and gets away with it."
so brad ellsworth's daughter's alleged underaged drinking makes her father a hypocrite because he is a sheriff. never mind that ellsworth is the sheriff in evansville and his daughter is a legal adult going to school in bloomington, many miles and several counties away, where ellsworth has no jurisdiction whatsoever. and never mind that ellsworth probably doesn't have secret spy cameras in his daughter's room, or a remote control he can use to guide her actions and ensure that she never breaks any laws. at least i hope he doesn't.
the c&p story generated close to 200 comments, overwhelmingly from those who think the girl's drinking isn't a story. the c&p also ran a confusing editorial criticizing itself for printing the story.
the story and editorial evoked a slew of denunciations in various indiana blogs: two posts on masson's blog, two posts on advance indiana, a post on liberal indiana, and a post on TDW. here's an example, from TDW:
Brad Ellsworth is not the Monroe County Sheriff. It's not like his daughter got arrested, and he helped her get out of jail and then hushed it up. He raised his daughter, and she's of the age where she can make decisions on her own. (Hell, if our parents were held accountable for the stupid things we did in college, they'd be entirely unemployable, let alone viable as candidates for public office. Just kidding. But you get the point.) She made a decision that was hers to make, and really, in the whole scheme of things, it's not a big deal.
All Mr. C has done, as an advocate for John Hostettler who took it upon himself to send these photos to the media, is make himself and his candidate look slimy while placing Ellsworth's daughter, who isn't involved at all in the campaign, in the victim limelight. Nice work, [JC]. You hit that one out of the park.
perhaps sensing that he was the only one who had gotten dirty after his trip into the mud, JC tried to back away from the story in a post on ITA, where he acknowledges that yes, he narced on andrea ellsworth to the c&p, but that "far too much has been made" of the story and he hopes "that this news becomes a footnote."
i don't actually know what the post said when he originally wrote it. it has been heavily edited since then. ITA's robots.txt file disables caching, meaning there's no cache at google or anywhere else where i can view a copy of the original post. however, the old version is still in the index, so with some clever searching i was able to unearth the following paragraph, which originally came before the paragraph that's there now:
The politics of personal destruction is an unfortunate part of politics and elections. In almost every case it represents a last ditch effort on the part of someone who has already lost the battle of ideas. Rarely should the character of public officials' families and friends be relevant. Does it matter if the sibling, child, or parent of a represenative is arrested for some crime? Probably not. But there are exceptions when impropriety matters, and in my opinion those exceptions lie with judges and law enforcement. Judges and law enforcement personnel, such as sheriffs and police, are entrusted by the public with enormous power and authority. Maintaining the integrity of judicial office and law enforcement is essential to democracy and the rule of law. Imagine yourself as a 19 year old charged with underage consumption of alcohol only to find the sheriff's child regularly engages in it, and then flaunts it.
in the following paragraph, where it now says "an anonymous commenter", it originally said "a sharp commenter".
other deleted passages:
I passed the information on to the C&P, which then ran with it. Even as a moderate/conservative Republican, I take no pleasure in reporting this negative news about Democratic challenger Ellsworth.
That's why the Courier & Press' story today on Sheriff Brad Ellsworth, candidate for Indiana's 8th Congressional district, is in fact newsworthy.
i might be able to unearth a bit more of the deleted post, but i have simply run out of time for tonight, so let's move on to the comments from that post.
in the first comment of that post, nick blesch again brought up the governor's daughter:
Of course, I see that you didn't report Maggie Daniels' underage drinking to the Indianapolis Star.
Now, while your argument about law enforcement officers and judges all makes sense, as the Governor is the most powerful person in the state and the arbiter of what laws are passed into existence, that makes him an officer of the law in a sense that's difficult to deny, I believe. I mean, how is it right for it to be legal for Maggie Daniels to drink at 19 (or 20)?
If you're going to stick up for what you believe to be right, I think you've got another phone call to make. Or - dare I say it - were you just using this to cover up for the fact that you want to get a zing in on the Democrats (who've been embarassing Republicans for years with the Bush twins' antics) without ticking off former and future bosses?
JC replied with a quintessential non-denial: "Frankly, unless you can see my sent mail folder, this comment is baseless." well okay, technically that's true, but... nick posted another comment, directly asking "But did you?" JC never bothered to answer the question, or to reply again to his own active comment thread, though he did continue commenting on TDW two days later.
i too was curious about whether JC had reported maggie daniels to the star, and since nick had dropped the issue, i took it back up. i twice tried to leave a comment on the ITA thread, following up on this question. after my first comment "mysteriously" disappeared, i took a screenshot of my second comment for posterity, just in case it too was deleted. and sure enough, within a half an hour, my second comment had also vanished into the ether.
take a look at my comment and compare it to the comments that are still up. what is so bad about my comment that it would need to be deleted not once, but twice? as you can see, my comment was very polite and mild-mannered; there is no swearing, name-calling, partisan rhetoric, or anything like that. i asked a simple question, which another commenter had already asked but which hadn't been answered in four days. there are plenty of much worse comments still there, from both sides.
i seems clear to me that if JC had indeed squealed on the governor's daughter like he tattled on ellsworth's daughter, there would be no reason to delete innocuous comments like mine. of course, i pretty much knew already that the reason he hadn't answered the question was because the answer would be "no". this only reaffirms it. he had information on the misdoings of the daughters of two prominent politicians. he narced on the one in the opposition party, but not the one in his own party. and when confronted with it, instead of making an argument about how he made the right decision and why, he dodges the question and deletes (or his co-authors delete) comments that bring it up.
of course, i don't care if either girl drinks, as long as they're being responsible about it. i drank as an undergrad, as did most people i know, though i did know a few who didn't (i lived on an honors floor). posting pictures of it online is not very responsible, especially if your dad is a public official, though i understand such pictures are all over facebook. but if there's "a legitimate debate" about whether sheriffs should be held accountable for their adult children, it seems to me that the debate over the governor's accountability would be just as legitimate. but JC doesn't want to have that debate because it exposes his own hypocrisy.
meanwhile, and from what i can tell completely independently of the hoopla on the hoosier blogs, scott shields at mydd picked up on the story. shields draws the conclusion that the story is orchestrated by the hostettler campaign and JC went to the c&p on hostettler's behalf:
Rather than dismissing the photos as cheap politics unworthy of Hostettler, the Congressman's sister and spokeswoman Karen Hammonds ran with it, attacking Ellsworth's daughter for posting the photos. To me, that's enough to suggest that it was Hostettler's campaign who sent [JC] to do their dirty work. After all, [JC] counts Hostettler as one of his 'famous friends'. And even though [JC]'s taken down his blog's archives and immunized it from automatic archiving and cacheing with a robots.txt file (gee, why ever would he have done that?), a Google search reveals his ties to the Congressman, even in one post bragging about his "sources close to Congressman John Hostettler."
chris coyle also suspects hostettler was involved; doug disagrees.
furthermore, atrios, one of the biggest blogs around, linked to the mydd post. so now, potentially hundreds of thousands of people nationwide have heard about the attack, and will associate JC and hostettler with mudslinging. JC's not even out of law school, and he's already earning a national reputation as a slime merchant. that is classic blog blowback.
update: i had a bit more time before bed and managed to piece together what i believe is the entire unedited ITA post. i had to piece this together one phrase at a time using selective searches, so i can't guarantee it's 100% accurate, but here it is:
The politics of personal destruction is an unfortunate part of politics and elections. In almost every case it represents a last ditch effort on the part of someone who has already lost the battle of ideas. Rarely should the character of public officials' families and friends be relevant. Does it matter if the sibling, child, or parent of a representative is arrested for some crime? Probably not. But there are exceptions when impropriety matters, and in my opinion those exceptions lie with judges and law enforcement. Judges and law enforcement personnel, such as sheriffs and police, are entrusted by the public with enormous power and authority. Maintaining the integrity of judicial office and law enforcement is essential to democracy and the rule of law. Imagine yourself as a 19 year old charged with underage consumption of alcohol only to find the sheriff's child regularly engages in it, and then flaunts it.
That's why the Courier & Press' story today on Sheriff Brad Ellsworth, candidate for Indiana's 8th Congressional district, is in fact newsworthy. On Tuesday I penned a minor post about the Hostettler/Ellsworth race and the dynamics involved. But a sharp commenter noted that Ellsworth's daughter, age 19, publicly flaunts her underage drinking in pictures online (all of which have since been removed). I passed the information on to the C&P, which then ran with it. Even as a moderate/conservative Republican, I take no pleasure in reporting this negative news about Democratic challenger Ellsworth. And even though the race in Indiana's "Bloody Eighth" is expected to be one of the closest in the country, I suspect - and hope - that this news becomes a footnote. The actions of the Sheriff's family matter much less than the issues and ideas behind the campaign. Those are the factors that should ultimately determine votes.
quite a contrast to what's there now. (i've saved a copy of the page in its current form to my site here in case it gets changed again or yet more comments get deleted. i'm pretty sure at least one other comment has been deleted: it originally appeared between nick's comments at 10:54PM and 2:59AM.)
2nd update: courtesy TDW, we see that this story has now made another prominent national blog: hotline, and others are picking up on it.
3rd update: this post has been linked by atrios, where JC earns atrios's coveted "wanker of the day" award. commenters there think i'm too wordy (fair enough) and that my design is too loud/distracting/whatever (which is probably also true).
4th update: i was going to reply to this comment from JC on ITA, where he says he will answer the maggie daniels question "one last time" (of course, that is actually the first time he has answered the question on his blog, five days after it was first asked, and only after i had written this massive post and it started to draw attention).
i had been debating whether it would be worth my time to ever leave a comment there, since it would likely be deleted anyway. but now i know not to bother because i have been banned from ITA! no more comments from me; i'm forbidden from posting there. check the screenshot.
5th update, 2013: over the years, JC has contacted me several times to express his deepest regrets over this incident, as well as the fact that this post continued to haunt search results for his name. i was not willing to take the post down, but eventually i agreed to replace all occurrences of his name in this post with his initials. comments have also been closed and hidden. ¶