Was the emergence of the sexual harassment allegations against GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain spawned by the Chicago Way?
The rumors have been hot on the Internet for days, and I've basically ignored them. But the rumors are getting more specific and conservative commentator Ann Coulter seems to have put some of the loose ends together. It's all circumstantial, but none of it would surprise me.
In brief, here are the connections that Coulter sees:
The allegations against Cain all are related to his years with the National Restaurant Association. Sheila O'Grady, formerly chief of staff to former Mayor Richard M. Daley became the president of the Illinois Restaurant Association, where she might have had access with the National Restaurant Association records about Cain.
O'Grady is "close to" David Axelrod a Chicago Democratic political operative who happens to have lived in the same push building as Cain's accuser, Sharon Bialek.
So what? Accusations of sexual misconduct are a regular tool in the Chicago Way's handbag of dirty tricks. Coulter points to the case of an ex-fire commissioner, John Brooks, who claimed that Daley tried to force him to resign by making public his supposed sexual harassment.
Brooks was cleared, as the Chicago Tribune reported:
Chicago's fire commissioner did not sexually harass an employee and a city compliance officer did not improperly influence the investigation into the allegations, a City Hall investigation found.
John Brooks resigned as commissioner in May amid the furor over allegations by an office employee who said Brooks tried to fire her for rebuffing his advances. But after an independent investigation, former Judge Patricia Brown Holmes ruled that Brooks did not violate the city's sexual harassment policy, Human Resources spokeswoman Connie Buscemi said Friday.
Then there's the U.S. Senate race to replace the retiring Peter Fitzgerald that catapulted Barack Obama into the national spotlight. One of his primary opponents, Blair Hull, once ahead in the polls, ended up third in the Democratic primary after questions were raised (i.e. leaked) about his marriage. On the Republican side, the front-runner, Jack Ryan, dropped out of the race after someone leaked embarrassing information found in divorce papers about asking his former wife to perform a sex act in a public club.
Rep. Henry Hyde's extra-marital affair was leaked when he was heading the Bill Clinton impeachment proceedings.
None of this excuses any of the behavior, but it should be fair warning: No candidate is safe from the Chicago Way.