Most of us have regrets over things we have done over a lifespan. My biggest one was the decision to work for Republicans for part of our 23 years in Washington, DC.
I put my newspaperman profession on hold in 1981 to move from Illinois to Washington to take a better-paying job as press secretary and legislative assistant to Rep. Paul Findley of Illinois. He had offered the job several times while I covered his work as a Congressman and finally won me over with a claim that “you’ve been writing about things I have done wrong over the years, so why don’t you spend some time in my office to show me how to do it better.”
He played to my ego, one that was out of control. It worked.
It took less than a year to know I had made a mistake. I was not a Republican. Nor was I a Democrat. I considered myself a political atheist. I liked Findley as a person. I hated his politics and the system. I was about to take a job as managing editor for the Bristol Herald-Courier when a GOP consultant Eddie Mahe offered a chance to handle communications for the re-election campaign of Manuel Luhan of New Mexico. The money was good and I spend a lot of time. I cashed in and took the job, then became chief of staff, consulted with the three national GOP political committees, served a “special assistant” to the House and Science Committee, and finally became political programs vice president of the National Association of Realtors (NAR ).
A six-figure salary, lavish expense account, and corner office overcame my desire to return to journalism for too many years. A final gig back with Mahe’s company, which now called itself a crisis communications team for business. In that role, I traveled a lot, both nationally and overseas, and kept selling out for the money,
I finally walked away from that world and returned to news media as a contractor for wire services and newspapers in 1994. I had taken a brief leave in 1991 to cover Desert Storm as a photojournalist and that made me realize that I have gone too far astray for too long.
I also started Capitol Hill Blue on October 1, 1994, and it now is considered the longest-running political news website. As publisher and editor, I often come across those I knew in my political days. One of them, Washington lawyer Cleta Mitchell, worked on projects with Mahe’s company. I caught her in a lie on something and she refused to acknowledge it. That told me to avoid her in the future. She also talked Mahe and his partner into moving their operation into the Foley-Lardner law firm as a new political division, a move I disagreed with and helped me decide to leave the company and resume life as a newspaperman.
Mitchell showed up during Donald Trump’s illicit campaign to overturn the legal results of the presidential vote in Georgia just before Congress ratified the electoral college vote on Jan. 6, the day Trump incited his supporters to invade the Capitol, trash the building, shut down Congress and kill a Capitol Hill police officer.
Mitchell’s appearance in the efforts to overturn a legal appearance led Foley-Lardner to force her out of her partnership in the law firm. Mahe died last year after moving back to New Mexico. She is now a senior advisor to the GOP efforts to impose Jim Crow-style restrictions in states to drive down minority voting — a purely racist stunt.
I was right to distrust Mitchell nearly 20 years ago and reaffirms that my involvement of the party of the elephant remains a serious regret and failure in my life.
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