Political InQueery: Where in the World is Bob Packwood?
Lots of people keep diaries. Lots of diary-keepers even write things down in multiple diaries, spanning years—thoughts that are meant for them alone. And yet, some of these diaries see the light of paparazzi cameras and heck, congressional hearings. Like this one:
Grabbed Tracy Gorman behind the Xerox machine today and she got a little pissed. What's the big deal? I was smiling while I did it. She made this big stink about it and it took me about two hours and a couple of thousand dollars to calm her down. I have one question — if she didn't want me to feather her nest, why did she come into the Xerox room? Sure, she used that old excuse that she had to make copies of the Brady Bill, but if you believe that, I have a room full of radical feminists you can boff. She knew I was copying stuff in there. I had my jacket off and my sleeves rolled up, revealing the well-defined musculature of my sinewy arms which are always bulging with desire. I know what she wanted. This didn't require a lot of thought.
Welcome to Robert Packwood's diary. Republican senator from Oregon, elected first in 1968 after a string of "youngest" and notable elections to other posts in his home state. Youngest party chairman of a major metropolitan area. Youngest elected to the Oregon state legislature. Student body president of the New York University Law School.
And a total moderate and pro-choice voter in his legislative career. Two years before the Roe v. Wade ruling, Senator Packwood introduced two companion bills legalizing abortion but couldn't find a cosponsor, and they died. He won awards from Planned Parenthood and the National Women's Political Caucus for his efforts on reproductive rights.
Packwood was not a party line towing machine on other issues too, voting against Reagan's nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court. And all of this is to say, that maybe people are complicated, contradictory, and always capable both of wonderful behavior and despicable behavior. Or at least, maybe they vote with their heads and make copies with their something elses. For in the 8,000 pages of Packwood's diaries—I think he expected people would love to read his memoirs in his Presidential library someday—he said a lot of sexist crap about women and his exploits, along with writing about his lawmaking. Unusual blend of words, to be sure.
At first ten women came forward complaining about his unwanted advances, and while we may scoff and throw up our hands at his outrageous behavior (and the cavalier attitude that self-justified it), it was 1992, and sexual harassment in the workplace was still just being broached as a subject for debate. In 1992, many companies had no policies in place against such harassment, and women were treated like whistleblowers for speaking up. This also happened in the aftermath of the Clarence Thomas nomination to the Supreme Court, which incidentally, Packwood voted against.
In this context, Packwood's colleagues in the Senate stood by their man–that is, until it was discovered that his 8K pages of rambling, egotistical prose included some of them and their own sexual proclivities (read: affairs). So while senators were fine with Packwood threatening women who had spoken out, they didn't much appreciate Packwood threatening them.
The whole allegations-to-resignation took three years, and in the meantime, Packwood also came under ethics review for abusing his power to help campaign funders who wanted him to get rid of a complaining auto parts company that was putting pressure on the easily corruptible Japanese patent process. His extensive diaries apparently also covered these favors.
So, after all this time, 15 years later, where is Bob Packwood? While he may have temporarily lived out of a trailer—and I love that the reporting at the time chose to include this little fact—he went on to found his own lobbying firm, Sunrise Research Corporation. I presume he's in non-formaldehyde-laced housing now. Sunrise actually seems to be doing less work these days; its peak of lobbying activity, as reported by lobby industry analysts, was in the early aughts. As of 2009, Sunrise's most notable client was a healthcare firm. He also played a role earlier this decade in fighting the estate tax, so perhaps his ethical exploits with haranguing auto parts manufacturers taught him some mad lobbying skills.
Packwood is now 77. He may have outlived the worst of his pariah status in Oregon, even giving a recent interview to the Oregonian, but he still keeps a home on the east coast. One wonders if he continues to wax poetic about his sinewy muscles. If so, he's probably writing it down somewhere.
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