The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 71.0°F | Partly Cloudy

Packwood Report Brings Calls for Senate Probe, Resignation

By Eric Pianin and Florence Graves
The Washington Post


Women's groups and Oregon Democrats Monday called on the Senate ethics committee to investigate allegations from 10 women that Sen. Bob Packwood (R-Ore.) made unwelcome sexual advances to them. There were also calls for Packwood's resignation.

Wayne Anderson, chairman of the Oregon Democratic Party, said Packwood, just re-elected to his fifth term and the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, "has lost any credibility that he may have had" with Senate Democrats and the incoming Clinton administration.

"He must step aside so we have a reputable voice in the U.S. Senate," Anderson said.

The Washington Post Sunday reported that "since Packwood's earliest days on Capitol Hill, he has made uninvited sexual advances to women who have worked for him or with him, according to former staff members and lobbyists, including 10 women" who gave specific accounts.

Four of the women repeated their charges Monday and Sunday in newspaper and network television interviews.

Packwood categorically denied the allegations when The Post questioned him the week before the Nov. 3 election when he was locked in a tight race against Rep. Les AuCoin (D-Ore.). Packwood provided the newspaper with information intended to discredit the women.

On Friday, Packwood sent the paper a statement saying that he was sorry if "I have conducted myself in any way that has caused any individual discomfort or embarrassment."

Carol Auger, executive director of the state Democratic Party, said that while Packwood had always led people to believe he was a strong advocate for women's issues, "These reports show that Bob Packwood is truly a study in hypocrisy."

Jim Whitfield, executive director of the Oregon Republican Party, said Monday night that "all Republicans" were disturbed by the allegations, but that "it's a little bit too early for anyone to seriously call for his resignation."

Whitfield said that Packwood's statement, apologizing for his actions if they were deemed inappropriate, was a "step in the right direction," but that Packwood "needs to be more forthcoming vis-a-vis the allegations of many people who have known him throughout his political career."

As for calls for a Senate ethics committee investigation, Whitfield dismissed the committee as ineffectual in dealing with serious allegations against members. "They forgave the Keating Five and they took no action with regard to Brock Adams, who was charged with far more serious violations than this," he said.

Earlier this year, the ethics committee declined to investigate charges that Adams, a senator from Washington state, had made unwanted sexual advances toward eight women. The Seattle Times published the allegations in March. Adams denied the charges but chose not to run for re-election this year.

Packwood could not be reached for comment Monday. His chief of staff, Elaine Franklin, told reporters over the weekend that Packwood was not considering resigning and that his strategy is to "take this one day at a time."

Jack Faust, a close friend and political adviser to Packwood, reiterated Monday that Packwood will not wage a counterattack against his accusers and "would appreciate it if his supporters will honor that."

"The whole world may not agree with me, but the senator certainly does," Faust said in a telephone interview Monday.

Faust, a Portland lawyer, said Packwood is considering how to make his first public response to the reports and the public reaction to them.

At a news conference in Portland Monday called by representatives of more than a dozen women's organizations, Betty Roberts, a Democrat and former Oregon Supreme Court justice, said Packwood is "taking a week to figure out what to say. What he says will depend on what the people of Oregon say."

The women holding the news conference offered support to women who came forward and discussed possible action against Packwood.

Roberts, who ran against Packwood in 1974, led the call for Packwood's resignation during the news conference. She said rumors that Packwood sexually harassed women had circulated for years in Oregon. Lobbyists wanting something from Packwood were advised to send a woman, she said.

Roberts also discussed the possibility of recall drive, although a 1935 Oregon attorney general's ruling said that members of Congress are not subject to recall under state statutes.

Tia Plympton, Oregon state coordinator for the National Organization of Women, said she supports a full Senate investigation into the allegations. "Sexism and misogyny come in all forms and it's important to catch all perpetrators. This is a particularly shameful case. Packwood is supposed to be a role model. As an individual, I would be very happy if he resigned," she added.

Laurie Wimmer, executive director of the Oregon Coalition of Women, said, "It's terrible to ask someone to end their career but it would be only fair and courageous for Packwood to recognize he has outlived his usefulness and resign. He knows the truth, if he has done what is alleged."

Oregon women's groups and state political and civil liberties leaders were scheduled to meet to Monday night in Portland to decide on a unified response.

In Washington Monday, the leaders of several national women's organizations stopped short of calling for Packwood's resignation, but did call for a Senate ethics committee investigation of him.

Harriet Woods, head of the National Women's Political Caucus, said that if Congress does not take the allegations seriously, "it sends the wrong message -- that Congress is still a fraternity house, a male club. We don't want to go back to the pre-Anita Hill stage when accusations of sexual harassment are trivialized," referring the charges of the Oklahoma law professor against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas during his Senate confirmation hearings.

NARAL executive director Kate Michelman, whose organization endorsed Packwood over AuCoin, also an abortion rights supporter, said she found the Post article "very disturbing" and "shocking." She said she had never heard any of the persistent rumors about Packwood that have circulated in Washington and Oregon in abortion rights circles.

Asked whether Packwood should resign, Michelman said, "That's not for me to answer. But he has to be held responsible and he has to take responsibility."

Michelman said the allegations have "changed forever" Packwood's "credibility" and "role in Congress on issues he is best known for -- advocacy for women."

As for the man Packwood defeated, AuCoin said in a statement, "I feel a great sense of sorrow for the tragedy in the lives of ten women and perhaps others. In the end, it is their courage in stepping forward to where none have been prepared to go which writes a new chapter in the history of equality and hopefully of ethics in the United States Senate."