Pardon Me, Madam

For Chapter 14: "Nobody is Safe from Everybody"

By Published on .

In the last post, I talked about a nasty web page, created by a disgruntled interview subject, that comes up high on a Google search of my name.

By the way, the subject of the radio piece that so antagonized this guy? The loss of privacy, which strikes me as fairly ironic. But I shouldn't whine too much, because my problems are nothing. Think about poor Bill Broydrick.

He is a powerful Wisconsin lobbyist, who counts among his clients Aurora Health Care, Milwaukee Public Schools, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District and We Energies. But while he is well known in local legislative and political circles, he's pretty much anonymous to the public at large. Or, at least he was till last week.

That's when his first Google page lit up with – at item #4 – "DC Madam's phone list linked to Wisconsin Political fugure (sic)."

The DC Madam, you may recall, is Deborah Jeane Palfrey, who is accused of running a call-girl service in Washington that allegedly got inside the belt of various inside-the-beltway luminaries. Irritated at taking the fall while her clientele skated, she released her phone records going back years – records which, if diligently vetted, would reveal the identities of, ahem, escortees.

One of them, former Eli Lilly CEO Randall Tobias, was forced to resign from his high position in the U.S. State Department. Another, Louisiana Senator David Vitter, had to publicly acknowledge his "sins."

Both these guys were quintessentially legitimate targets. Vitter, a conservative Republican, was sanctimoniously flogging family values while paying for extramarital female companionship. Tobias, as President Bush's "AIDS Czar," had forcefully denounced prostitution – and, in politically-charged contravention of public-health consensus, advocated abstinence over condom use. In other words, they were both public officials whose official rhetoric was belied by their personal conduct. In still other words, they were hypocrites. So, yeah: fair game.

But what about Bill Broydrick? He is not a public official, nor is he even exactly a public figure. Yes, lobbyists do influence public policy, but they also, more or less by definition, operate as private parties behind the scenes. By what measure does a lobbyist's private conduct rise to the level of public interest? Absent evidence that he using Palfrey to pimp for the officials he was lobbying – and none has been put forward -- what is the newsworthiness of a businessman with a sketchy sex life?

I can answer that question: apart from pure titillation or schadenfreude, there is none.
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