On This Day 

 November 22, 2012

By  Jana Hassett

Writing every day is part of my daily schedule. Work on my historical fiction is slow as I scan all the photos and outline the text, section by section.  Each segment tends to create its own start and stop and then I find myself without a focus for the days writing.  I decided that for the next year I’ll look to #OnThisDay to spark writing ideas and see where it takes me.

I was pulled back to a previous life when I read “#OnThisDay, Nov 21st, 1992 U.S. Senator Robert Packwood apologized to the many women he had sexually assaulted over the years.”  The Washington Post story detailed claims of sexual abuse and assault by 10 women, chiefly former staffers and lobbyists.  Over the next three years the subject of his removal, resignation and replacement proved to be the focus during hours of discussion.  Would he go, would he stay, who would run, would a replacement be appointed, etc.

Finally, in September of 1995, after the Senate Ethics Committee unanimously recommended he be expelled from the Senate for ethical misconduct, he resigned.  He had been dogged by the press, the politicos and his wife of 30 years.  Then the debate over whom the Governor might appoint to replace him or call for a general election ensued.  As Chair of the Democratic Party of Oregon and staffer to Cong. Peter DeFazio, my hope was an appointment (Obviously of my boss) but Gov. Kitzhaber chose differently.  Cong. Ron Wyden ended up getting the job, I ended up resigning from the Chairmanship, and Senator Packwood ended up in divorce court.

It was that battle that generated his new nickname.  When challenging in court the amount of alimony she would get for the rest of her life Senator Packwood told the judge he couldn’t afford to pay her what she was asking.  He was so poor he could only afford a basement apartment.  At that time, basement apartments with street access were more expensive than most others.  He was known as “Basement Bob” by Democratic Party wonks from then on.  Peter went back to being a Congressman, and Sen. Packwood later married his long-time Chief of Staff, Elaine Franklin.

Wikipedia cited an article Mark Zusman did in 2009, for the Williamette Week.  The interview with Senator Packwood was short but informative.  He spoke about the rules and how when you break them you have to expect consequences.  In his 70’s he’s a lobbyist and still married to Elaine.  You can read the article for yourself at www.wweek.com/portland/article-11009-bob-packwood.html. Cong. DeFazio and Sen. Wyden are still in Congress and I live in a remote town in Southern Utah where I create beadweavings and write.


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