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.

Bob PackwoodWelcome 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.

recent Bob PackwoodSo, 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.

by Everett Maroon
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Everett Maroon is a memoirist, essayist, and fiction writer originally from New Jersey and now living in Walla Walla, Washington. His blog is transplantportation.com and he tweets at @EverettMaroon.

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22 Comments Have Been Posted


As a native Oregonian, I have a special relationship to the RIDICULOUSLY CREEPY CREEPINESS of Bob Packwood. I'm so glad you chose him for your "Where are they now?" series!

It's interesting that you point out the ways in which this case brought visibility to workplace sexual harassment. Though I was just a kid when Packwood was outed as a Xerox perv, I remember that being a real turning point, even just for the phrase "sexual harassment" becoming more commonplace.

Now I will go and try to erase the image of Packwood's sinewy arms from my brain. No easy task, since they are "always bulging with desire."

Kelsey Wallace, Web Editor

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Gross. Was he writing his

Gross. Was he writing his diary or some really bad porn?

It really is amazing that "if she didn't want to get felt up she shouldn't have entered the copy room" ever seemed like a good argument. Three cheers for progress.

regarding his writing, at

regarding his writing, at least he didn't use a lot of bad similies.
my biceps, bulging like heavy water balloons.

You're right -- copying, the

You're right -- copying, the sexiest of all sexy office work. Also, a "room full of radical feminists" to "boff?" Cause that's what all radical feminists want -- a good old boffing. Be still my radical heart.

I can only echo you Kristy, gross, incredibly gross.

We need to reclaim sexy

We need to reclaim sexy copying. Packwood can't have our administrative sexy.

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Boffing is just such an

Boffing is just such an arbitrary word choice for intercourse. It's so . . . 1950s. That's how we do sexual harassment in the 50s, folks! We write about boffing the chicks!

Xerox perv! I just snorted

Xerox perv! I just snorted my water. Meanwhile, I bet Xerox didn't like the association! Maybe that's why we talking about copying instead of "xeroxing" now...

Wow, for a second I was

Wow, for a second I was like, "What is Darrin from Bewitched doing here."

Ev, you're amazing as always. Packwood (pun-a-licious) is one of those stories that gets lost amongst the stallwarts like Larry Craig and John Edwards.

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

ZOMG, I knew that face

ZOMG, I knew that face looked familiar! First Darren, not the second, right?

A third Darren?

WHOA you nailed it, snarky! I wouldn't have put that together, but he *does* look like Darren! Can't decide if that makes his bicep descriptions more or less creepy...

Kelsey Wallace, Web Editor

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now I'm snorting water! I guess it's some kind of marker that workplace harassment is so accepted now as <i>unacceptable</i> that the outrageousness is laughable.

(and yes, that was basically the exact reverse of what Everett said in his great post).

it's a good point,

it's a good point, Kjerstin—the diary is so far afield from acceptable behavior that it does mark some kind of progress. I mean, there was a time when "quid pro quo" and "hostile work environment" weren't understood as the ways in which workplace harassment takes place.

I love this series

Ev, I am so excited you are hosting "Where Are They Now?" for politico geeks. Because while I don't *really* want to ring up Bob Packwood now, I am still curious plus I want our collective short term memory to not be so short term!


Fixing the memory problem is

Fixing the memory problem is one of my main reasons for writing these assclowns up here, in fact! I also hope to show toward the middle of this series that these are not just individual moments of bad behavior in an otherwise right and proper political machine, but that the parties both engender this behavior as part of their structure. But more on that at the end of June...

I don't know why I'm shocked

I don't know why I'm shocked at his writings but I am. I thought they were a joke at first. He so obviously wrote as though people would read them some day. And he actually thought what he was doing was ok & maybe even something to be proud of & envied. Wow. Where can I find more of these diary entries? Did he ever get this published? That would have been one way to move out of the trailer

I've only found a scant few

I've only found a scant few excerpts online, which is somewhat surprising because they're so horribly amazing that one would think they'd have been well leaked by now. But I do have a side mission to keep looking. I agree that he wrote them in such a way as to be read by someone else someday. In one of the sources I looked through for this article, I did read that he expected they would be published after his death.

When they make the movie -

When they make the movie - believe me, they will - I only hope that Anthony Hopkins can evoke some of his M:I-2 cheekiness in the voiceover of the diary excerpts.

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Ooh, Hopkins. I'd love to

Ooh, Hopkins. I'd love to see Martin Short as Newt Gingrich.

The producers of "The

The producers of "The Pirates of Silicon Valley" should be all over this project. They seemed to know how to make the subject look silly, while not making "silly" of the subject's problematic behavior.

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

I'm not sure if that's the

I'm not sure if that's the best or worst pull quote ever. I am usually a big forearm fan, and it made/is making my bile rise.

My condolences for your

My condolences for your esophagus. I couldn't resist the quote, though, even as miserable as it is. Perhaps we need to reclaim forearm muscles for everyone.

I was skimming over this

I was skimming over this when I caught sight of the forearm line. My initial reaction was, "Oh, it's a blog on really bad erotica writing." Also, how exactly does a forearm bulge with desire? Am I the only geek who sees a serious anatomical mistake here? (I am kidding--I just thought it so, so, so ridiculous that I felt I needed to point it out.)

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