The saga of a state senator and #MeToo and an investigation playing out in the hot cauldron of today’s politics calls to mind other stories boiled in that same pot.
A summary of a special investigation shows a pattern of more than questionable behavior but recommends no punitive action. Then the pol being probed claims “exoneration.”
We had the Mueller report with President Donald Trump. Now, it’s the Miller report with Daylin Leach.
(Michael McAuliffe Miller is the name of the lawyer who just presented a summary of an outside law firm’s investigation of Leach to state Senate Democrats.)
Or, how about a darling of the progressive left and women’s rights, a senator known for humor, who runs afoul of the women’s movement and is forced to resign from office?
Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota took his leave. Now there’s growing pressure on Leach, a Democratic state senator from Montgomery County, a champion of the left and women’s issues, also known for (sometimes sexual) humor, to do the same.
An irony? Franken resigned on Dec. 7, 2017. The first Inquirer story detailing multiple allegations against Leach was published 10 days later.
“It is quite a story,” Leach tells me.
It is. A sprawling tale of serious stuff inviting visceral reaction.
Alleged sexual assault, inappropriate jokes and touching, involving several women by a 16-year incumbent lawmaker who’s a lawyer, a married father of teens, and a former candidate for Congress who has moved the women’s movement against him, and many Democratic colleagues as well.
Gov. Tom Wolf, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, Democratic Senate Leader Jay Costa, Treasurer Joe Torsella, Auditor General Gene DePasquale, Democratic Party leaders, and a long list of fellow lawmakers all want Leach out.
And there are ongoing calls for resignation or Senate expulsion. If he survives all this, how effective a legislator might he be going forward?
There’s also anger, especially from women who see a cover-up after Senate foot-dragging to protect the institution’s image (such as it is). And, of course, a conspiracy theory.
Leach says he is a victim of modern-day McCarthyism, a “coordinated effort,” he says, to “weaponize the #MeToo movement” while denying him due process.
This he says in the face of a months-long investigation by the Eckert Seamans law firm, likely costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, a summary of which finds “no evidence” of actionable harassment in “violation of applicable law.”
The full report hasn’t been released. Senate insiders say there’s more to come.
But Leach says he won’t resign no matter who demands it. He’s seeking reelection next year. He even put out a fund-raising email saying the investigation “absolved” him of “false charges.”
Meanwhile, he claims Democratic Senate Leader Costa is pressing resignation to prevent “embarrassment” to “some very powerful people,” including Wolf and Fetterman, who called for Leach’s ouster before the investigation.
When I sought a response, Costa’s office issued a statement calling Leach’s claim a “complete and total fabrication.” It says the law firm’s findings note that Leach’s behavior “could potentially constitute a hostile workplace.” And, “In Sen. Costa’s view, the totality of the evidence displays a course of conduct over several years that is demeaning, troubling, and unacceptable.”
The outside probe came after a woman claimed that Leach, in 1991, before he was a lawmaker, lured her into oral sex when she was 17 and he was representing her mother in a criminal case. Leach strongly denies this. Calls it “fiction.”
The Inquirer has reported that eight women and three men claim Leach inappropriately touched female campaign staffers, and subjected them to sexualized jokes and conversation. Leach basically says he meant no harm, has apologized to those offended by sexual jokes, and pledges to do better.
Sounds familiar, huh?
But questions remain.
Is this a story of a serial offender of ugly behavior unbecoming a public official, let alone a person of character with even minimal social consciousness? And is there further evidence of same?
Or is it more a case of a 57-year-old guy caught up in the politics of his time, a time when women rightly and forcefully no longer tolerate historically horrible treatment by men?
Either way it’s quite a story. Of anger, bitterness, and likely litigation.