AP Photo/Richard Drew
Monday, June 6, 2011 | 5:33 p.m.
WASHINGTON - The House’s top Democrat has called for an official ethical inquiry into Rep. Anthony Weiner’s sexually-charged social media affairs, and it appears a Las Vegas woman could be key to determining whether he just broke a moral code, or broke congressional rules.
After more than a week of speculation and dodging questions, Weiner confirmed in a news conference today that he had sent photos of his pelvic area via Twitter to 21-year-old Gennette Coleman in Washington state last month. He also informed reporters that he had been engaging in online affairs, via Facebook, Twitter and text messaging, with five other women for the past three years — and that he had been lying about his involvement to his wife, staff, constituents and the media.
Although it was the photo tweeted to a 21-year-old that set off the scandal, emerging details of the New York Democrat’s exchanges with 40-year-old Lisa Weiss, a blackjack dealer from Las Vegas and a former Democratic campaign volunteer, that are threatening to draw him into a congressional ethics nightmare.
As first reported by entertainment news outlets RadarOnline and Star, Weiner and Weiss began exchanging explicit Facebook messages and text messages Aug. 13.
The subject matter usually appeared to be Weiner’s erections, of which he offered to send her a picture March 16, 2 1/2 months before the scandal broke. The picture was never sent, but she and Weiner exchanged about 220 messages, according to Weiss. In one, she wrote: “the anticipation of ... you is driving me crazy! Come to Vegas.”
Although morally questionable and politically damaging, the exchange of text messages isn’t in itself potentially career-ending (Weiner said today he wouldn’t resign). What is professionally damning for Weiner is that Weiss also says they traded messages during regular work hours, when he was supposedly engaged in official business, and had a 30-minute sexual conversation by telephone on what she alleges was an official congressional phone line.
“I gave him my number, and he called me from his office,” she told RadarOnline and Star. “A few days later, I tried to call him back on that number. But the number wouldn’t connect to his office; instead, there was a recorded message that it was an outgoing U.S. Congress line only.”
She then sent him her number over Facebook, and when Weiner realized he’d missed her call, he sent her the following message: “How did I miss this chance to rock your world by phone? Give me another chance! Stalk me baby. Very hot.”
At a news conference today, Weiner said he conducted all exchanges with the various women with whom he kept lewd correspondence on an unofficial BlackBerry and his home computer. “I don’t believe that I used any government resources,” he told reporters.
But Weiner also admitted that he’d lied to protect himself from embarrassment and potential political trouble.
“I haven’t told the truth ... and I’ve done things I deeply regret,” he said, adding: “I don’t think I did anything here that violates any law or any oath to my constituents ... This was me doing a dumb thing, doing it repeatedly, and then lying about it.”
But at least one top Democrat doesn’t appear to be taking him solely on his word.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called on the House Ethics Committee today to launch a formal investigation of Weiner’s actions — including whether he used taxpayer-funded resources to conduct his online affairs.
“I am calling for an Ethics Committee investigation to determine whether any official resources were used or any other violation of House rules occurred,” Pelosi said in a statement shortly after Weiner’s news conference.
Sex scandals are becoming an ongoing sideshow in Congress: John Edwards’ recent indictment by the Justice Department after carrying on an affair with a campaign staffer that resulted in a child; the still-percolating potential investigations against former Nevada Sen. John Ensign over his affair with a campaign staffer who was also his best friend and top congressional aide’s wife.
If an investigation is launched against Weiner, it’s not likely it will rise to the level of those inquiries, absent more compromising information. He isn’t accused of siphoning campaign money to pay for illicit engagements, or using his authority over employees to commence affairs: according to Weiner, he “never had a physical relationship” with any of the six women with whom he traded notes, or ever even met them in person. He also added that “they were all adults to the best of my knowledge,” though “all I know is what they published about themselves in social media.”
But Weiss’ testimony could prove key in any potential investigation, as she is the only participant or witness to Weiner’s conduct who has alleged he engaged in activity that would violate congressional ethics rules.
Weiss provided RadarOnline and Star unfettered access to her Facebook account.
The Sun was unable to reach Weiss today.
Based on her republished notes, she lives in the Las Vegas area. But sources in the Nevada Democratic Party said they had no record of Weiss volunteering for the party.
Weiss told RadarOnline and Star that she’d had no intention of outing Weiner, but that when he didn’t return messages she sent him over the past week since allegations of misconduct broke, she changed her mind.
“He was a dog and didn’t return my messages,” she told RadarOnline. “I discovered that Anthony is a bad man ... and a liar.”
Weiss apparently tried to give her story to MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show,” a politically focused outlet, Friday via Twitter. But the show either didn’t move or didn’t bite when she tweeted: “@maddow have a juicy political story i wnt to give u! how do i contact ur show?”
Weiner is one of the more liberal members of the House Democratic caucus, and Weiss too, is a die-hard Democrat. Her Twitter feed reveals public exchanges with Weiner going back to August 14, the day after the private contact allegedly began, when Weiss told @RepWeiner: "from one proud dem to another...you rock!!" She would later tell Weiner he should run for President.
She also expressed chagrin, the day of President Obama's State of the Union address this January, that Weiner would have to sit next to his Republican colleagues, in the unorthodox every-other-seat mixed arrangement than members of Congress agreed to for the annual event, tweeting: "eeewww!u have sit with one of them?"
But while her Twitter entries reveal Weiss' intense loathing for Republicans, it also reveals an intense lust for liberal public figures and celebrities, in the most sexually-charged sense of the word.
On that list is another well-known politician currently mired in an ethics scandal -- but while the news of Edwards' relationship with his campaign videographer shocked most when it was revealed two years ago, it appeared to excite Weiss. "jon edwards has been a very bad boy...but I would still bang him!" she wrote. She later added: "who cares if john edwards had a fling? love that democrats are always screwing!repubs just screw the middle class!"
There are also several messages directed toward Comedy Central's late-night host Stephen Colbert, ranging from "can i lick you and see if you're okay?"
Those communications appear to go in just one direction, however; at least publicly, Weiss doesn't appear to have heard back from any of her favored political celebrities, other than Weiner.