Vance McAllister’s new problem: His own party
By: John Bresnahan and Jake Sherman and James Hohmann
April 9, 2014 11:24 AM EDT
Republicans are beginning to nudge GOP Rep. Vance McAllister out of Congress.
Just two days after video footage of him in a romantic encounter with a staffer became public, the state Republican chairman has tried unsuccessfully to reach McAllister by telephone to encourage him to resign, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation.
Meanwhile, in Washington, several top House Republican leadership officials do not believe the first-term Republican can survive this scandal.
And the Louisiana Republican delegation — many of whom have not heard from McAllister or his staff since the scandal erupted — are beginning to sound sharply skeptical tones about his political future.
”I haven’t heard from him at all,” said Rep. Charles Boustany, the senior-most member of the Louisiana House delegation. “Haven’t heard from him, haven’t heard from his staff. I know what I saw in the press. This is a serious situation. It’s a very serious situation that needs to be looked into.”
Boustany added: “This is just horrible behavior unbecoming of a member of Congress. He’s got to come clean.”
There’s an oft-used strategy for surviving a scandal of this nature, and McAllister is not following it, Republicans say. That he has not reached out to his GOP colleagues illustrates that.
When Louisiana GOP chairman Roger Villere Jr. left a message for McAllister, he heard back from the congressman’s chief of staff, Adam Terry. A source familiar with the call said it was “heated” and that the chairman hung up.
Insiders say the state party apparatus will almost certainly become more vocal later this week if Villere does not get more satisfying answers from McAllister.
Top GOP officials have become increasingly frustrated with how McAllister is handling the scandal. Early Wednesday, his staff indicated they would ask for an FBI investigation, saying the release of surveillance footage was a “serious breach.” Later in the day, they dropped that request.
“Congressman McAllister’s office will not pursue an FBI investigation at this time regarding the distribution of a video filmed in leased federal office space,” his staff said. “Congressman McAllister is focused on earning back the trust of those he has disappointed, and he reiterates his request for privacy for his family during this difficult period.”
Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who publicly said McAllister was right to apologize, has spoken briefly with the Louisiana Republican.
The video, which was released in the News Star, a local paper, had him in a romantic embrace with Melissa Hixon Peacock, his scheduler, in his Monroe, La., district office. Peacock, who was married, no longer works for the congressman.
McAllister, who is married with five children, replaced former Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.) in November 2013. He has apologized for the affair, but has not voted in the House at all this week.
Bill Land, who owns the building where McAllister’s office is located, told POLITICO that neither he nor his employees leaked the video. Land said the leak probably came from someone on McAllister’s staff.
The News-Star reported that a local pastor claimed McAllister’s district manager leaked the tape to two former Alexander allies, but they vehemently deny the allegation. And the aide named by the News-Star in its report remains on McAllister’s payroll.
Peacock’s husband, Heath Peacock, told CNN and other publications that his wife’s extramarital relationship with McAllister has left him “devastated” and he plans to seek a divorce.
Rep. John Fleming (R-La.), said when a scandal of this nature breaks, regardless of party affiliation, it affects everyone
“It does affect our image, our brand, even congress in general,” he said in an interview. “It gives off this idea that we’re frivolous, that we’re not serious, we’re up to no good. So, you know, again, but we’re all human too, we all have frailties.”