Thursday, May 29, 2008

Teahen Says Charges Risk Safety

Anti-Teahen Charges Echo Across Blogs

An email from a one-time disaster relief colleague of 2nd Congressional District candidate Peter Teahen, charging the Cedar Rapids Republican with misconduct and dishonesty on a relief mission in Darfur, is false and dangerous to his family, the candidate told Iowa Independent. Teahen also alleged that the campaign of one of his rivals in Tuesday's primary is behind the distribution of the email from British disaster worker David Tredrea. A spokesman for Mariannette Miller-Meeks denies the charge.

"I consider him a threat to my life and to the safety of my family," Teahen said of David Tredrea, who worked with Teahen last year in Darfur. "It is irresponsible of the Miller-Meeks campaign to be distributing this information." Teahen said Tredrea had called the third candidate in the race, but "Lee Harder knew better than to touch it."

"For Mr. Teahen to attempt to claim that our campaign is directing this individual's actions is completely false," said Miller-Meeks campaign manager Todd Versteegh, who said Tredrea himself distributed the charges. "But, as we've seen so clearly in this campaign, Mr. Teahen is quite capable of promoting his own falsehoods, so this comes as no surprise."

Democrats have joined the fray, too, charging Teahen with résumé padding and improper commercials.

Teahen said that he is working with the FBI and Great Britain's Scotland Yard in dealing with Tredrea and that he has no-contact orders against Tredrea. "It's lies," Teahen said. "If you read it, it doesn't make a lot of sense. It's the comments and words of someone that's not being rational."

The charges cut to the core of Teahen's biography as a Red Cross disaster relief spokesman. "Some of your recent claims about Darfur are complete fantasy -- like looking into machine guns and being physically close to the Janjaweed bandits," Tredrea writes, citing an Iowa Independent article. Tredrea also charges that Teahen has padded his résumé and credentials in several places. "He wants us to see him as an Indiana Jones replacement, swashbuckler, universal hero and amazing international humanitarian," writes Tredrea. "His claims and ambitions are very enticing and impressive -- but what if his true reality is more like that of a Walter Mitty character?"

A Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) email sent Thursday afternoon repreated the résumé-padding charges, and cited Tredrea. Democrats have also filed a Federal Election Commission complaint against Teahen, charging that ads for his funeral home were misleading and that they appeared to be campaign commercials. Democratic interest in Teahen is noteworthy, since he's not yet, and may not be, Loebsack's fall opponent.

Teahen says he's run similar ads, with the tagline "I'm Peter Teahen, and I'm proud to be an American," since 9/11. "The media company, the TV station and the radio station all signed affidavits saying we did not violate the law," said Teahen. "We were off the air 47 days before the primary." Federal law requires such ads to vanish from the airwaves 45 days before an election. Two years ago, 1st Congressional District candidate Mike Whalen faced a similar complaint from a primary rival. Consulting firm Victory Enterprises, headed by former Iowa Republican chair Steve Grubbs, worked for both Whalen and Teahen.

One of Tredrea's more colorful charges is that Teahen demanded a high-class hotel and, very specifically, ice cold Diet Pepsi, in Darfur. Teahen says he was placed in a secure place to protect him from Tredrea. "He was more dangerous than the rebels," he said.

"Why would a guy from Great Britain want to be to be involved in this kind of thing?" Teahen said of Tredrea's interest in the Iowa congressional race. When asked if Tredrea had some sort of mental health issue, Teahen did not directly answer but repeated that he was working with the FBI and Scotland Yard on the matter. He also said he was concerned that further publicizing Tredrea's allegations would increase the risk to himself and his family.

The charges are being widely distributed across Iowa's conservative blogosphere, where Teahen has attracted significant vitriol in both posts and comments. In addition to Tredrea's charges, which Teahen firmly denies, there are other points of contention that Teahen freely acknowledges: his past party affiliation as a Democrat and donations to Democratic candidates. Battleground Iowa published Tredrea's charges in full and called Teahen "a disaster waiting to happen." A recently revived Krusty Konservative, the state's top "konservative" blog until going on hiatus a year ago, has published three anti-Teahen posts in the past week.

Teahen noted that the posts and comments appear similar. "The information that comes out appears to be supported by one of the campaigns," he said. "People from her campaign are calling up radio shows," he said of Miller-Meeks supporters.

Versteegh said the Miller-Meeks campaign first learned of the charges when Tredrea blind-copied the email to the campaign's webmaster.

Teahen says his message is still getting through despite the distractions. "Our poll numbers show us strong, and every indication is that the word is getting out," he said. "People are rejecting negative campaigning."

The Miller-Meeks campaign is also confident. Versteegh cited recent endorsements from the Iowa City Press-Citizen, the Ottumwa Courier and the Coralville Courier blog.

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