What was that important business meeting Rep. Cynthia McKinney said she was rushing to when she bypassed the security desk and metal detectors in the Longworth House Office Building? That’s one unanswered question that some Republicans on the House Administration Committee would like to see resolved, particularly since it appears that that committee’s ranking member, Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald (CA), a friend of McKinney’s, has brought the committee into the middle of the growing scandal.
McKinney has stated only that she was in a hurry to do the work of her constituents, and has thus far declined to cooperate with her colleagues in explaining her actions. That might be one reason Millender-McDonald appeared to be attempting to tamp down internal House actions against her friend.
Millender-McDonald contacted the House Sergeant at Arms last Wednesday night when rumors were flying that McKinney was facing an arrest warrant. The House Administration Committee oversees the Sergeant-at-Arms office, which in turn oversees the Capitol Hill security operations. Millender-McDonald was said to have participated on a conference call with the Sergeant-at-Arms office, as well as placed a second call about the McKinney affair to that office.
“I wouldn’t say that she was attempting to put pressure on the Sergeant-at-Arms,” says a House Republican leadership aide. “But by then Democrats were becoming nervous that McKinney was going to be out of control on this story, and some Democrats very much wanted to help her by getting this story put into a box. I think that’s what Millender-McDonald was trying to do, get enough information so that her leadership could make this story go away, and to calm down McKinney.”
That attempt failed, when McKinney, after speaking with outside advisers, decided to play the race card and turn the spotlight on the Capitol Hill police who are paid to protect her. By Friday evening, McKinney was claiming that it was racist security practices on Capitol Hill — and racial profiling — that was to blame for what she termed “inappropriate” touching.
When word of McKinney’s actions reached House Democratic leadership, they asked staff to investigate. “It sounded like classic McKinney,” says a House Democratic leadership aide. “But the Capitol Hill police weren’t happy about it, and they weren’t going to keep the story under wraps. Too many people knew about it.”
House Democratic leadership is unsure of what to do, according to sources. They have been told by members of the House Black Caucus that McKinney has told them that the purpose of the P.R. campaign on which she has embarked is mainly to ensure her own party will not move against her, while also keeping her in the news. “I think she fears on some level that this event could end her political career,” says the Democratic leadership aide. “Let’s be honest, the only reason that she was elected was that there were no better Democrats to put up against her last time out.” (Denise Majette, who had defeated McKinney in 2002, vacated the seat to make an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate in 2004.)
Officially, police are saying that McKinney refused to stop after being politely asked to do so three separate times. McKinney was not wearing her House member’s pin. She is well known in Capitol Hill police circles for not wearing her pin, and for being at times difficult. She previously during her first terms in Congress had run-ins with Capitol Hill security, and in 2005 had a camera crew in tow to document yet another run-in with Capitol Hill police.
Some law enforcement types on the Hill believe McKinney has used these situations in the past to garner more attention for herself. Indeed, on Friday night, McKinney’s press conference received live, national coverage. Her staff posted a video of the 2005 incident on McKinney’s website last Thursday.
She is also a poster child for the loony left. Her failure to win re-election in 2002 was in part the result of her insistence to spread unsubstantiated rumors in media circles that President Bush had advance knowledge of the September 11, 2001 attacks. And her reputation and past actions played into the decision by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi not to give McKinney her seniority standing upon her return to Congress after the 2004 elections.
“Democrats want this story to just go away,” says the House Democratic leadership aide. “Once the whole story comes out, it’s just going to make us all look bad. There was no good reason for any of this to have happened, as far as we could tell.”