Here’s what happens when the president of the United States publicly targets a private citizen for the crime of supporting his opponent.
Frank VanderSloot is the CEO of Melaleuca Inc. The 63-year-old has run that wellness-products company for 26 years out of tiny Idaho Falls, Idaho. Last August, Mr. VanderSloot gave $1 million to Restore Our Future, the Super PAC that supports Mitt Romney.
Three weeks ago, an Obama campaign website, “Keeping GOP Honest,” took the extraordinary step of publicly naming and assailing eight private citizens backing Mr. Romney. Titled “Behind the curtain: a brief history of Romney’s donors,” the post accused the eight of being “wealthy individuals with less-than-reputable records.” Mr. VanderSloot was one of the eight, smeared particularly as being “litigious, combative and a bitter foe of the gay rights movement.”
About a week after that post, a man named Michael Wolf contacted the Bonneville County Courthouse in Idaho Falls in search of court records regarding Mr. VanderSloot. Specifically, Mr. Wolf wanted all the documents dealing with Mr. VanderSloot’s divorces, as well as a case involving a dispute with a former Melaleuca employee.
Mr. Wolf sent a fax to the clerk’s office—which I have obtained—listing four cases he was after. He would later send a second fax, asking for three further court cases dealing with either Melaleuca or Mr. VanderSloot. Mr. Wolf listed only his name and a private cellphone number.
Some digging revealed that Mr. Wolf was, until a few months ago, a law clerk on the Democratic side of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. He’s found new work. The ID written out at the top of his faxes identified them as coming from “Glenn Simpson.” That’s the name of a former Wall Street Journal reporter who in 2009 founded a D.C. company that performs private investigative work.
The website for that company, Fusion GPS, describes itself as providing “strategic intelligence,” with expertise in areas like “politics.” That’s a polite way of saying “opposition research.”
Political donations don’t come with a right to privacy, and Mr. VanderSloot might have expected a spotlight. Then again, President Obama, in the wake of the Gabby Giffords shooting, gave a national address calling for “civility” in politics. Yet rather than condemn those demeaning his opponent’s donors, Mr. Obama—the nation’s most powerful man—instead publicly named individuals, egging on the attacks. What has followed is the slimy trolling into a citizen’s private life.
Mr. VanderSloot acknowledges that “when I first learned that President Obama’s campaign had singled me out on his ‘enemies list,’ I knew it was like taping a target on my back.” But the more he’s thought it through, “the public beatings and false accusations that followed are no deterrent. These tactics will not work in America.” He’s even “contemplating a second donation.”
Still. If details about Mr. VanderSloot’s life become public, and if this hurts his business or those who work for him, Mr. Obama will bear responsibility. This is what happens when the president makes a list.
Then-candidate for President Barack Obama promised a “change” in how business as usual was done in Washington, DC. It was an obvious lie then, and it’s even more obvious now.
It’s gonna get nastier, too. Gird your loins.