Days after sexual misconduct allegations targeting out gay Massachusetts congressional candidate Alex Morse were exposed as a homophobic smear campaign, it was revealed that state party officials who called for a probe into the case were actually assisting those behind the attack.
Then, just when the dust finally started to settle, the LGBTQ Victory Fund called out two more new developments on August 17: First, voters in Massachusetts’ First Congressional District apparently started receiving calls from unknown interviewers carrying out a “push poll” asking whether they would support Morse if he sent sexually explicit emails to college students. And on August 12, ads sponsored by A Case for Women — an organization dedicated to helping women through legal action — started surfacing on Facebook warning of “predatory” behavior and asking folks to come forward with allegations against Morse, according to screenshots posted by Ryan Grim of the Intercept.
A Case for Women is led by Susan Knape, who also founded Susan Knape Associates, Inc., which she describes as “a nationally recognized communication firm for law firms and companies that support doing good things to help good people.” Knape’s LinkedIn page states that A Case for Women “works with leading US plaintiff law firms to help them connect with and ultimately represent women who have been injured physically or otherwise.”
The attacks on Morse first emerged earlier this month when students involved with the College Democrats of Massachusetts leveled the accusations against Morse, a former adjunct professor at UMass Amherst who is currently the mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts. The group wrote an open letter to Morse, first published by UMass’ campus paper, the DailyCollegian.com, saying he matched with students “as young as 18 years old” on dating apps and used “his position of power for romantic or sexual gain.”
The letter went on to accuse Morse, who is challenging House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal in the September 1 primary, of “using College Democrats events to meet college students and add them on Instagram, adding them to his ‘Close Friends’ story and DMing them, both of which have made young college students uncomfortable.”
However, the case started unraveling almost immediately: Morse’s encounters were consensual, no specific individuals put forth any allegations, he did not appear to violate UMass policy, and the letter was roundly blasted for feeding into false stereotypes labeling gay men as predators.
Another twist subsequently surfaced when The Intercept reported that leaders of that club sought to end up with an opportunity to work for Neal.
Now it has been revealed that Massachusetts Democratic Party executive director Veronica Martinez and chair Gus Bickford, who had called for an investigation into the case, were actually the ones who put students involved with the group in touch with attorneys who then helped them craft the controversial letter, The Intercept reported, citing documents the publication obtained.
Neal, armed with deep ties to establishment Democrats and the support of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in his re-election bid, has denied any involvement in the smear campaign, but party leaders are now shrouded in controversy because they are supposed to remain neutral in primary races and certain aren’t supposed to be pulling dirty tricks.
Three sources told the Intercept that the party leaders spoke to the group during the weeks leading up to the letter’s publication and directed them to Jim Roosevelt, a prominent Democratic attorney who is the grandson of Franklin D. Roosevelt. But Martinez sought to distance those party leaders from the situation by insisting that they only referred the students to legal counsel and then “had no further involvement in the matter.”
But Roosevelt has longstanding ties to Neal, chipping in to his campaigns in 2008 and 2016. In another sign that he is no friend of Morse and his progressive agenda, Roosevelt, who is co-chairing the Democratic National Convention’s Credentials Committee this year and previously held the same role in 2016, has a tendency to resist some in the party’s left flank. Roosevelt is also a former CEO for Tufts Health Plan, a major health insurance company — a relevant factor considering Neal’s opposition to Medicare For All and Morse’s support of it.
Furthermore, it appeared that Roosevelt was working behind the scenes to amplify the letter in a much more public way than the College Democrats originally intended. Some members, according to the Intercept, were caught off guard when the letter was published.
Yet, according to the Intercept, members of College Democrats were seeking out ways to direct unfavorable media attention toward Morse’s dating life as early as April when a Business Insider reporter, Grace Panetta, was contacted by an email address called firstname.lastname@example.org. The reporter opted against pursuing a story, but said names of College Democrats of Massachusetts members and their email addresses were included in the email.
The LGBTQ Victory Fund, which works to elect queer individuals nationwide, has continued to defend Morse throughout the course of the allegations. The group most recently blasted those who are perpetuating the homophobic campaign to derail his candidacy through social media ads and polls.
“This push poll and these digital ads are the latest in a series of orchestrated political attacks meant to weaponize Alex’s sexuality and appeal to a homophobic narrative around the sex lives of LGBTQ people,” the Victory Fund’s senior political director, Sean Meloy, said in a written statement. “It is evident that those involved in this plot planned to unleash these homophobic forces and setup a campaign of slander as ballots hit mailboxes. While the lies and coverups are being exposed, primary day is just two weeks away and the attacks continue, just as the perpetrators intended. It is essential that voters in the First Congressional District learn the source or sources of these attacks so they can make an informed decision about who they want as their next member of Congress.”
A Case for Women did not immediately return a phone call and Facebook message seeking comment on August 17.
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