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Republicans Tue Oct 05 2010

Dirty Dealings: Infighting & Incriminations Among the Chicago Young Republicans & Chicago GOP

This article was submitted by Michael Volpe.

On June 17, 2009, the Chicago Young Republicans (the CYR) held one of their monthly happy hours. It was a typical night of drinking, networking, and talking politics. When Jeremy Rose, then president of the CYR, woke up the next morning, he thought his biggest problem was the hangover he had from the night before. He didn't know it yet, but the events of the night before would eventually lead to the destruction of his reputation, the end of his political aspirations, and would lead some to call him a "sexual predator."

That night, he and a few others all went back to his place. According to a complaint by an unidentified woman, on the walk home, Rose attempted to put his arm around her and made other sexual advances that made her uncomfortable. Back at his place, Rose continued with more touchy feely behavior that made her even more uncomfortable, and she attempted to leave. Rose attempted to prevent her from leaving, first by taking her cell phone away when she tried to call a cab, then by sitting on her lap when she attempted to leave. Finally, another woman present grabbed her and the two left together.

Nearly two weeks later, the victim sent a formal email of complaint to the head of the Illinois Young Republicans. Rick Veenstra, a high ranking member of the Illinois Young Republicans and an attorney, investigated the matter, contacting the victim as well as Rose. Rose eventually apologized to the victim and the CYR implemented stiffer rules on sexual harassment. Furthermore, Veenstra's report was filed with the CYR where it remains. The victim left the state to take a job and considered the investigation satisfied. All involved assumed the matter was closed with Veenstra's report.

In fact it was, until a special meeting of the Cook County Republican Party apparatus, including its 80 ward committeemen, on June 28, 2010. The meeting was supposed to be about the communication, or lack thereof, between Cook County Republican Chair Lee Roupas and the chair of the Chicago Republican Party, Eloise Gerson. Instead, Gerson used the occasion to accuse Rose of being a sexual predator, to demand his resignation as executive director of the Cook County Republican Party, and to accuse Roupas of ginning up what she characterized as nonexistent problems in an attempt to sweep Rose's actions a year prior under the rug.

The same ward committeemen had met two weeks earlier, on June 12. At the end of that meeting, Roupas held back all the Chicago committeemen who attended for a special "executive session." Even though this was a regularly scheduled meeting, and Gerson is not only the chair of the Chicago GOP but also a committeeman herself, she didn't attend this regularly scheduled meeting. Roupas told the committeemen in attendance that there was a communication breakdown between himself and Gerson. This was a view seconded by Judy Biegelman, a committeeman from the suburbs, who spoke on behalf of the state party. Upon hearing the complaint, many of the committeemen also expressed concerns. For instance, fundraising was an issue. Gerson promised to raise $100,000 for the Chicago Republican Party, but hadn't even raised $1000 over her two years.

Second, ChicagoGOP.com, a site run by Gerson ally Tom Swiss, had run a photo of a naked woman this past April. Worse yet, the event coincided with revelations of another sex scandal at the national RNC. Committeeman John Curry put it succinctly in describing Gerson's reign: "No meetings, no events, no fundraisers." While there were several complaints, the committee people agreed that these issues needed to be held at a special session a couple weeks later, where Gerson could be there to respond.

What Roupas didn't tell the committee people that day was that days earlier, Gerson had complained to him about the case against Rose, now nearly a year old. Gerson's general counsel, Steve Boulton, had known about the complaint for about a year. He'd even once reached out to the campaign of Matt Murphy while Rose worked there, in the fall of 2009, to warn them about it. For reasons that aren't entirely clear, Gerson didn't read the page long complaint until late May.

As soon as Gerson and her allies found out about what Roupas had done at the meeting, they all believed that this was his way of burying Gerson's concern and trying to remove her before she became too much of a problem. Tom Swiss goes further -- he thinks that this is a continuation of a larger ideological war for control of the Chicago Republican Party. He claims that many committeemen complaining about Gerson (for instance Jim Parrilli and John Curry) are "secret Democrats," saying, "We need a civil war in the Chicago Republican Party."

For this reason, at the meeting that followed Roupas' special committee meeting, Gerson responded by accusing Rose of being a sexual predator and claiming this meeting was nothing more than a sham to remove her from the party before she blew the whistle.

Gerson passed out a packet to all in attendance that included the original email documenting the incident a year prior. She again demanded that he resign. Most of the committeemen didn't respond warmly. One said, "Eloise (Gerson), this is wrong. This has nothing to do with this meeting." If the reception was cold, it only grew icier. Upon being questioned, Gerson then stated that she had contacted the victim by phone and that her general counsel, Steve Boulton, was on the call unannounced. Boulton didn't hide his visceral contempt for Rose, though he says they've only met a handful of times. When asked what the source of the contempt was, Boulton cited unnamed individuals in the CYR who told him that Rose was spreading lies about him. He gave no specifics, only vague allegations.

Curry says that upon hearing that Gerson and Boulton had conducted this call, he was outraged. Curry says that he considered Gerson calling up the victim as "ginning this up."

Gerson's attempts to get Rose to resign hit a brick wall at the June 28 meeting. Instead, the committeemen approved the creation of the Chicago Chairman of the Cook County Republican Party who would act as Roupas' liaison to Chicago through the election. All appeared resolved at the end of the meeting and, upon request, all the packets of information against Rose were collected so they wouldn't be leaked to the media.

All appeared fine until July 8. That's when the CYR held the biggest event in its history at the Cubby Bear. The event drew about a thousand people, eclipsing the same event in 2009 which drew 800 people. Almost every Republican candidate and office holder in the Chicagoland area made appearances, including Bill Brady and Mark Kirk. Because of the events less than two weeks earlier, the executive committee of the CYR voted unanimously to not allow Gerson and Boulton into the event if they to showed up. Security was told to act professionally but that their instructions were to stop Gerson and Boulton at the door and inform them that they aren't invited in.

Two days after this slight, Gerson circulated a detailed memo by email to the GOP leadership in Illinois. The memo recounts events that begin with Gerson informing Roupas of the Rose incident and ends with the slight. It's detailed and painstaking, often noting when either she or Roupas didn't reach the other and left a message. The point of the memo: Jeremy Rose is a sexual predator that needs to be removed, Lee Roupas is covering up for him, and as such, he's running a campaign to run her out of the Chicago Republican Party. Two days after this memo was circulated, the website Hillbuzz picked up this story. Immediately after that, Illinois Republican Party leaders all began to receive emails from the addressconcernedgop@hushmail.com. One read, in part,

It has come to our attention that a vicious smear campaign is being launched against Chicago Republican Party Chairman Eloise Gerson. This campaign is in retaliation for her demand that an investigation be launched into allegations of predatory sexual behavior by the Executive Director of the Cook County RepublicanParty and former president of the Chicago Young Republicans, Jeremy Rose. These allegations were brought to the attention of County Chairman Lee Roupas by Ms. Gerson in June of this year. Mr. Roupas had already known about the allegations for over one year, but
failed to investigate their validity.

Both Hillbuzz and these emails, like Gerson's initial memo, continued the same three-pronged narrative. Were these a planned and coordinated effort? The only evidence is the timing and, of course, how curiously and remarkably the message from all three is exactly the same. As Leroy Jethro Gibbs of the TV show "NCIS" would say, "I don't believe in coincidences." All of it reached a crescendo at the end of July, and the media pressure proved too much for Rose. He resigned from his position in the Cook County Republican Party, and stepped down as president of the CYR about two weeks later, issuing this statement:

What happened that evening over a year ago was unacceptable. I sincerely regret my immature behavior and accept full responsibility for any misunderstandings that resulted from my actions. I also regret that this has caused a distraction for the local Republican Party at such a critical juncture. ... Nevertheless, my actions never went beyond social hijinks-- no matter what my political detractors allege. It is unfortunate that disgruntled individuals who are part of a fringe group chose to take out their personal vendettas by attempting to publicly smear me with false allegations. Their treacherous actions have yet again sidetracked the resurgence of the GOP in Chicago. I am confident that we are moving forward from this episode, and that the Party can refocus its effort on giving voters in Illinois a better option this November and beyond.

While Hillbuzz has been the driving force in raising the profile of this story, its proprietor, Kevin Dujan, failed to disclose a conflict of his own. He was a Hillary Clinton supporter who joined the CYR to help John McCain get elected. He stayed on after the election, but in June of 2009 he was considered for the position of fundraising director. When that position went to another member, Dujan had a very public blow-up and wasn't seen by the group again.

Despite achieving their goal, Gerson's allies continue to be paranoid. Her supporter Diane Shapiro initially issued this statement when asked for comment: "I have a strong background in journalism and public speaking (I teach the subject),and know how easy it is to twist words for effect. In order to support an argument you need evidence. Gossip, innuendo and third party 'information' do not constitute evidence in any court of law." Then 40 minutes later she followed up to add, "When the truth is revealed, you will find that you have been used and manipulated by people with personal agendas."

There's an old saying: Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean you aren't right. So maybe Roupas really is secretly trying to take over the Chicago Republican Party, a party that's secretly filled with Democrats. Maybe all the complaints against Gerson are really lodged by Roupas and his secret Democrat allies to accomplish this goal.

On the other hand, maybe Gerson and her allies are just paranoid and all of this is an extension of that paranoia. Then, the problem is Gerson herself. In that case, they've destroyed Jeremy Rose's reputation in a desperate attempt to mask their own incompetence. We all get politics, and control and power within the Chicago Republican Party is important to some. Then again, is it really so important that a young man's reputation should be used as a pawn to control it?

~*~
This feature is supported in part by a Community News Matters grant from The Chicago Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. More information here.
 
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Steve Boulton / October 5, 2010 5:21 PM

Gaper's Block readers:

This is one of the more inaccurate and slanted hit pieces I have seen in a while, but it certainly has enteratinment value, as do most pieces of fiction.

The author leaves out the small fact that Mr. Roupas's June 15 (not June 12) "executive session" was conducted by Chairman Roupas without notice just days after receiving a letter from Eloise Gerson asking for Rose's resignation for misconduct towarda a female volunteer member of his own organization, in a letter sent only to Roupas and State Chairman Pat Brady. Ms. Gerson informed Chariman Roupas in advance that she could not attend the meeting, since she was euthanizing a pet cat that very evening and had inlaws in town to boot. Chicago Executive Director Pete Bella attended in her stead. Chairman roupas knew that Eloise would not be present to defend herself, but went ahead anyway, after Pete Bella had to leave since he was not a Committeeman. As I understand it from accounts, Committeemen nearly came to blows as the attacks mounted, led in part by none other than John Curry.


The June 28th meeting, now known around town as the "Pearl Harbor Meeting", was quite obviously designed by Chairman Roupas, Mr. Rose and others as a surprise attack to oust Ms. Gerson as City Chairman under the false guise of unity, but it failed. Ms. Gerson issued a report to GOP leaders detailing though e-mails and otherwise on how she was misled by Chairman Roupas on the true topic of June 28 meeting. Mr. Volpe might want to check that report out. Everyone else has, including the Republican National Committee.

As far the Chicago GOP under Eloise Gerson, we are doing just fine. We are leading the Brady campaign in Chicago. None other than Tom Swiss is skillfully directing this large effort, which will put out 100,000- 160,000 pieces of Brady literature by Election Day. (If anyone needs a Brady yard sign, feel free to stop by the Blackhawk St. office. We have run through most of the initial shipment, but will have a LOT soon.) Or you can volunteer: I spent a good part of Sunday passing out literature for Senator Brady, the Cook County slate and David Ratowitz in Lakeview. The Chicago GOP is pursuing initiatives in the African-American and Hispanic communites in Chicago. We are lining up Aldermanic Candiates for the February election in Chicago, and perhaps even a Mayoral candidate! (Can't make any promises on that lasty one, though.) Anyone interested should call.

Check us out at www.chicagogop.com. It will be more productive than reading Mr. Volpe's prose.

PV Bella / October 5, 2010 10:32 PM

Too bad you did not publish all the facts. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Though you had the facts, you decided and chose to take the side of the person who retained you, Jeremy Rose.

The only question is how much were you paid to write such an inaccurate piece.

Or, are you the new publicist for the resurrection of Mr. Rose's career?

This is what happens when you deal with charlatans and frauds. You become one.

John / October 6, 2010 7:53 AM

Mr. Volpe called some Gerson supporters paranoid and now they come on here and spin conspiracy theories against all their enemies, including apparently the author.

From reading some other articles, Gerson has received nothing but positive press until this article so it's interesting the response to this one which "dares" to tell the story in another way.

Of course, by commenting this way, you aren't exactly showing the Chicago GOP in a positive light.

Michael Volpe / October 6, 2010 11:10 AM

Ramsin Cannon asked me to respond to the comments. I personally think it does me no good to get into a food fight but here goes.

Mr. Bella claims I missed critical facts but provides no facts I missed. It's hard to respond when the attack is so vague.

Mr. Boulton claims I left out facts that were actually in the piece. I said that Roupas made his initial complaint days after Eloise Gerson complained to him. I also included her memo, and it was even characterized as being in "painstaking detail".

So, again, if there are things I am missing, you can detail them here.

The charge that the Chicago GOP was not performing under the leadership of Eloise Gerson wasn't made by me but by ward committeemen in the Chicago GOP. I simply relayed the charges in laying out the sequence of events that lead to the blow up. That's called laying out context, and is critical in journalism.

If there are other complaints, please feel free to air them.

Tom Mannis / October 16, 2010 3:28 PM

This article offers absolutely nothing of any substance in the way of new information. It is a rehashing of now-old news. Calling Eloise Gerson "paranoid" is not justified given the fact that Rose & Roupas were demonstrably out to get her and she is correct to remain vigilant.

Michael Volpe / October 17, 2010 10:00 AM

Tom's comment is similar to that of Mr. Bella.

It's impossible to answer vague charges with no specifics or examples.

Mr. Mannis was one of several journalists who carried the narrative that Jeremy Rose was a sexual predator and Lee Roupas was protecting him.

Now, he says this article offers nothing new.

In fact, it presents an entirely new perspective on events that he covered in an entirely different manner.

http://rogersparkbench.blogspot.com/2010/07/is-jeremy-rose-still-exec-director-and.html

I'd say that eyewitness testimony from the fateful meeting is new. I'd say that the revelation that Kevin Dujan didn't disclose a massive conflict of interest is new.

I'd say it's new that maybe this wasn't a case of Jeremy Rose being a sexual predator and Lee Roupas was protecting but rather that it's just as possible that Gerson and her allies used this as a trojan horse to protect her leadership, even though it's demonstrable that her leadership is a failure.

I'd say that if it's really demonstrable that Roupas and Rose were out "to get Gerson" Mr. Mannis should provide examples of such. That he didn't speaks for itself.

Mr. Mannis is yet another person to lob ad hominem attacks at me without challenging one fact in my article or offer any other evidence to challenge my piece.

Chicago Republican / November 10, 2010 10:26 PM

Wow

I can tell you this: Do not trust Lee Roupas

He immediately causes trouble - out of nowhere.

Michael Volpe / November 13, 2010 5:34 PM

I think you all should learn what ad hominem is. There have been a series of ad hominem attacks in the comments.

panda / December 8, 2010 6:28 AM

Wow

I can tell you this: Do not trust Kevin DuJan.

He immediately causes trouble - out of nowhere.

And he has a combover.

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