'Kissing congressman' won't ask for FBI probe of video leak. Wise move?

GOP Rep. Vance McAllister's decision not to call in the feds to track down the leaker is Crisis Management 101 for embattled politicians managing a sex scandal: Don't feed the news cycle.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP/File
House Speaker John Boehner (l.) holds a ceremonial swearing-in for newly elected Rep. Vance McAllister (R) of Louisiana, as his wife, Kelly, looks on at the Capitol in Washington on Nov. 21, 2013.

Rep. Vance McAllister (R) of Louisiana has decided that he will not – repeat not – ask federal authorities to investigate who leaked to news media a surveillance video showing him kissing a staff member who is not his wife.

That’s what his hometown paper from Monroe, La., The News-Star, is reporting Wednesday, anyway. Congressman McAllister’s office issued a statement on this question Wednesday afternoon.

“Congressman McAllister’s office will not pursue an FBI investigation at this time regarding the distribution of a video filmed in leased federal office space. Congressman McAllister is focused on earning back the trust of those he has disappointed, and he reiterates his request for privacy for his family during this difficult period,” said the statement.

This marks a turnabout from earlier reports that McAllister would indeed ask the feds to track down the person or persons who exposed his alleged infidelity to the world. The Capitol Police, not the FBI, might have been the relevant agency here, by the way. They handle security for members of Congress. The FBI might have come in later, if at all.

We say the “no go” decision here is a wise one. Look, it’s understandable how McAllister might have wanted to get his mitts on the person who leaked the video, metaphorically speaking. He’s maybe angry and humiliated. His best chance at political survival might be to frame his exposure as a conspiracy carried out by partisan enemies.

And he’s got lots of those, ranging from the Republican and Democratic candidates he defeated to win his Louisiana district in a special election last November to some national groups who consider him insufficiently conservative on such questions as the expansion of Medicaid in his state. (He’s for it.)

But asking for an FBI investigation? Lots of folks in D.C. just shook their heads when they heard that proposal. From a public relations standpoint, what McAllister needs to do is get past the news cycle as quickly as possible, and hope the scandal fades before he faces the voters in a regular election this November.

“Dumb move. Extends news cycle of his cheating,” tweeted Emily Miller, senior opinion editor of The Washington Times, of the possible probe.

Plus, voters in his district aren’t dying to know the identity of the leaker. OK, maybe they are – it’s interesting, in a gossipy kind of way. But McAllister’s own behavior, not somebody else’s, will likely determine his congressional future.

“Something tells me the source of the leaked video is not the question most voters wanted answered in this case,” tweeted Michael Barbaro, political reporter for The New York Times.

Perhaps senior House Republicans advised McAllister that calling in the feds would not be a popular move at the moment. So far, they have kept him at a distance in public but have refrained from calling for his resignation. House majority leader Eric Cantor said on Tuesday, for instance, that he was pleased McAllister had offered an apology to his district, and that he would “reserve further judgment” on the scandal pending developments.

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