Reporter's notebook

Why We Care That A Congressman Browbeat His Constituent Over A Facebook Post

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August 29, 2018 3:03 pm

TPM’s most recent report on the signature forgery scandal in Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District started with a brief email.

“I am the person who found the first forgery (my best friend who moved to Vegas in 2013),” Lindsey Terry wrote. “Scott Taylor saw my post and called me threatening a lawsuit on behalf of Heather [Guillot, one of Taylor’s campaign staffers accused of forging signatures].”

It was a startling claim, but one borne out not only in on-the-record interviews with Terry, but also in interviews with two more Virginia Beach Democrats and the victim of the first alleged forgery, Eileen Eady.

Taylor himself even confirmed aspects of it, though not with TPM of course.

In a since-deleted video and tweet following Terry’s claim, he said the allegation of signature forgery was defamatory, and that Guillot should sue those who allege it. And in a Twitter exchange with Terry, he said he’d deleted the tweet “after we spoke.”

Why does this matter? Two reasons.

First, the contact between Taylor and Terry on Aug. 3 shows that Taylor was invested in his staffers’ fate, to the point of getting extraordinarily personally involved over a tweet and a Facebook post. Why? Either he knew the extent of the soon-to-be-alleged forgeries and was trying to get out in front of the story, or he didn’t know the extent of the story, but, regardless, was more concerned about his staff than about election integrity.

Second, it shows that he had knowledge of the alleged forgeries in the earliest days of the story. Four days after he spoke to Terry, Taylor told WAVY: “I’m still learning facts, like you are.”

If he was telling the truth, and Aug. 3 was the first he heard about alleged forgeries, the congressman had neglected to maintain his campaign’s integrity and, in the very best case, wasn’t able to get a handle on the problem in the four days that followed his call with Terry.

If Taylor was lying to WAVY, it means he may have been more aware of the forgery scheme than he’s let on.

Taylor has said that he fired a campaign consultant as a result of the signature scandal, but he still hasn’t said who. (He’s never answered TPM’s questions.) Three staffers of his, at least, are alleged to have forged signatures. Two of them, at least, likely still work for the campaign.

We’ll find out after the next campaign finance filing deadline, Oct. 15, who Taylor is still paying. Voters deserve greater scrutiny of Taylor’s secrecy, defensiveness and — as evidenced in his call to Terry — bullying.

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