Lane Hudson, the blogger who broke the Mark Foley sex scandal last summer, is back in the news after tipping the Secret Service off to threats on Bill O'Reilly's website and filing a complaint against former Sen. Fred Thompson's not-so campaign.
Last year, as America prepared for the 2006 elections, voters were increasingly miffed with the Bush administration over Iraq and a host of questionable mandates (like Dick Cheney watching you from your neighbor's gardenias). The last thing the GOP needed was another scandal. Unfortunately for them, Hudson, a College of Charleston alum, had gotten word of a Congressman inappropriately courting former pages and he'd had enough of the hypocrisy.
He launched StopSexPredators.blogspot.com and sought out information from former pages who had been victims of Rep. Mark Foley. Though he developed the site anonymously, once it became a national scandal, Hudson was eventually revealed.
Nearly a year later, Hudson has returned to the political spotlight with a new blog, www.newsfortheleft.blogspot.com, and new targets — Bill O'Reilly and Fred Thompson — but his mission is still to shine a light on right-wing hypocrisy.
O'Reilly had been ranting on his popular FOX News talk show about some offensive comments on DailyKos, a veritable blogosphere headquarters for the progressive movement. He ramped up his criticism in July as a progressive convention named YearlyKos drew near.
When Sen. Chris Dodd and others suggested on O'Reilly's show that his own website had problems with questionable comments from readers, the host balked at the accusations, claiming that such comments were quickly purged from his site.
After reading about one post on O'Reilly's site where a person opposed to Sen. Hillary Clinton had stated, "If you could read my thoughts, I would be on the SS (Secret Service) watch list," Hudson contacted the Secret Service's internet section.
"I wanted to change the context of the debate," he says.
The move enraged O'Reilly, who ranted against Hudson on his show, but the blogger says, "It's actually kind of flattering."
While the O'Reilly battle was a big story in the blogosphere, it went under the radar in the mainstream media. But Hudson shot back into the spotlight late last month when he filed a complaint against former Sen. Fred Thompson's presidential exploratory committee, claiming Thompson was abusing his privilege to "test the waters."
Reporters and bloggers have noted the big money that Thompson is raising and the big money he's spending, all while avoiding many of the federal election guidelines that are required from other candidates who have officially announced their candidacy.
"The FEC said they weren't allowed to act unless a complaint was filed," Hudson says. So he complained. "It clicked in my head that they seemed to want to investigate it."
The testing the waters provision allows candidates to get out there, stretch their legs, and look around to see what kind of support they could find for a presidential run. Every candidate does it, even though most already know they'll be running for president. The most recognized abuse in the Thompson case, according to Hudson, is that the candidate has raised well over $3.5 million, including $72,000 he's pledged to sock away for the general election campaign — clear evidence he's already in the running for the long haul.
The complaint also cites comments from Thompson and his aides that all but assure voters that he's a candidate. In June, Thompson told the Associated Press, "You're either running or you're not running. I think the steps we've taken are pretty obvious."
Though Thompson is set to "officially" announce his presidential campaign Sept. 6, he'll still be required to respond to Hudson's complaint and potentially face financial penalties.
Hudson is quick to point out that it was a collective effort by the blogosphere, but as the person who made the complaint, the media attention has returned to Hudson.
"This is a little bit much for one person to handle," Hudson says, while juggling interviews from MSNBC and Air America and taking a call from Good Morning America. He was even mentioned on The Colbert Report (the only true test of political celebrity).
The past year hasn't been easy for Hudson. The media attention led to his exit from a new job at the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay-rights advocacy group, and he says that it's been tough finding work since.
"Instead of being rewarded for recognizing hypocrisy, I've been blacklisted," he says.
He's started a new business as a "political collaborator" for progressive politicians — not to be confused with political consultants.
"You're really taking on the goals of your client and making them your own," he says. "Not just saying, 'Here's what you should do.'"
Hudson is also working on a book about his experiences in Washington, focusing on how the city needs wholesale change, from the politicians to the media that covers them.
He doesn't have a title yet, but, with his continued work fighting political hypocrisy, it doesn't look like he has an ending either.