Karl Rove has built his career on smears and whispering campaigns against his enemies. He is responsible for rumors that Gov. Ann Richards is gay, that John McCain has a child who is African-American and that Joe Wilson’s wife sent him to Africa – just to name three of I could think of without Googling.
A couple of weeks ago, we passed along a rumor that Karl Rove was seen at gay S&M parties in DC. It seemed a bit far-fetched, and we marked it clearly as such.
But now comes a rumor that has more substance to it – and this one is straight out of Texas:
For years, political insiders in the Lone Star State have whispered about Rove’s close friendship with lobbyist Karen Johnson, a never-married, forty-something GOP loyalist from Austin, Texas. The two first became close when Johnson sat on the board of then-Governor George W. Bush’s Business Council over a decade ago. Their friendship reportedly deepened after Bush appointed Johnson—a little-known spokesperson for the Texas Good Roads Association—to a seat on his Transportation Department transition team in 2000. The plum appointment enabled Johnson’s lobbying firm, Infrastructure Solutions, to snare such high-paying clients as Aetna and the City of Laredo. Sources say Johnson now frequently travels between Washington D.C. and Austin, where she frequently appears at Rove’s side at parties and unofficial functions.
Although there is no evidence that their relationship is anything but professional, the close association between the married White House aide and the comely lobbyist has long raised eyebrows in conservative Texas circles. Asked about the pair, a prominent political journalist who has written extensively about Rove says, “I’ve heard the stories, but I would never write about Karl and Karen. If you want to keep your job as a reporter in Texas, you make believe you don’t see them together.”
In the post-Lewinsky era, Washington’s press corps has mostly avoided reporting on the private lives of public officials. But as the political climate in the capitol grows more poisonous, Rove’s close friendship with the lobbyist has attracted increased scrutiny from opponents eager to prove that Bush’s dirty trickster is sitting on some dirty laundry of his own.
Asked to comment on Rove’s relationship with Johnson, a White House spokesman firmly declined to discuss the matter, saying that their relationship was “the business of these two individuals who have personal lives…I don’t think that’s something that the White House should comment on.” A new air of civility in Washington? Don’t count on it.