The troubled history of David Wu

by Dan Lucas

Suzanne Bonamici’s role in the conspiracy of silence to protect David Wu
A three-part series for the special election to replace disgraced Democratic Congressman David Wu

Part 1 – The troubled history of David Wu
Part 2 – Oregon Democrats’ conspiracy of silence culture that protected Wu (link)
Part 3 – Suzanne Bonamici’s role in the conspiracy of silence to protect Wu (link)

Click here for a PDF of the entire 3-part series

Part 1 – The troubled history of David Wu

David Wu was elected to congress with very little prior experience, and despite few accomplishments, an unremarkable career in Congress and a very troubled tenure, he was elected by the voters of Oregon’s first congressional district seven times.

Here is a chronology of David Wu’s troubled history:

Born – David Wu was born in Taiwan on April 8, 1955.

Moved to the U.S. – David Wu’s family moved to the U.S. in 1961 when he was about age 6.

Attempted rape in college (Summer 1976) – The Oregonian reported in 2004 allegations of David Wu’s 1976 attempted rape of his ex-girlfriend while at college in California. A part of their report noted “An assistant dean who counseled the woman for two months said that the woman called it attempted rape and that Wu used a pillow to muffle her screams.” “”She was screaming. He tried to rape her,” Kaplan [the assistant dean who counseled the victim] said, recalling the woman’s account.” Wu was questioned by campus police, who found that he had scratches on his face and neck, and his T-shirt was stretched out of shape. He was also fingerprinted and photographed. Wu’s ex-girlfriend declined criminal prosecution – she wanted the matter handled by the university.

Stanford – Wu graduated with bachelor’s degree from Stanford in 1977.

Law degree – Wu graduated with a law degree from Yale in 1982.

Off to a bad start in Oregon (1984) – two years after getting his law degree from Yale, Wu came to Oregon claiming to be the Oregon campaign manager for Gary Hart’s presidential bid.  The chair of Hart’s Oregon steering committee, one of Oregon’s biggest Democratic donors, believes Wu “came into the state under false pretenses and tried to hoodwink us.” Hart’s headquarters later named a young woman as the state’s campaign manager.

Portland Planning Commission – Wu was appointed to the Portland Planning Commission in 1986 and served for three years.

Campaign manager in first campaign resigns – Wu’s campaign manager resigned unexpectedly in August 1998, in part due to hearing about Wu’s attempted rape in college.

Elected to Congress – in November 1998 Wu was first elected to Congress at age 43 – succeeding Democrat Elizabeth Furse. He narrowly defeated Republican Molly Bordonaro 50% to 47% – winning by a little over 7,100 votes.

Catatonic before crucial Medicare vote – in November 2003 the Washington Post reported that “Meantime, a drama was unfolding on the Democratic side. Rep. David Wu, a third-termer and Portland, Ore., lawyer, was refusing to vote. A changing circle of Democrats surrounded the 48-year-old Taiwan-born Stanford and Yale Law School graduate, who remained stubbornly silent with a gaze one legislator described as “almost catatonic.” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), a friend, put her hands to his face, but he did not respond.”

Attempted rape in college resurfaces (October 2004) – Wu’s attempted rape from college resurfaced during his re-election campaign against serious contender Republican Goli Ameri. The Oregonian ran the story 3 weeks before the election (3 days before ballots arrived in mailboxes), but Wu easily won re-election 58% to 38%. Prior to publication of the story, Wu hired a lawyer to intimidate the Oregonian and the dying 83-year-old former assistant dean – to threaten them with lawsuits, but both attempts failed. The morning the story ran, Wu apologized for his “inexcusable behavior” and went on to get re-elected. Rumors of the attempted rape had been known by Oregon Democratic insiders since 1998.

Klingon speech – on the House floor in Congress in 2007, Wu gave a brief anti-war speech where he said “There are faux Klingons in the White House.”

Problems with medications – David Wu was hospitalized in 2008 for an allergic reaction to the sedative Ambien and Valium.

Separation – David Wu filed for separation from his wife in 2009.

2010-2011 Complete Meltdown and Resignation

Suspicious car wreck – Wu totaled a rental car on February 19, 2010, after smashing into a parked Ford Focus near Portland. The Focus’ owner told the 911 operator, “I’m assuming that there’s some kind of disability, if he was driving on the wrong side of the street… He says he fell asleep. I don’t believe him.”

Workers’ comp fine – the state began its workers’ compensation investigation on October 11, 2010. The state found that Wu had operated his campaign without the required workers’ compensation coverage for over 3 years – from April 2007 to October 2010. Wu’s campaign employed eight to 10 people during campaign season. The state fined Wu’s campaign $500, and noted that for an employer to not have coverage was fairly unusual – adding that “a three-year lapse is quite rare.”

Staff demands he get psychiatric help – In October 2010, Wu’s staffers demanded he enter a hospital for psychiatric treatment and they shut down his campaign when he refused.

Hits on a 23-year old – In October 2010, 55-year-old Wu attended a football watching party where a 23-year-old woman says he invited her to give him a neck massage and flirtatiously suggested that she join him on a trip to Buenos Aires. This is consistent with a report in the Oregonian: “Capitol Hill regulars often spotted Wu with young women at popular bars a few blocks from his Washington, D.C., rowhouse.”

Illegal drug transfer – Wu illegally accepted prescription Oxycodone (an opioid like heroin) from a campaign donor on October 26, 2010.

Bitter & angry speech to Dems – On October 27, 2010, David Wu delivered a rambling, angry speech at a meeting of the Washington County Democrats, causing a Democratic Precinct Committee Person to complain formally, telling Wu “… You sounded bitter and angry, blaming in loud, fearsome tones your possible defeat on your opponent and the media.”

Violated airport security rules to campaign – Using his position as a Congressman, Wu pressured TSA agents at PDX airport to “bend the rules” for him and grant him access to a secured gate so he could meet his children, in violation of security rules. But once there, Wu instead campaigned with passengers, telling them to ‘Vote for me.’ One of the passengers filed a complaint with airport police, and the TSA duty manager who assisted Wu was later “retrained”. (October 29, 2010)

Infamous tiger suit photo – an email from Wu’s Congressional BlackBerry was sent at 1:00 AM on October 30, 2010, to a female staffer with no words, just the now-infamous photo of David Wu in the tiger suit. 

(photo from Willamette Week)

Four additional disturbing emails were sent to his staff from his Congressional Blackberry between 1-2 AM, claiming to be from his children. One contained a photo of Wu in the tiger suit, face down on the bed passed out or asleep. His 13-year-old son is in the picture with his hands on Wu’s shoulders, possibly trying to wake his dad. One of the emails made excuses for his drinking, which Wu said he had stopped.

(photo from Willamette Week)

Re-elected – Wu was re-elected to his 7th term in Congress on November 2, 2010.

Sexual assault of a recent high school graduate  – the 18-year-old daughter of a longtime friend and campaign donor accused the 55-year-old Congressman Wu of sexual assault in California over the Thanksgiving weekend 2010 – the accusations didn’t surface for several months.

Boorish behavior – A 30-year-old woman employed by a public agency in Oregon said she attended a work event in December 2010, where Wu steered the conversation to his “loveless marriage” and showed her he’d entered her office number in his Blackberry under “hot”.

Exodus of staff – In January 2011 the Oregonian reported that Wu had lost at least six staffers and the leadership of his veteran campaign team “amid complaints about his public behavior.” The departures included his longtime chief of staff and his communications director. The communications director left not having another job lined up, and the chief of staff took a position with far less seniority. Losses to his veteran campaign team of more than 10 years included his chief fundraiser and his chief pollster – who told the Oregonian she wouldn’t work for him again. The departures were all the more noteworthy because following the 2010 Republican wave that retook control of the House, jobs with Democratic representatives and their campaigns were scarce.

Thanksgiving sexual assault accusation reaches Wu’s office – a young woman left a distraught message on the phone line of Wu’s office in Portland in May 2011. She accused Wu of aggressive and unwanted sexual behavior.

Thanksgiving sexual assault goes public – The story of the sexual assault accusation by the 18-year-old recent high school graduate hit the media in July 2011. The 18-year-old believed there was not enough evidence to press charges. She felt as there were no witnesses, it would be her word against a seven-term member of the U.S. Congress. The 55-year-old Wu admitted a “sexual encounter” to his senior aides but insisted it was “consensual”.

Call for ethics investigation – In July 2011 House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi asked the ethics committee to investigate allegations against Wu.

Wu announces he will resign – Rep. David Wu announced on July 26, 2011, that he would resign after the debt-ceiling vote.

Rep. David Wu resigned on August 3, 2011.

In addition to Wu’s behavior, there are some very troubling aspects of David Wu’s tenure in Congress. One is how voters were willing to overlook the revelations in 2004 of Wu’s attempted rape of his ex-girlfriend in college. In fact, Wu actually went up in the polls after the revelations. Another troubling aspect is, as the Oregonian reported in 2004, “Versions of the [Stanford 1976 attempted rape] story have circulated behind the scenes among Democratic insiders since Wu’s first run for Congress in 1998″. Democratic insiders have known of Wu’s troubles since 1998.


NEXT: Part 2 – Oregon Democrats’ conspiracy of silence culture that protected Wu

Part 2 will appear in Oregon Catalyst within the next week or so.


Information on the Special Election

As a result of David Wu’s resignation, there is a special election to replace him in the U.S. Congress for the last 11 months of his term: February 2012 through early January 2013. This special general election will be held on January 31, 2012, and ballots will be mailed starting January 13. The special election is being held using the existing first congressional district (CD-1) boundaries.

The winner of this special election at the end of this month will serve only a few months before they have to hit the campaign trail again to run in the May 2012 primary and then in the November 2012 general election. The May 2012 primary and November 2012 general elections will use the new CD-1 boundaries from last year’s redistricting.