Concerning Joe Francis:Did Senator Mark Pryor’s office know what was going on? (Updated)

I really don’t know the answer to this question but evidence is constantly coming out. Senator Pryor claimed that his office was not involved at all in this bid process that Joe Francis said they were involved in. (The Arkansas Times Blog and The Tolbert Report both had good articles on this.)

Comments ( 48) | Published April 26, 2012
 

Updated on April 26, 2012 at 10:00 AM.

Girls Gone Wild creator Joe Francis, who says he bought a Senate summer internship in a charity auction, now claims the deal was brokered by a lobbying firm with a DC office: Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber, Schreck. Also, he told The Washingtonian this morning that the auction item, a four-week summer internship in the office of Democratic Arkansas senator Mark Pryor, has been canceled and the money returned since controversy around it began to spread earlier this week. “I can confirm that the charity has told me that the Brownstein Hyatt Lobbying Firm brokered the deal on behalf of Senator Mark Pryor to sell the internship,” Francis wrote in an e-mail today. “They also confirmed that the senator and his office were fully aware of everything.”

The charity in question is the Wilshire Boulevard Temple. Its leader, Rabbi Steve Leder, said in an e-mail, “Wilshire Boulevard Temple has learned that a private party organized to benefit the Temple’s early childhood centers included an auction item bid for by Mr. Francis. We have learned that the party’s organizers returned the money and canceled the item. We agree with that decision.”

When news broke of Francis winning the auction–and his intention to award it to a young woman as part of a Girls Gone Wild promotion–Pryor’s office called the auction item a “hoax” and said the senator had called in the FBI to investigate.

Quoting a blogger, the Arkansas Times indicated that Chad Brownstein, son of Brownstein, Hyatt partner Norman Brownstein, knew Pryor. According to OpenSecrets.org, Chad Brownstein of Beverly Hills has twice contributed money to Mark Pryor’s election campaigns. A 2008 Wilshire Boulevard Temple newsletter reported that Pryor visited their location with Chad Brownstein, a congregant. “With Rabbi Steve Leder guiding him on a personal tour of the sanctuary, Senator Pryor learned the fascinating history of our Temple and our clergy.”

Efforts to reach both Chad and Norman Brownstein Thursday morning by e-mail and telephone were not immediately successful; we will update this post if and when we receive a response.

The earlier story is below:

Depending on whether you consult Girls Gone Wild creator Joe Francis, or the office of Arkansas senator Mark Pryor, or a website that claims to be the eBay of charitable auctions, Francis either did or did not buy a charitable auction item that grants the recipient a summer internship in Pryor’s office. Pryor has called in the FBI. Regardless, Francis has posted the internship as part of the prize for the winner of his contest and reality TV series The Search for the Hottest Girl in America. He says he plans to announce the winner next week and have her on the way to Washington this summer, which he calls “Mr. Pryor’s criteria.”

Francis says he bought the internship as an auction item through an “intermediary who is close to the senator. It was offered to a select group of people.” He says he bought it to benefit a charity, the name of which he won’t mention because, he says, “They are upset about the media firestorm. No good deed goes unpunished.” He says, though, that since buying the item he has talked to the intermediary and confirmed it “is all legit. I own it. I bought it.”

The Girls Gone Wild website states: “After making a charitable donation during a private auction this past weekend benefiting a Los Angeles-based temple, Francis purchased a once-in-a-lifetime four-week internship on Capitol Hill working for a United States senator and added it to the prize package for this season’s lucky winner.”

At the website Bidding for Good, where the item was listed with a value of $15,000, Kaija Kurstin said the winner paid $2,500 for the item. She said it had come to Bidding For Good through the Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles on behalf of the Reggio Emilia Philosophy Child Learning Center. Francis would neither confirm nor deny these claims. We called the temple, but no one we talked to was familiar with the controversy, nor did anyone call us back.

Francis forwarded us an e-mail from Bidding for Good that said “Winning Bid Alert,” and “You’re the winner bidder on U.S. Senator Internship–Mark Pryor (D–Arkansas). He said he redacted the parts of the e-mail that named the lobbyist and the charity.

Pryor’s communications director, Lisa Ackerman, says her boss has contacted the FBI because “we believe it’s a crime to impersonate a US senator.” In a phone interview, she said, “The website used a Senate seal without authorization. We do have summer interns. It’s a five-week internship. We require the interns be sophomores. We don’t sell it or auction it off.”

Earlier, Pryor’s office released a statement calling Francis’s claims a “hoax.”

“I’ve done nothing wrong,” says Francis, whose Girls Gone Wild franchise is based, principally, on college girls baring their breasts. “I thought we were helping out a charity, doing a good thing for women and charity. We’ve been coordinating 100 percent with Pryor’s office through the charity. So it is 100 percent legitimate.”

Francis, a Democrat, said he bought the auction item last week and paid for it by check. And if it turns out to be bogus, or, if real, revoked by Pryor? “If he revoked it, he would be discriminatory. I’m not the one going to Washington. A lucky young woman who is aspiring to be in politics is the one going there. They should just let it ride.”

_____________

I just got this update off of the Tolbert Report:

UPDATE IV - The Associated Press is reporting that Chad Brownstein has admitted he arranged for the auction of the internship without approval from Pryor’s office.

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