Barbara Gilchrest accuses McMillen campaign of spying Emotional letter to press includes other charges

October 24, 1992|By William Thompson | William Thompson,Staff Writer

EASTON -- The wife of Maryland Congressman Wayne T. Gilchrest has written an emotional letter to newspapers charging that her husband's Democratic opponent, Rep. Tom McMillen, hired a private investigator to probe Mr. Gilchrest's personal background for information to use against him in the heated 1st District congressional race.

In the letter, Barbara Gilchrest also accuses Mr. McMillen of having campaign workers take photographs of the Gilchrest family's home. And she claims that Mr. McMillen was overheard recently telling several fellow congressmen on the House floor in Washington that he disliked campaigning on the Eastern Shore because, she wrote, of the "G.. D... rednecks" who live there.

Mrs. Gilchrest admits she has no proof of any of her allegations, none of which involve activities, even if true, that would be illegal. The McMillen campaign yesterday angrily denied the allegations and denounced the letter as a last-minute ploy to disrupt the Democratic congressman's efforts to win re-election.

"I think it's disappointing that the Gilchrest campaign is using this to try to tear down Mr. McMillen," said campaign manager Brad Fitch. "It's absurd and ridiculous."

Mrs. Gilchrest said she she sent the letter to 10 newspapers, including The Sun, because she felt her husband has been treated unfairly by Mr. McMillen in televised campaign ads.

"We get angry when we hear untruths . . . and we get upset when we know how very, very hard he has worked," Mrs. Gilchrest wrote.

For his part, Congressman Gilchrest characterized the letter as a personal decision by his wife. "I neither encouraged her nor FTC discouraged her," he said. Asked his thoughts about the letter's contents, he said he believed the allegations in it to be true. But he, too, said he had no proof.

Mr. Fitch said the McMillen campaign did hire a Chicago-based political consulting firm called the Research Group to provide routine reports on Mr. Gilchrest's votes in Congress and to search newspaper files for articles containing statements the Republican made to the press about issues. Mr. McMillen's election finance reports indicate that the campaign paid the group about $11,500 for research during July and September.

Mr. Fitch said the Research Group was not told to delve into Mr. Gilchrest's background. When asked if the consultant might have looked into Mr. Gilchrest's private life anyway, Mr. Fitch said he could not imagine that to be true.

Gerald Grant, the head of Mr. McMillen's congressional staff, also denied yesterday that the consultant was requested to probe into Mr. Gilchrest's personal background and said he has no evidence that such an inquiry was taken. Attempts to reach the company and its owner, Rahn Emanuel, in Chicago yesterday were unsuccessful.

Mrs. Gilchrest said her letter was based in part on comments by friends who told her they had been interviewed by someone identified as a private detective who was looking into her husband's personal life.

She denied that the letter was politically motivated and said she supports her husband's re-election campaign "only because that's what he wants, what will fulfill him."

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