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Gary Condit

Gary Adrian Condit (born April 21 1948) is a former American politician, a Democrat who served in the House of Representatives from 1989 to 2003. Condit represented California's 18th congressional district, the northern San Joaquin Valley (when he was first elected, this district was the 15th District; it became the 18th district after redistricting following the 1990 census). He is most noted for having an affair with Chandra Levy, a woman that was later the victim of an unsolved murder.

Early life and career

Condit was born in Woodland Junction, Oklahoma to Jean and Adrian Condit. His father was a Free Will Baptist minister. He has two brothers, Burl and Darrell, and a sister, Dovie Condit Wilson. When Condit was 14, his family moved to Tulsa. He attended Nathan Hale High School where he met pep squad member Carolyn Berry; they married on January 18 1967.Carolyn is a Roman Catholic. Their son, Chad, was born in July 1967. Daughter Cadee P. Condit was born in 1975 in California.

Condit came with his wife and young son to the San Joaquin Valley in the late 1960s, following his father. Rev. Condit had moved to California in search of a new congregation, eventually becoming pastor of the Village Chapel Free Will Baptist Church, about 100 miles from San Francisco.

Condit graduated from California State University, Stanislaus in Turlock in 1972. After a brief time with a public relations business, Condit was elected to the Ceres City Council.

In 1974, Condit was elected mayor of Ceres, and from 1976 to 1982 was a member of the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors.

In 1982, Condit was elected to the California State Assembly. His campaign theme was "A Good Example." While a member of the assembly, Condit was a member of the "Gang of Five," a small caucus of Blue Dog Democrats. At the time, the Democrats (led by Assembly Speaker Willie Brown) held a 44-36 majority in the Assembly. The Gang of Five threatened to ally with the Republicans, thereby setting up a 41-39 majority, and elect one of themselves as speaker, but this effort failed when Republican Assemblyman Richard Longshore died, making it impossible to get an immediate Republican total over 40 in the 80-seat Assembly. (see "Gang of Five" below)

During his days in the California state legislature, Condit assured voters he did not drink or smoke, but was known as a "flamboyant party boy" in the state capitol, "with a busy social life" out of sight of his constituents.

Congressional career

Condit was elected to Congress in a 1989 special election, after House Democratic Whip Tony Coelho resigned. His most important committee assignment was as a senior member on the House Intelligence Committee in the months and years prior to the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.

According to Salon, Condit voted against President Bill Clinton most frequently of all Congressional Democrats. In 1998, during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Condit publicly demanded that Clinton "come clean" on his relationship with the young woman; this demand would become part of a film clip aired often during Condit's own sex scandal.

Chandra Levy scandal

In May 2001, Condit became the subject of national news coverage after the May 1 disappearance of Chandra Levy, a young woman working as a Washington, D.C. intern originally from Condit's district. Police questioned him twice, and Condit denied having an affair with her; however, after Levy's aunt went public with conversations she had had with her missing niece about the adulterous liaison, police questioned him a third time, and Condit confessed to the relationship. When the affair began, Condit was 53 and Levy was 23.

While Condit was not named as an official suspect in the disappearance, Levy's family (and subsequently the national media) suspected that Condit was withholding important information about the intern's disappearance. Public interest was very high, and Condit's reputation suffered not just from the contrast between his "pro-family" politics versus his adultery with a woman two years younger than his daughter, and his attempts to mislead the police, but in particular, from an incident in July, two months after Levy vanished, in which Condit was caught trying to hide a gift box in a dumpster in one of Washington's Virginia suburbs.

Suspicion deepened when Condit tried to avoid answering direct questions during a televised interview with news anchor Connie Chung on August 23. This followed news reports that Condit had an affair with flight attendant Anne Marie Smith.

Condit disappeared from the news after 9/11. Despite the allegations against him, Condit was allowed to keep his seat on the Intelligence Committee, and he did not lose his security clearance. Condit was one of just a handful of members of Congress who were cleared to see the most sensitive information on the 9/11 attacks.

On December 7, he announced he would run for re-election. He lost the primary election in March 2002 to his former aide, then-Assemblyman Dennis Cardoza, and left Congress at the end of his term in January 2003. It was the first election Condit ever lost. Condit's most notable vote in his last months in office was the House of Representatives resolution to expel Congressman James Traficant after his conviction on corruption charges. In the 420-1 vote on July 24, 2002, Gary Condit was the sole "nay."

After an extensive search, Levy's remains were discovered May 22, 2002, by a man hunting for turtles with his dog in a secluded area of Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C. That month, a medical examiner officially declared that Levy's death was the result of homicide. The case remains unsolved.

In 2008, The Washington Post reported that a Salvadoran named Ingmar Guandique allegedly told a jailhouse informant that he, Guandique, had been walking in the Adams Morgan neighborhood when a car pulled to the curb. Condit offered him $25,000 to kill a woman. The congressman provided him with her picture and a location where he could find her. According to the allegation, Guandique told the informant that he had killed Chandra Levy.

Brothers in public eye

Media investigations also uncovered sordid information about both of Condit's brothers. At the time, his brother Burl — a police sergeant in Modesto, California — had shot himself in the buttocks during a frivolous firing episode and was the focus of a 1999 gun-buying scandal. Burl claimed to have taken one gun from the police department's surplus property, though records showed he took nine; there was confusion about how many, if any, of the guns he paid for.

Burl ran twice without success for the office of Stanislaus County Sheriff. His opponent, Jim Trevena, complained that Burl was illegally using his brother Gary's campaign funds in the race for sheriff. Gary was a state assemblyman at the time and had not yet won his Congressional seat. By 2006, Burl Condit had left the police force and was working as part-time civilian city employee assigned to the police department's weapons training range.

In 2001, Condit's other brother, Darrell Wayne, was wanted on outstanding warrants from Modesto (drug possession) and from Darrell's then-current residence, Florida (DUI). In 1998, Darrell had resisted a ticket in Ceres for riding a bicycle on the wrong side of the road by telling the arresting officer that his brother the Congressman and his brother the police sergeant would get the Ceres officer "in big trouble."

Darrell's arrest record at the time of the Levy scandal extended from 1968 through 1996. Florida wanted him for probation violation with a bond set at $50,000. He had been charged by Monroe County, FLA in November 1996 with driving with a suspended license, driving under the influence of alcohol and possession of marijuana. The probation violation arose from the DUI charge.

In the uproar over Gary Condit's possible connection to Levy, his brother Darrell was tracked down and arrested July 21. Reporters uncovered Darrell's history of federal and state convictions for drug possession, check forging, and vehicle theft. The Los Angeles Times made references to Darrell's methamphetamine addiction and "needle-scarred body" that were quoted by other news outlets. Although Gary and Darrell were not close, there was rampant (and unfounded) speculation that Condit might have involved his "criminal brother" in arranging Levy's disappearance, so much so that Darrell was put into solitary confinement for his own protection when Florida picked him up.

By 2005, Darrell Condit was using the name Hop Condit, and trying to raise money for a fireworks display in Cave Creek, AZ. A local newspaper cast aspersions on his actual purpose and qualifications, and reported extensive details of his criminal history and incarcerations and stated that Hop Condit was not his only alias, asserting that he also uses the name of a former cellmate, Stanley Johnnie Buchanan. Gary Condit would later unsuccessfully sue the newspaper for their passing reference to him in this article about Darrell. (see "Sonoran News" below)

Post-congressional litigation

Dominick Dunne slander suit

Condit initiated a lawsuit against Vanity Fair writer Dominick Dunne in a New York federal court in late 2002 for $11 million, claiming that statements made by Dunne about Condit libeled him. The comments indicated that Condit ordered the death of missing Modesto intern Chandra Levy in 2001. Condit's attorney said the defamation lawsuit was based on comments Dunne repeated on national radio and television programs in December 2001 where he suggested Condit frequented Middle Eastern embassies for sexual activity with prostitutes, and during those times, he made it clear that he wanted someone to get rid of Levy. Wood said that Dunne's comments "conveyed that Gary Condit was involved in her kidnapping and in her murder, that friends of Gary Condit's had her kidnapped, put in an airplane and dropped in the Atlantic Ocean." Dunne paid an undisclosed amount to settle that lawsuit in March 2005 . Dunne said he had been "completely hoodwinked" by an unreliable informant. Subsequently Condit sued Dunne again, charging him with "revivifying" the slander in an appearance on Larry King Live in November 2005. In July 2008 a federal judge dismissed the second lawsuit filed against Dunne.

Sonoran News defamation of character

In July 2006, Condit sued the Sonoran News, a free weekly circular, for defamation of character, after the publication wrote "that Condit was the 'main focus in the Chandra Levy case in 2001, after lying to investigators about his affair with Levy.'"

The case was dismissed in July 2007 when the judge ruled that Condit had not proved the statement was false, or that the paper had published it with actual malice.

Baskin Robbins franchises revoked

Following his congressional career, Condit moved to Arizona. In February 2005, he started two Baskin-Robbins ice cream shop franchises with his wife and children in Glendale. In March 2006, Baskin Robbins revoked the franchising agreement, claiming the Condits owed them $14,221.29. Among the corporation's complaints was that the Condits continued to use the Baskin Robbins name after the franchises were revoked.

Children prosecuted for PAC fraud

On January 10 2006, the California Fair Political Practices Commission filed a $2 million suit against Condit's children, alleging violations of the Political Reform Act in relation to Justice PAC.

According to the FPPC complaint, the "purported mission of Defendant Justice PAC was to explore then-Congressman Gary Condit's press coverage." The PAC had been originally established in 1999 under a different name, "Keep California Golden," to finance "then-Congressman Condit's opportunities to run for state office and to pursue issues of importance to him at the state level." The name change took place at Condit's orders in a letter dated March 11, 2002, in which Condit also fired the PAC's treasurer and ordered that his son Chad would take over. Chad remained as treasurer until the PAC was dissolved in March 15, 2005.

The FPPC complaint notes that both children had been working in the administration of California governor Gray Davis, but resigned "in a show of support for their father" during the growing Chandra Levy scandal in August of 2001. Cadee had been making $52,000 a year for working in Davis' private office; Chad had been paid $110,000 a year for acting as the governor's personal representative in Central Valley.

The FPPC alleges that Chad and Cadee misused funds donated to the Justice PAC for their personal enrichment in the months between March 2002 and June 2003. The FPPC asserts the two children took $226,000 for "no discernible work" and that as a result, the PAC's assets dropped from $270,793 in February 2002 to $1,513.87 at the end of June 2003. The money was allegedly paid to develop a documentary about their father, though neither child has any experience with filmmaking; and as "Christmas bonuses."

If found responsible, Condit's children could be fined for three times as much as the amount in question, bringing the total fines demanded up to about $2 million.

The FPPC enforcement actions against both Condit children were dropped quietly in 2007.

Gang of Five

The 1988 membership of the "Gang of Five" consisted of co-founders Gary Condit and Charles Calderon of Whittier; Jerry Eaves of Rialto; Rusty Areias of Los Banos; and Steve Peace of Chula Vista. Most maintained some contact with Condit through the years.

Charles M. Calderon left the State Assembly in 1990 for a seat in the California State Senate. There, his major accomplishment was legislation to make it more difficult for divorced women to obtain long-term alimony. In 1998, he ran an unsuccessful campaign for state attorney general that one pundit described as "abysmal." Calderon returned to the State Assembly in 2006.

Jerry Eaves became San Bernardino County Supervisor by 2001. In that office, he was indicted four times between February 2000 and April 2002 on corruption charges including bribery, mail fraud and conspiracy. Eaves refused to leave his position as Supervisor after his indictments. Condit's Justice PAC gave $10,000 to Eaves during this time. Eaves was able to "strike a deal" that kept him out of prison, but cost him the Supervisor's seat.

Another "Gang of Five" member, Rusty Areias, had gone into personal bankruptcy, but by 2001 was the head of California's state park system. He was expected to run from that position against Chad Condit in Chad's planned November 2001 race for the state Senate.

Condit appeared in the 1988 film Return of the Killer Tomatoes, as an unbilled, unspeaking pizzeria patron during a fight sequence. "Gang of Five" member Stephen Peace was the co-writer/producer of the film, and he and Condit were both still members of the California State Assembly at the time. Wearing a trucker cap, Condit smashes a bottle on the head of a cowboy. Peace moved up from the State Assembly to the State Senate, but was implicated in a utility deregulation scandal in the early 2000s.

In Popular Culture

  • On December 12 2001, Condit was featured in an episode of the animated series South Park, called "Butters' Very Own Episode." In the episode, he is severely ridiculed for his lack of forthrightness concerning Levy's disappearance and is categorized together with suspected murderer O.J. Simpson and the formerly suspected John and Patsy Ramsey.
  • On March 20 2002, Condit was once again alluded to in an episode of South Park, called "Freak Strike." When Cartman appears on Maury and is arguing with the other out-of-control child about who’s badder, he states he "ran for Congress, won, and then had sex with an intern, killed her, and hid her body."

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