March 11, 2008
Republican aide quits over impersonating Democratic lawmaker

Stupidity is always a bipartisan trait.

A veteran Capitol staffer resigned Monday over allegations he impersonated both a state representative and a newspaper reporter in the last month - first to sway a state primary race, then to glean information on an ethics complaint against his boss.

Todd Gallaher had been on leave from Republican state Sen. Bob Deuell's office since last month, when he used an e-mail address that looked like it belonged to a Democratic lawmaker to send out embarrassing photos of a South Texas sheriff up for re-election.

As recently as Thursday night, however, he was back in Dr. Deuell's Capitol office, apparently identifying himself as a Dallas Morning News reporter in a phone call with a California ethics watchdog.

Mr. Gallaher on Monday said that he led the ethics investigator to believe he was a News reporter and that he made the call without Dr. Deuell's permission or knowledge. He declined to comment about his involvement in the South Texas sheriff's race, though he said he doesn't believe he's done anything criminal.

"It sounds like I've put the senator in a very bad position," said Mr. Gallaher, who has worked at the Capitol for more than a decade. "I'm heartbroken about that."

The pictures from hit e-mail inboxes before the Aransas County primary election, showing Republican incumbent Sheriff Mark Gilliam revealing his buttocks, stripping off his shirt and pretending to kiss another man at a house party two decades ago.

But the real state Rep. Juan Garcia, the Corpus Christi Democrat whose district includes Aransas County, didn't send the e-mail - Mr. Gallaher did. Mr. Garcia hasn't ruled out legal action against the man he says impersonated him to try to defame the sheriff.

Dr. Deuell of Greenville said Mr. Gallaher told him he wasn't impersonating Mr. Garcia when he sent out the photos, which Sheriff Gilliam says were taken at a raucous New Year's Eve police party in 1989. Dr. Deuell, who has apologized profusely for his staffer's actions, said Mr. Gallaher told him the personal e-mail address stands for "Republican Jaun Garcia," a super hero-like caricature Mr. Gallaher created long before Mr. Garcia ever took office.


If the e-mail address on the South Texas sheriff photos was truly just a coincidence, Rep. Garcia said, it's one that's "beyond comprehension." His office has asked for evidence that Mr. Gallaher has used the alter ego before - a request that Dr. Deuell said has produced cartoon sketches from the 1990s. In those sketches, Mr. Gallaher points out, "Juan" is spelled "Jaun," a sign that the character is in no way linked to Mr. Garcia. In the e-mail address, however, it was spelled "juan."


Rep. Garcia said he found out about the e-mail only when his office started receiving phone calls from friends and constituents who believed he was the sender. His information technology staff traced the e-mail address - first to the Capitol, then to Dr. Deuell's office, and eventually to Mr. Gallaher's state computer.

"Our interest and our concern is with conveying to our local community that neither myself nor my staff generated this e-mail or knew anything about it," Mr. Garcia said.

The "alter ego" explanation is pretty weak, and given how Rep. Garcia is a top target of the Republicans this fall, it's hard to imagine there wasn't a bit of temptation to dirty him up. I hope he does take legal action about this.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 11, 2008 to Election 2008