Fourteen years ago, while still a starving writer, I wrote an article for Hustler about a military intelligence ne'er-do-well named Neil Livingston, who was kidnapping children for pay at the time. It was accepted by an editor. A few weeks later, that editor was fired, and the new editor turned down my story because she felt that the magazine had published too many stories by myself, and "we don't continuously publish one writer."
I was furious that an important story they'd already accepted was scratched with this lame excuse. Now I find that the same Neil Livingston, a corrupt intelligence official, sent Dan Moldea to Larry Flynt. If Flynt had read my story - the one rejected by his editor - he'd have known about Livingston and never hired Dan Moldea.
Serves Flynt right for abandoning the cause of anti-fascism - and myself.
After I left, Hustler lost its editorial direction, and it's hit or miss these days. Many of the articles published by Hustler these days are political tripe and disinformation. If I hadn't been abused by a Hustler editor, none of this would have occurred, and Republican criminals - like Livingston - would be falling from the skies.
I've had it out with Moldea and told him how I feel about his propaganda. Moldea's book on the Robert Kennedy assassination is criminal in its vindication of CIA suspects who were, no doubt, involved in Kennedy's murder.
Flynt hasn't a clue, and though I still respect him in general, I know he doesn't know what he's doing if there is no pictorial skank or fecal matter involved - and am content to leave him that way.
They call it Karma.
... These days, Mr. Moldea, 48, doesn't have the luxury of too many choices. After writing some of the most definitive nonfiction books on the mob around, Mr. Moldea's career as a maverick journalist and conspiracy investigator took a turn toward the lurid in the last few years, with books like Evidence Dismissed , which he co-wrote with two detectives who investigated the O.J. Simpson trial, and A Washington Tragedy , an investigation of the death of Vince Foster, which the right-wing boutique press Regnery Publishing put out last year. He has a good reputation as a dogged reporter, but after his lawsuit against The Times dragged out and an investigative book about Robert F. Kennedy's assassination didn't sell well, Mr. Moldea needed something to sink his teeth into.
Enter Neil Livingstone, a Washington-based security consultant and freelance counterterrorism expert for NBC News. According to a source close to the situation, when Mr. Livingstone was contacted by the Hustler scandal team this past fall to aid their nascent investigation, he put them in touch with Mr. Moldea. Whatever Mr. Moldea thought of Mr. Flynt's politics and publicity gambit, he's told friends the job pays rather well. But those friends also say that Mr. Moldea, a self-described liberal Democrat, seems to be motivated by his anger over the way he thinks the independent counsel's office has railroaded President Clinton. And, apparently, he's not going to take it anymore.
Mr. Moldea has his own reasons for not commenting on this article. On Jan. 13, he told the Washington Times that if a Republican "hasn't been shooting his mouth off, we let him go. We're not going to interfere with his life." To the hawk-eyed lawyers at the Landmark Legal Foundation, a testy, conservative legal-advocacy group, that sounded like blackmail, and on Jan. 15 they filed their complaint with the Justice Department. That same day, Republican Party chairman Jim Nicholson demanded that the Hustler investigation itself be investigated. On Jan. 18, the Wall Street Journal editorial page weighed in, quoting the same section of Federal code as the Republican National Committee. The Journal declared Mr. Flynt's project "not only distasteful but unlawful" and accused Mr. Moldea of having "previously worked for the President's law firm, Williams & Connolly"–an accusation Mr. Moldea has denied.
Roger Simmons, a lawyer at Gordon & Simmons in Frederick, Md., who represents Mr. Moldea, told Off the Record, "That's so far from the truth, it's like saying that I fly to the moon every three days."
"We don't know anything more than what the Washington Times reported," said Journal editor Robert Bartley. "Maybe it would have been better if we had said 'collaborated.'" Williams & Connolly had no comment.
Like almost every aspect of the seemingly never-ending Clinton Administration scandals, the tale of how Mr. Moldea got involved is an invitation to walk through the hall of mirrors that impeachment-crazy Washington has lately become.
Which is to say, Mr. Moldea is not a totally disinterested party in the latest Presidential scandal. Mr. Starr apparently had a hand in the writer's $10 million libel suit against The Times for its damning review of his 1989 book, Interference , about mob influence on football. After he lost the first round, his case was taken up in 1994 by the Washington, D.C., circuit court of appeals, In 1994, a three-judge panel voted, 2 to 1, to support Mr. Moldea's appeal. Mr. Starr, who once sat on the Washington circuit court, was by then a lawyer in private practice. But, as it happens, he represented the coalition of media organizations–from Dow Jones & Company to The New Yorker to the PEN American Center–that supported The Times ' position that reviews, as opinions, were protected speech. After the 2-to-1 vote, Mr. Starr filed an amicus brief on the newspaper's behalf, asking for the judgment to be reconsidered. On May 2, 1994, the judges officially refused to look at Mr. Starr's brief. But a day later, in a highly unusual move, they reversed their earlier opinion, effectively putting an end to Mr. Moldea's suit. Mr. Starr later went on Court TV and debated Roger Simmons on the merits of the case.
In 1997, Mr. Moldea was approached by Alfred Regnery to write his Vince Foster book. This caused a certain amount of consternation in right-wing circles because Mr. Moldea was chosen over a competing proposal submitted by former Los Angeles police detective Mark Fuhrman, which was being shopped around by Lucianne Goldberg. (Mr. Fuhrman had come in for some rough treatment in Mr. Moldea's 1997 O.J. Simpson book.)
In the process of reporting his Vince Foster book, Mr. Moldea approached the Office of the Independent Counsel to talk to Mr. Starr about his research into the Foster death. (The office had decided that Foster killed himself.) After talking with members of Mr. Starr's staff, Mr. Moldea came away with the impression that they made a habit of leaking grand jury information to friendly, Starr-approved reporters. He took tapes of his conversations with the independent counsel's office to Williams & Connelly. "I can tell you for a fact that his only contact with Williams & Connelly was to tell them the content of the tapes," said Mr. Simmons, "and, in a way, to protect his sources."
Allan MacDonnell, the Hustler editor who has been overseeing the investigations, said he was not aware of Mr. Moldea's past history with Mr. Starr when they invited him out to their headquarters on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles in early November. They did know about his O.J. Simpson book, though. "He has a lot of energy and is very excited about the project," Mr. MacDonnell said.
As for how he became involved, Mr. Moldea has confirmed he got the gig through a private investigator in Washington. Whether that friend is Mr. Livingstone, he's not saying. Reached by Off the Record, Mr. Livingstone said, "I don't talk about business," but he confirmed that he's known Mr. Moldea for many years through a Washington writer's group to which they both belong. When asked about Mr. Livingstone's possible involvement in the Hustler investigation, Mr. MacDonnell said, "We're not commenting on that."
In any case, Mr. Livingstone is an unusual link in this latest save-the-President campaign, given that he's a former associate of Oliver North's and was a consultant to the National Security Council when the events that became the Iran-contra scandal were brewing. In 1987, he wrote a piece for National Review backing Mr. North.
All of which leaves Mr. Moldea exposed as the point man in Mr. Flynt's drive to embarrass as many politicos on Capitol Hill as he can . "Until the Times suit, I never thought of him as a maverick," said Steve Weinberg, an author and editor of the Investigative Reporters and Editors Journal who's known Mr. Moldea for 20 years. "I asked him–I begged him not to do it," he said of the suit, adding that "it seems like a reasonable assumption" that the suit radicalized him. "It took guts or stupidity to do it."
"He's still a solid journalist," Mr. Weinberg went on. "But he's taken a lot of risks that other writers wouldn't have taken … Look at the publisher of his latest book, Regnery. That's obviously not the publisher he would have preferred."
If, as Mr. MacDonnell has claimed, "What we're doing is more a form of vandalism," it's going to leave a blot on Mr. Moldea's record. And it's going to be an even bigger problem if the accusations don't prove true. According to Mr. MacDonnell, after Mr. Moldea checks out the tips, the Hustler team goes over them with Mr. Flynt's attorneys; if they pass muster, they're released. Mr. MacDonnell said the "Flynt Report," originally scheduled for the end of January, has been delayed by Mr. Flynt's pneumonia until February. As for the legal saber-rattling of the Landmark Legal Foundation and the Republican Party's chairman, Mr. MacDonnell said, "I think the official comment that we have on that is, that's absurd."
Mr. Moldea's lawyer, Mr. Simmons, thinks his client will be protected by the First Amendment. "He's a meticulous journalist," he said. "I think the world of Dan. I think he's doing it with integrity."