COPYRIGHT, 1992, SEATTLE TIMES COMPANY
Sen. Brock Adams has sexually harassed and physically molested female employees and associates over the past two decades, according to eight who say they are victims.
The allegations range from aggressive sexual harassment to rape, and include stories of Adams plying women with a mixture of drugs and alcohol.
The women, fearful of being thrust into the public spotlight, all spoke to The Times on the condition their names not be published. Seven have signed statements attesting to the truth of their stories and another has said she will. They all acknowledged they could be required to testify in court should Adams sue The Times, as his lawyer has threatened.
The senator, when asked about the allegations, refused to comment.
"I am giving no interviews on that at all," he said.
The eight women - as well as others not willing to sign statements but insisting that they, too, were his victims - have told their stories to The Times since September 1988. That was when Kari Tupper, a former congressional aide and a family friend of Adams, publicly claimed that the senator had drugged and molested her at his Washington, D.C., home a year and a half earlier.
Although the District of Columbia police officer who investigated Tupper's claims requested a warrant to arrest Adams, no criminal charges were ever filed. The U.S. attorney for the District said Tupper's case had no merit. Adams insisted it was a fabrication designed to extort money from him.
But in the months after Tupper's story became public, other people contacted The Times, saying they had information or personal experiences to suggest Tupper was telling the truth.
Since then, Times reporters and an editor have interviewed dozens of people claiming such knowledge. Some came forward on their own; most were found through contacts.
Among them are these eight women:
-- A former Democratic Party activist who says that in the early 1970s, when Adams was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, he called and said it was urgent that they meet at a bar in Seattle's University District. She says Adams bought her a drink, and after learning she had a cold, gave her two pills he said were vitamin C but which she now suspects were a narcotic.
They spent a couple of hours at the bar, she says, and she felt increasingly strange. Adams followed her home and, she says, insisted they have sex. As she objected, she says, he forced her to the couch and raped her. She says he left immediately - but not before throwing $200 on a table, saying she should use it to help pay her way to a Democratic function in Eastern Washington.
"I have no doubt he drugged me. I have no doubt he raped me," the woman says. Her hope now is "that Brock Adams gets discovered for what he really is."
-- A lobbyist who worked as a secretary for Adams during his tenure as secretary of transportation during the Carter administration. In the summer of 1978, she says, Adams asked her to play tennis with him after work. In the office late that afternoon, she says, he handed her a glass of wine that contained what looked to her to be the remnants of a ground-up pill. She didn't drink it. Adams then sat next to her on a couch, kissing her neck and fondling her breast, she says, as she froze with shock and intimidation. He was called away by a telephone call.
Kari Tupper claimed that Adams had placed a drug in a cocktail she drank, causing her to lose consciousness.
"I feel the only difference between Kari Tupper and me is that I didn't drink my drink," the lobbyist says now.
-- A woman who says she was given a drink by Adams that she said appeared to be champagne to which a red liquid had been added. She said she blacked out, and regained consciousness later to find Adams removing her clothes.
Although this woman detailed her experience for reporters, she would not agree to publication of those specific details because she feared negative consequences.
Another woman, who also has signed a document attesting to the truth of her story, says she was drugged by Adams. That woman, a former Democratic Party volunteer, says that during a visit to the state in early 1987, the senator invited her to have a drink. She says he poured the drink from a green bottle containing a red liquid, which she described as sickly sweet - similar to how Tupper describes her cocktail.
The drink made the woman feel very woozy. She says she has no idea what happened next, but that eventually Adams took her to her car and she drove home, still very dizzy. Only when she heard Tupper's story about having been drugged with a pink liquid did this woman reach the conclusion she had been drugged.
-- A secretary who worked for Adams for more than a decade - in government, in his private law practice and in his 1986 Senate campaign. She says Adams routinely harassed her: kissing her against her will, grabbing her breasts, rubbing against her buttocks. On one out-of-town business trip they took together, she says, Adams invited her to his room. When she didn't show up, he telephoned her repeatedly through the night. Afterward, she says, he became cold and critical toward her.
Additionally, she says, other women employees of Adams came to her many times with complaints of the senator's inappropriate, sexually aggressive behavior.
"We referred to it as `Brock's problem.' Everybody did," she recalls.
-- A former corporate lobbyist who says that at a formal luncheon in 1982, attended by several other business people, Adams - then an attorney in private practice - stuck his hand deep inside her skirt and kept it on her upper thigh for about 15 minutes while she discreetly struggled under the table to remove it.
She says another woman told her later that she had arrived at the luncheon before the lobbyist, and had taken the seat next to Adams. She soon found his hand on her thigh, and moved to another vacant seat.
-- A former aide who says that in the late 1980s Adams made several aggressive and unwelcomed sexual advances toward her, including open-mouth kissing her against her will.
On one occasion, she says, Adams invited her to his Seattle apartment, ostensibly to talk about political strategy, then took off his shoes and rubbed his feet up and down her leg.
As she made excuses to leave his apartment, she says, he followed her to her car. As she was ready to drive, she says, he leaned through her open car window and planted a wet kiss on her mouth.
Adams told her that he needed someone special in his life, someone to comfort him night and day, the woman recalled. Stunned, she tried to avoid his advances, which she said continued for several days. She says he invited her to hotel rooms, kissed her against her will, tried to corner her at parties.
Although she feared it could have cost her her job, she finally told a co-worker about it. At last, she said, the harassment ended.
"In the political world, you get hit on all the time, but never so blatantly where you feel your job depended on what you did," said the woman, who was in her late 20s at the time.
Following the incident, she said, she was told there was a problem with Adams and women, "but it was not until the Kari Tupper thing that I realized it was more pervasive than I had thought."
-- A woman who worked with Adams at the Department of Transportation in the late 1970s, who says he made unwanted sexual advances toward her on three separate occasions. The first time, she says, he grabbed her and kissed her after calling her into a room for what was supposed to be a business meeting.
"You get out of it as best you can," the woman remembers. "I talked my way out."
But that wasn't the end of it. "He wouldn't take no for an answer," she remembers. "The persistence was what really struck me about it. I've never known anyone in that position to go that far."
She doesn't hesitate to label his advances sexual harassment now. But that phrase wasn't in the vernacular then, the woman says.
"No matter how many excuses people make," she says, "men in a position of power should not be able to use that power to victimize other people."
-- A former secretary at the Seattle law firm at which Adams was a partner, who says that in the early 1980s, Adams on more than one occasion brushed against her inappropriately for what she calls "a cheap thrill."
She says she was offended at Adams' actions, and complained to others at the firm who were "very, very protective of me."
Other former employees of the firm say they were well aware of Adams' harassment of female workers.
"There is a pattern here. He may not think so, but maybe he should get some help," said a former receptionist.
The secretary says her case is minor, but "I do believe it is possible that it is his nature to be that way, and I feel bad for him."
The accusers are backed by other women who say they were victims and others who claim knowledge of Adams' actions.
A woman who worked in an important position in Adams' 1986 Senate campaign said she and others close to him were aware of what they called "Brock's problem," a propensity to prey on women over whom he held power. That source, who has also signed a document attesting to the truth of her statements, said she was told by at least two women of their abuse by Adams and heard indirectly about several others.
None of the allegations can be proven absolutely. There were no witnesses to the incidents, nor - except in Tupper's case - were police ever notified.
However, in virtually all the cases, the women immediately told associates, friends and/or family members who have corroborated circumstances and attested to the women's credibility.
The most recent of the incidents was in 1987; none of them took place after Tupper's allegations were publicized in September 1988.
Several women said aides to Adams have contacted them, as recently as last week, in an attempt to dissuade them from talking to the press about the alleged incidents.
"It's astounding," said the former Adams campaign worker who said she was not herself harassed but knew victims. "They had everyone call me to get me not to talk.
"This really bothers me at a fundamental level. Everybody has looked the other way."
Adams' staff was told the nature of the allegations last Wednesday morning, and The Times requested an interview with the senator. When a formal interview was denied, a Times reporter questioned Adams at a Friday night fund-raising event in Seattle.
His only response was to decline comment. His wife, Betty, who was at his side, had a different response:
"You know, we are really tired of all this scum-bum kind of stuff," she said. "It's a witchhunt you are doing, and we are sick of it."
While the timing of the upcoming election may have influenced some of the women to describe their experiences with Adams, none appears to be motivated by partisan politics. Most are Democrats, have been active in campaigns for Democratic candidates and, in the past, some have worked for Adams.
Only two of the women are actively campaigning against Adams' re-election, although all are opposed to it.
The women included here struggled over whether to go even this far in making public their experiences with Adams.
"He's very powerful," said his former personal secretary. "No one would believe you anyway. It's his word against yours. Why put yourself in jeopardy?"
Although she is not campaigning against Adams, it was the upcoming election, she said, that finally motivated her.
"Brock has a veil of deceit around him; the voters don't know what they are going for," she said. "The people who insulated him, who protected him, will be impacted by this. But they made those choices all along.
"This is now my choice. I choose to let the public know who he is."
--------------------- KEY DATES IN A CAREER ---------------------
1964: Elected a Democratic U.S. representative from 7th District (South Seattle/South King County).
1975: Named chair of House Budget Committee.
1977: Named secretary of transportation by President Carter; resigns from U.S. House.
1979: Resigns from Carter Cabinet after run-ins with White House staff; named a partner in Seattle-based law firm of Garvey, Schubert and Barer.
1979-1986: Lawyer-lobbyist, working in both Washington, D.C., and Seattle.
1986: Wins seat in U.S. Senate, defeating incumbent Republican Slade Gorton.
1987: Former House aide Kari Tupper tells police Adams, a longtime family friend, drugged and molested her when she was at his Washington, D.C., home. Police request a warrant for Adams' arrest for simple assault, but the U.S. attorney's office declines to file charges, citing lack of physical evidence and unspecified problems with Tupper's credibility.
1988: Tupper allegations become public. Adams issues a statement denying them.
February 1992: Announces he will seek re-election to Senate.
Reported and written by Seattle Times staff reporters Susan Gilmore, Eric Nalder and Eric Pryne, and Times City Editor David Boardman.