Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Missouri attorney Craig O'Dear, who appears as paying customer at Ashley Madison, announces exploratory committee for independent run at U.S. Senate seat

Craig O'Dear
A Missouri lawyer, who was a subject of our reporting on the Ashley Madison extramarital-affairs Web site, has formed an exploratory committee for a possible independent run at a U.S. Senate seat.

Craig O'Dear is a partner at Bryan Cave LLP and a founding member of the firm's Kansas City, MO, office. We reported on O'Dear's status as a paying customer at Ashley Madison in a series of posts from late 2016 (see here, here, and here). Our posts included extensive comments from O'Dear and from his ex-wife Stephanie O'Dear. At the time of our reports, the O'Dears stated they had reconciled as a couple, although they had not remarried.

Claire McCaskill (D-MO) currently holds the Senate seat that O'Dear has targeted. Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley is considered a prime contender on the Republican side.

Does Craig O'Dear believe Missourians are ready for an Ashley Madison customer at U.S. senator? We will seek additional comment from him, but so far, his timing seems a little off. O'Dear announced his exploratory committee on Jan. 10, the same day that Gov. Eric Greitens admitted to an extramarital affair that has sparked a criminal investigation, apparently based on allegations of blackmail and assault.

In his written comments for our earlier posts, O'Dear wrote all around various issues connected to Ashley Madison, but he did not deny being one of the firm's paying customers:

Mr. Shuler:

The article you have drafted and now threaten to publish conveys a false and misleading impression of people about whom you have little knowledge.

Stephanie was and is the love of my life. We were married in 1995, and legally divorced in November 2012. Many years prior to the effective date of our divorce, we ceased to be a married couple, and my marital obligations to Stephanie came to an end. I was not unfaithful in the marriage, and Stephanie never alleged in our divorce proceeding that I had been. Your draft article conveys an impression to the contrary. That impression is false.

Further, I have never at any time in my life been romantically involved with any woman who was married. Your draft article conveys a false impression to the contrary on that issue as well by highlighting the marketing tag line for the dating site you reference and implying anyone who might have used it did so for the purpose of engaging in an extramarital affair. The only possible purpose you could have to do this is to publish something you believe will draw traffic to your site, with an intent to embarrass and damage me and Stephanie and our children, both personally and professionally. During this difficult period in my life, whatever social activity I engaged in violated no marital obligations. My focus was being the best father I could be to my children and being the best lawyer I could be practicing law and taking care of my clients. If you took the time to interview anyone who has any personal knowledge of my life, you would know this.

O'Dear proceeded to describe the reconciliation with his ex wife, tossing in a few threats of legal action at me -- even though he could not cite any explicit statements in our posts that were false:

The good news in all of this is that in the Spring of 2014, Stephanie approached me and expressed a desire to re-establish our relationship and reunite our family. Unlike most of the stories of broken marriages, this one has a happy ending. We engaged in a process that achieved our objective, and Stephanie and I are again partners in life, living together with our children, and enjoying the blessing of all that entails. This is yet another point on which your draft article conveys a false and misleading impression, because you know nothing about the people and the family you seek to slander.

Stephanie O'Dear
I am copying Stephanie on this email. I told her of your communication to me. She has seen your draft "article" and she told me she had some comments to convey to you as well. You should refrain from publishing your false and slanderous "article." If you proceed to publish this false and misleading article, an act which is legally actionable, we insist you publish in full in the same article my response and Stephanie's response, which tells the real story of our lives and corrects the many false impressions your article conveys.

O'Dear has launched a campaign Web site, which looks top-notch, so he apparently is serious about this race. He already has drawn attention from Missouri's mainstream media. Bryan Lowry and Lindsay Wise wrote about O'Dear's plans at the Kansas City Star:

A Kansas City lawyer could shake up one of the most competitive Senate races in the country as he seriously considers running as a centrist independent against U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill and her eventual Republican challenger.

Craig O’Dear, a Kansas City attorney who has the backing of the national Centrist Project and has been quietly contemplating a run for a year, has launched an exploratory campaign committee for a possible independent bid for the Senate. O’Dear said Wednesday that he’ll make his official decision by the end of February.

The Missouri race promises to be one of the most expensive in the country and could determine which party controls the Senate.

Tony Messenger, a columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, also reported on O'Dear's political goals:

Craig O’Dear has an interesting sense of timing.

On Monday, television personality Oprah Winfrey dominated the political landscape after her Sunday night speech at the Golden Globes spurred speculation that she would run for president in 2020.

The next day, 85-year-old ex-sheriff Joe Arpaio, convicted of criminal contempt of federal court but pardoned by President Donald Trump, announced he was running for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Arizona.

O’Dear, a Kansas City lawyer, is not a celebrity. Outside of certain trial lawyer and political donor circles, he’s not a big name.

But on Thursday he will be making a move that could make him one.

The longtime Republican is forming an exploratory committee to consider a run for the U.S. Senate in Missouri — as an independent.

“Our two-party system no longer serves the people,” O’Dear told me in an exclusive interview. “What we’re getting from it is division and gridlock.”

In one of the Senate races that will be most watched nationally, O’Dear, 60, intends to take on Democratic incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill, and whoever survives a three-way primary among Republicans, expected to be Attorney General Josh Hawley.

It is a Quixotic challenge, but O’Dear swears he’s not tilting at windmills.

“It’s not the first time somebody has told me I couldn’t do something,” says the partner at Bryan Cave. He expects to make a final decision about jumping into the Senate race by the end of February. And if he runs? “I absolutely believe we will win.”

Speaking of interesting timing -- and centrism -- O'Dear has ties both to Hillary Clinton . . . and Eric Greitens. He might want to be distancing himself from the latter in the near future. Writes Messenger:

In 2016, O’Dear donated to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

At the same time he was hosting a fundraiser at his home for Republican Eric Greitens, who became Missouri’s governor. O’Dear will always be grateful for the advice the former Navy SEAL offered his son, Cullen, now a sophomore at the U.S. Naval Academy. But Greitens’ political drift to the extreme ends of the Republican Party serves as a symptom of what O’Dear believes is wrong with the American political system.

“I’m not asking you to leave your political party,” he says. “But if you will support our movement to re-create a center, it will have the effect of moderating both parties.”

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