Sex, Drugs and Pornography: The Invasive Process of VP Vetting

PHOTO: Sen. John McCain and his running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin hold a campaign rally at the Giant Center, Oct. 28, 2008 in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Being vetted as a vice presidential running mate sounds about as invasive and uncomfortable as… well, use your imagination. Infidelity? Pornography? Drugs? No question is off limits.

Even Mitt Romney, who has kept a bulk of his tax returns under wraps during his run for the presidency, showed some transparency during the vetting process when according to Huffington Post, he gave 23 years of returns to John McCain's team when being considered as a running mate in 2008.

A GQ writer wrote a funny piece about having himself vetted by Ted Frank , the same man who helped John McCain pick Sarah Palin over Romney in 2008.

Former Indiana senator Evan Bayh told the GQ, "that it's totally invasive. It's like having a colonoscopy, except they use the Hubble telescope on you."

The vetting questions get so intimate and so personal; it's hard to believe that that anyone would have the guts to ask them.

Some of the brutal questions included: "Have you ever had a homosexual encounter?" and "Could a rogue IT guy have access to a sex tape or anything like that?"

Imagine candidates asking those questions at a public debate. But heading off scandal is the primary function of a vetter. And not just for potential vice presidents.

Do you buy or sell pornography? Have you ever abused your wife? Have you ever had an extramarital affair? Has your wife ever had an abortion?

These were actual questions included in a draft questionnaire prepared for now Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. We don't know the answers, but the draft was posted online by Kyle Graham, an assistant professor at the Santa Clara University School of Law. They were obtained at the Reagan Library and part of the draft questionnaire for the then-aspiring Supreme Court Justice.

Get more pure politics at ABC News.com/Politics and a lighter take on the news at OTUSNews.com

"These are public documents that can be found in the Reagan Library." Graham says that posting them on his blog is a way to share the information with different audiences. "It shows people how unbearably invasive this process is." Seeing the difficulty in the process, Graham explains, makes those going through vetting process possibly reconsider. He believes that the public has a right to know what is being asked but feels that it would be too invasive to post answers of the vetted.

"The answers are personal and confidential and would just be too invasive to reveal," Graham says that even if he did have access to the answers, he still wouldn't post them. "Some of the information would appeal to prurient interests, but sometimes that affects political debates."

Graham believes that it is possible that the notion of getting personal during vetting began when Reagan was going to appoint Douglas Ginsburg to fill a United States Supreme Court vacancy in 1987.This case in particular could have prompted some of the drug questions included in the vetting process. Ginsburg withdrew from consideration over controversy of the judge's marijuana use in the 1960's and 70's surfaced. Though Graham believes that this incidence could have prompted the onset of invasive vetting, he says, "Given the appropriate nominee, a lot of those questions could have been asked because you could never be too careful."

Though some drug questions may have surfaced after Ginsburg's withdrawal, Graham thinks that, "The stuff about sex probably predates the Ginsburg nomination, and likely back to (at least) the sex scandals of the 1970s and early 1980s."

When asked by ABC News why this vetting process was important, Graham explained, "If they don't ask these personal questions, somebody else will just." He continues to compare the vetting process to a court case, "It is just like in a trial where you always want to know about any bad information regarding a witness. This information is important not only to address questions that come up in the nomination process but also when trying to determine whether or not you want that person as a nominee at all."

In 2008, Palin faced 70 brutal questions intended to get a sneak peek inside the life of the potential VP.

"We asked about infidelity, sexual harassment, discrimination, plagiarism, alcohol or drug addiction, delinquent taxes, credit history and use of government positions or resources for personal benefit. Nothing was off-limits," vetter A.B. Culvahouse wrote recently in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece.

"Yet, as in all campaigns, if we had allowed good manners to intervene, anything we missed surely would have been dredged up by someone else."

Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...
See It, Share It
PHOTO: A home damaged by a landslide Friday, April 18, 2014 in Jackson, Wyo. is shown in this aerial image provided by Tributary Environmental.
Tributary Environmental/AP Photo
null
Danny Martindale/Getty Images
PHOTO: Woman who received lab-grown vagina says she now has normal life.
Metropolitan Autonomous University and Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine