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Arnold, Pellicano and Politics 

Where will The Pelican’s droppings land next?

Thursday, Nov 20 2003
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Arnold Schwarzenegger asked once-celebrated and now-celled private investigator Anthony Pellicano to see what dirt could be unearthed on the actor if he entered the 2002 gubernatorial race, Pellicano’s former legman Paul Barresi tells L.A. Weekly. Less than a week after the 27-page file was turned in, Schwarzenegger opted out of the race, says Barresi, the ex-X-rated film star who maintains he was hired by Pellicano to conduct the background search.

The existence of this still recent self-probe raises the question of why Schwarzenegger would have himself investigated again. Boggles the mind, no? After all, on November 6, Schwarzenegger, then governor-elect, announced he was in the process of hiring what his aide said was a “well-respected” P.I. firm to look into allegations that the bodybuilder-actor groped more than a dozen women over a 30-year period.

So now the Pellicano eavesdropping case taps into politics? This is where things could get ugly.

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After all, the FBI seized massive amounts of materials during a search of Pellicano’s Sunset Boulevard office as part of a federal wiretapping probe against the P.I. Much of the media’s focus has been on that huge cache of phone transcripts found on The Pelican’s computer (not to mention the sudden search of former Pellicano client Michael Jackson’s Neverland ranch). But little attention has been paid to the many, many confidential files that Pellicano worked up for people on people: friends and foes, clients and targets, Hollywood and civilians, nobodies and even, reportedly, the Clintons.

On the eve of his surrender, Pellicano himself griped to the Los Angeles Times that “The search warrants in my case were overly broad.” He told the newspaper that he was challenging the legality of the raid. Pellicano put it like this: “They came into the grocery store looking for a box of cereal and cleared out the entire store.” His main complaint is that the warrants “opened up all of my confidential files to the scrutiny of people who have no right to review them.”

Who knows where this could lead. Boggles the mind, no?

Consider that in recent days the right wing has been carping on Pellicano’s Clinton connection. Though it bills itself as a “nonpartisan, nonprofit conservative foundation established to serve as an ethical and legal watchdog,” Judicial Watch is best-known for all those wacky lawsuits against Bill Clinton, and for championing Gennifer Flowers. Judicial Watch reminds that Pellicano was brought in as an “audio recording expert” in 1992 to analyze Flowers’ secretly recorded tapes of her conversations with the future president. Pellicano’s verdict was that the tapes had been “selectively edited.” Flowers et al. insist they are authentic.

Another ultraconservative Web site, the notorious NewsMax.com, is going so far as to claim that “the accused sleuth’s most famous clients [were] Bill and Hillary Clinton” and that Pellicano figured into the Monica Lewinsky scandal. According to NewsMax.com, Pellicano “produced an old boyfriend who helpfully explained to reporters that Monica once boasted she was going to Washington to get her ‘presidential kneepads.’”

Suppose, just suppose, Pellicano had among his files something that would prove damaging to Hillary should she ever run for president. Presumably, in addition to the G-men and the Justice Department, others within the Bush administration might have reason to sift through The Pelican’s droppings. Boggles the mind, no?

A lot of the Hollywood players questioned so far in connection with the FBI investigation of Pellicano have big political ties. There is Bert Fields, who counts among his clients some of the most influential Democrats and Republicans in the media and entertainment business (David Geffen, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Ron Meyer, Rupert Murdoch); Warren Beatty, who considered a 2000 presidential run; and Brad Grey, who had one of the first daughters, Barbara Bush, working as a summer intern in his Hollywood office in 2001.

Now, back to Arnold.

Barresi says he came to P.I. work in a roundabout way: from a career as an adult-film star, to a Playgirl model, to a tabloid stealth talker, to a 10-year stint as Pellicano’s go-to guy. The 54-year-old resident of Rancho Cucamonga describes himself as a “self-styled” investigator because he’s unlicensed. The way he tells it, he first sought out Pellicano about some accusations against Michael Jackson lodged by the singer’s cooks back in the early 1990s. But it wasn’t until April 2001 that Barresi’s relationship with Pellicano was spelled out in a New Times’ article about actor Eddie Murphy’s 1997 transvestite sex scandal. Even so, Hollywood remained largely clueless that Pellicano used Barresi as his right-hand man. But, according to Barresi, Pellicano was so busy that he had to farm out P.I. assignments, and the 2001 Schwarzenegger investigation was one of them.

Under normal circumstances, claims Barresi, Pellicano would not reveal who had hired him. But in this case Pellicano “phrased the assignment in such a way” that there was no doubt Pellicano was working for Schwarzenegger. According to the legman, Schwarzenegger wanted to know what he’d be up against if he decided to run in the 2002 gubernatorial election, or even enter the Republican primary. Barresi says he was told “to look for information that may be of good use to Schwarzenegger’s detractors.”

Barresi recalls he began the investigation in early April 2001 (interestingly, shortly after that shocking Premiere magazine article detailing allegations about Schwarzenegger’s “grab and grope” sexual harassment of women). Barresi last “logged in” on April 19, according to his records. “It was a week after I turned in my report that Schwarzenegger made the announcement he was not going to run,” Pellicano’s aide says. That decision made headlines when, on April 25, 2001, the actor said his film career and family took precedence over any political aspirations and that “I have to be selfless at this point.”

At the time, Barresi emphasizes, it wasn’t his job to reach a conclusion about whether Schwarzenegger should throw in his hat. But the legman says that, if asked, he would have advised against it. “I think that’s a no-brainer,” he tells L.A. Weekly. “Look, my info was all fresh and new, acquired from sources, some reliable, some unreliable.” But Barresi notes that, in a political campaign, the information doesn’t have to be true, just put out there “to create and invent an unfavorable impression.”

Barresi will not divulge the contents of the report in any detail, except to note broadly that it dealt with the personal, professional and business lives of Schwarzenegger, family and associates. According to Barresi, the file was read closely. He recalls one incident he discovered: a bodyguard trying to sell to the highest bidder “a damaging story” about Schwarzenegger. “I mentioned his name to Pellicano, and, all of a sudden, this guy stopped peddling his goods,” Barresi claims.

At press time, Schwarzenegger’s office had not responded to repeated calls for comment.

On Monday, Pellicano surrendered at the Federal Detention Center in downtown Los Angeles to begin serving a 33-month prison sentence for weapons violations (including pipe bombs found in his office safe) during the FBI search. Barresi says the last time he talked to his boss was the day that the judge set Pellicano’s bail. “We warmly embraced,” Barresi recalls.

Barresi maintains he “has no knowledge whatsoever as to Pellicano’s modus operandi in conducting his investigations” and states “not one time did Pellicano ever represent to me that I should ever conduct myself unlawfully in the course of my own investigations.” He says he told all that to the FBI during a questioning session at Georgio’s, an Italian eatery on Ventura Boulevard, that didn’t go at all well.

“They got angry with me,” recalls Barresi. “One of them was like a French poodle and said, ‘I think you’re full of shit!’ And, at the end, they told me that if I didn’t talk to them, then maybe I’d talk to a grand jury. And then they walked out the door.

“It sounded like dialogue from a B-rated crime movie.”

But then, so does everything about this case. Boggles the mind, no?

 

E-mail at deadlinehollywood@gmail.com.

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