Lobbyist at Center of Capital Vice Case
WASHINGTON (AP) _ To friends and acquaintances, lobbyist Craig J. Spence was an enigma: They couldn’t figure out whether he was a character out of a James Bond movie or a businessman living a Walter Mitty fantasy.
Those who attended Spence’s star-studded parties or accepted his money said they viewed his peculiarities - like traveling with a gaggle of security guards and communicating by walkie-talkie - as the props of a man on the move, Washington-style.
″He looked like a riverboat gambler, he was a bachelor and very wealthy and always looking for business, but that seemed like such a common thing in Washington,″ said former Ambassador Robert Neumann.
Spence once arranged for Neumann, who was ambassador to Saudi Arabia and several other countries, to travel on an expenses-paid trip with his wife to Japan.
The 48-year-old Spence is the most prominent of several men identified in the investigation of a Washington callboy ring.
The Washington Times, citing credit card records, reported late last month that Spence had paid as much as $20,000 in a month to a male prostitution ring that was raided earlier this year by police. The paper quoted unidentified male prostitutes and others as saying Spence had bugged his own house, where the lobbyist threw lavish parties for the Washington elite.
Since then, Spence seems to be just about the only person in Washington who isn’t talking about the story. Repeated telephone calls to his home have gone unanswered.
The mysterious Spence cut a wide social and business swath through Washington, and the breadth of his circle of acquaintances made the story all the more titillating. Everyone is reading The Washington Times to find out whose name pops up next, said prominent political consultant Vic Kamber.
According to the Times, police obtained credit card slips implicating Spence, as well as many lesser-known Washingtonians, in raids on so-called escort services with names such as ″Dream Boys″ and ″Man to Man.″
U.S. Attorney Jay Stephens says he is investigating the prostitution ring, which operated out of a two-story brick house in a prosperous neighborhood, for possible credit card fraud, a white-collar crime that falls under the purview of the Secret Service.
The Secret Service, which is charged with guarding the White House and protecting foreign embassies, also is examining whether one of its uniformed guards violated policy by giving Spence and several friends a late-night White House tour on July 3, 1988.
Officer Reginald deGueldre, a former White House guard, has been placed on administrative leave. He acknowledged in an interview with The Associated Press that he led a Spence group on a private tour of the White House ″just like I did my family.″ He also told the Times that Spence gave him an $8,000 gold Rolex watch.
The Baltimore Sun, citing anonymous sources, reported in Saturday’s editions that a separate apartment Spence rented was searched by Secret Service officers the night after deGueldre’s home was searched.
Richard Adams, a Secret Service spokesman, refused to confirm or deny that Spence’s apartment had been searched when contacted Saturday by The Associated Press.
The Washington Times contends the call boy ring’s clients included ″key officials of the Reagan and Bush administrations.″ It has identified several mid-level officials by name.
Paul Balach resigned as a political personnel aide to Labor Secretary Elizabeth Dole when the story appeared. Charles K. Dutcher, a former associate personnel officer at the Reagan White House, told the Times he used the service once, paying $155 for one session with a male prostitute.
The newspaper also named Stanley Tapscott, another former Reagan personnel officer. Tapscott, who had become a Times editor, resigned from the paper but denied patronizing the ring.
But it is Spence, who did not hold public office, who has attracted most of the attention. What has emerged about him in recent days is a picture of a man who propelled himself into the social limelight by spending money often supplied by Japanese interests to cultivate academics, ambassadors, journalists, members of Congress, military officers and other habitues of the corridors of power.
Among those who attended Spence’s gatherings were journalists Eric Severeid and Liz Trotta; James Lilley, the U.S. ambassador to China; William Safire, a columnist for The New York Times; and former CIA Director William Casey, according to other guests and the Times.
Much of the money that oiled Spence’s social machine came from Japan, according to records he filed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. For example, in a five-month period in 1981, the Policy Study Group of Tokyo gave Spence $110,000. The non-profit group was financed by Japanese business interests and affiliated with a faction of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
Some of those who accepted Spence’s hospitality said they did so because they believed he could open doors to lucrative markets in the Orient.
″He was eccentric but he was extremely well-informed,″ said former U.S. Attorney Joseph diGenova, now a private attorney who once went on a business trip to Japan with Spence.
It was ″sort of a salon″ he was running there, said veteran journalist Sarah McClendon, who said Spence paid her $400 to write a profile of a political figure. McClendon said she refused to do any more work for Spence when she learned he was being paid by the Japanese.
″Obviously the Japanese were using him to get as much information as they could about the personal habits of public officials,″ McClendon said. ″To my notion, that borders on espionage.″
Spence ceased operating as an agent for Japan in late 1987, documents show, and recently he seemed to have lowered his profile. Neumann said he attended a small dinner party Spence hosted a few months ago, but, unlike previous Spence soirees, there was no ″special guest.″
Richard Gordon, a Georgetown University law professor who considers Spence a friend, said Spence had been sick, but the nature of his illness was not revealed.
Some of Spence’s one-time associates say they are aghast at stories about his alleged double life.
Gordon said he has been ″shocked and utterly repelled″ by what he’s read about Spence. He said Spence’s glittering parties and highbrow seminars had ″zero to do with this sex thing.″
Gordon said Spence seemed to enjoy portraying himself as a character shrouded in mystery. With Spence, there was ″always this invited suspicion that he was really an agent. He seemed to enjoy that,″ he said.
″He was a tremendous name-dropper and had a tremendous ego,″ said Kamber, who was paid $400 for speaking at one of the seminars that Spence arranged on political and economic issues.
Kamber, well known in Democratic circles, said he assumed Spence courted him because he provided a counterpoint to conservative speakers. Before he was hired to speak at Spence’s seminars, Kamber said, he was ″looked over″ by Spence at a private luncheon.
″I guess he wanted to see if I had the social graces ... if I knew how to use a knife and fork,″ Kamber said.
While the Spence story has titillated the nation’s capital, it has not amused the organized gay and lesbian community.
″The Washington Times story is a rank attempt to sensationalize a fact that should come as no surprise to anybody: that there are gay people in the Republican Party and in this Republican administration,″ said the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.