`Porn' scandal rocks Gramm

FROM DAVID USBORNE

in New York

It was not the publicity Republican senator Phil Gramm was hoping for. The day after appearing on Capitol Hill with Christian Coalition leaders to bolster his credentials as the "family values" candidate in next year's presidential race, the headlines were all about naughty sex.

"A Porn-Again Prez Hopeful", wailed the Daily News on the streets of New York yesterday. Its rival, the New York Post, wheeled out the 3in front-page typeset for "Porno-Gramm". The nightmares of political press handlers do not get much worse.

Mr Gramm, taken seriously as a candidate for the Republican nomination if only because of his ability to raise huge sums of money, has tirelessly portrayed himself as the champion of the conservative right and the all- important Christian vote.

Source of the flap is an article in an upcoming issue of the Washington political weekly, the New Republic. In it, a former brother-in-law of Mr Gramm's, George Caton, reveals that in 1974 the Senator invested $7,500 with him to make a spoof beauty contests film to be called Beauty Queens. It was never made and Mr Gramm's money was used instead to fund production of a risque attack on Richard Nixon entitled, White House Madness.

According to Mr Caton, Mr Gramm became interested in investing in what he called "sexploitation" films after a private viewing of a film with lots of cavorting nudes called Truck Stop Women. Mr Caton told the New Republic: "It really got Phil titillated because there was frontal nudity - he thought it would be a way to make a lot of money."

Senator Gramm admits giving the money to Mr Caton for Beauty Queens, which would have been R-rated, but says he lost track of the cash and never got anything back. As for everything else Mr Caton said, the Texas senator says it is "totally false". "We obviously have an old family vendetta here. I have nothing to hide."

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