Newspaper columns that Stephen Laffey '84 wrote during his studies at Bowdoin could play a role in his highly contested Republican primary Senate race against incumbent Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island.
Late last month, the Providence Journal published excerpts of columns about homosexuality that Laffey wrote for the Bowdoin Patriot, the College Republicans' campus newspaper.
In a search of its own archives, the Orient found that Laffey was vocal about politics and active in student government. In one Orient op-ed published during his senior year, he described Social Security, foreign aid, and gun control laws as "immoral."
In that November 1983 column, after arguing that individuals should be able to engage in voluntary transactions, Laffey wrote, "For this reason I deplore welfare programs, foreign aid, Social Security and a host of other government programs, not for their inherent inefficiencies (of which there are plenty) but because they are immoral.
"Immoral because they deny individual rights," he continued. "The U.S. government, at the implicit point of a gun, orders Americans to give up part of their money so they can transfer it to other people."
When contacted by the Orient, Laffey spokeswoman Nachama Soloveichik would not comment on Laffey's argument about the morality of Social Security.
"We have nothing to say about 20-year-old articles," she said. "This is just ridiculous."
She said that Laffey has made his position on Social Security clear and that she would not "rehash the entire campaign."
In one ad posted on his web site, Laffey said that his parents "live on Social Security and Medicare," and that "every day, career politicians in Washington raid the Social Security trust fund."
In late August, Laffey backtracked from columns written in the Bowdoin Patriot after they were anonymously sent to the Providence Journal.
In one column about the definition of the word "gay," Laffey wrote, "But I have never once seen a happy homosexual. This is not to say there aren't any; I simply haven't seen one in my lifetime. Maybe they are all in the closet. All the homosexuals I've seen are sickly and decrepit, their eyes devoid of life."
In an interview with the Journal, Laffey said that he regretted some of the things he wrote in Patriot columns, that they did not represent his views, and that at the time, they were meant to be funny.
"In college we engaged in sophomoric political satire," he said. The columns were published under a "humor" heading.
In the November 1983 op-ed, Laffey stated that homosexuals should not be persecuted or ostracized.
Assistant Professor of Government Michael Franz said that of Laffey's college statements that have been republished in recent weeks, his comment about Social Security could have the greatest effect on voters, because of the program's popularity.
"I could see that as having a consequence in the campaign, at least in the general election," he said.
Laffey, who graduated magna cum laude and went to Harvard Business School, has kept close ties with Bowdoin in recent years. He visited campus last spring to speak with students, and he was the subject of an October 2004 profile in Bowdoin Magazine. And campaign finance disclosure records show that in November 2005, President Barry Mills donated a total of $4,200 to Laffey's campaign.
Mills said he did not want to comment on his donation.
Mills typically makes contributions to multiple candidates during each election cycle. Records show that Mills also made contributions to the 2006 campaigns of Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, R-Maine, and Rep. Tom Allen '67, D-Maine.
Laffey, who was once considered the underdog candidate, is now participating in one of the country's most-watched elections.
"The conventional wisdom is that its neck-and-neck," Franz said.
Laffey has run a campaign that focuses on offering straightforward talk against special interests and touts his record as mayor of Cranston, Rhode Island. He has been endorsed by the conservative Club for Growth, an organization that supports candidates who it believes offers pro-growth economic policies. Chafee is generally recognized as one of the Senate's most liberal Republicans.
Franz said that the establishment wing of the Republican party is supporting Chafee's primary bid, since polls show he has a better chance of winning the general election against likely Democratic nominee Sheldon Whitehouse. The outcome of the general election race could ultimately affect party control of the Senate.
Franz noted, however, that if Laffey wins Tuesday's primary, a November victory should not be ruled out.
"If he were to win the primary, he would have huge, huge momentum from unseating an incumbent senator," Franz said.