Porn star Stormy Daniels’s brief political career as a U.S. Senate contender


Here is what we know about the allegation that an adult-film star reportedly was paid to remain silent about a sexual relationship with Donald Trump before he was president. The Washington Post has not been able to independently confirm this payment. (The Washington Post)

There was a moment in the not-so-distant political past when American voters, sick of the hypocrisy of mainstream party figures, felt the magnetic pull of a potential outsider candidate with a resume boasting zero political experience, industry success and plenty of history in front of a camera.

No, the contender was not Donald Trump in 2016. This was Louisiana in 2009. The unlikely candidate was Stormy Daniels, the adult-film actress at the center of the latest allegations against the president.

Reports of a possible liaison between the president and Daniels rolled into the news cycle this week like a tabloid hand grenade; discussions about a government shutdown and DACA deal were suddenly competing with talk of a $130,000 “hush money” payoff to Daniels and whether media outlets had been wrong not to report the relationship before the election. Daniels, it was alleged, carried on a sexual relationship with Trump in 2006, months after his wife Melania gave birth to their only son, Barron.

The actress reportedly signed a nondisclosure agreement with Trump’s attorney months before the 2016 election. In a statement circulated by Trump’s attorney, Daniels denied the encounter. The website “In Touch,” however, is set to publish a 2011 interview with Daniels confirming the affair.

But this is not the first time the porn actress has sat in the eye of a political storm. In 2009, Daniels actively explored running for a U.S. Senate seat in her home state of Louisiana. It was an example of a political stunt morphing into an actual possibility, as Daniels showed voters she was an intelligent and serious campaigner with real policy ideas.

“I have never said that I’m the best person for the job. I absolutely am not,” Daniels told a Baton Rouge TV station at the time. “I just think I’m a better choice than the senator they already have.”

Ultimately Daniels (born Stephanie Clifford) formed an exploratory committee but did not file as a candidate. But her year informally in the race shook up the traditional notions of who was fit for politics — the very same notions Trump’s candidacy later upset.

It started with David Vitter. In 2009, the incumbent Louisiana senator was facing reelection the next year. He was also trying to rehab his image. A strict family values conservative, the Republican was entangled in the “D.C. Madam” scandal in 2007 after his phone number was discovered in the records of a prostitution ring. However, heading toward reelection, the field seemed clear for his return to Washington.

Then, without Daniels’s knowledge, a “Draft Stormy” campaign was ” launched by a few overzealous political science students looking for an adult entertainer to run against Vitter,” the Bayou Brief’s Mitch Rabalais wrote this week. “Their strategy was that Daniels’ mere presence in the race would draw more attention to the Senator’s extramarital activities.”

The pro-Daniels crowd treated her as more than a prop. On their website, the drafters noted the Baton Rouge native had charged hard toward success her whole life, whether as a high school student (editor of her school paper; president of the local 4-H Club) or as an adult entertainer. First entering the business in 2000, within two years Daniels inked a major contract with the biggest studio in the game, and two years later she was directing and writing her films. She was also one of the few adult entertainers who could jump into the mainstream films such as “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.”

But as the “Draft Stormy” movement started in early 2009, Daniels was living in Florida and not registered with either political party.

“At first I was ignoring it and hoping it would go away,” Daniels said in a 2009 TV interview. “Then I was just overwhelmed with how many people were emailing and encouraging  me to do this.”

In May 2009, Daniels officially filed a limited liability corporation with the state, the Stormy Daniels Exploratory Committee. A state Democratic operative named Brian Welsh joined her campaign, and Daniels began touring Louisiana — Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Lafayette, Shreveport — to talk with voters about her potential run, the Associated Press reported.

“I’m not here to talk about my movies or my physical attributes or go on television and act like an air head,” Daniels told a New Orleans TV station. “I take my country and my government extremely seriously.”

Her platform promoted sexual health education, opposition to the Obama administration’s stimulus package, abolishing the federal income tax, and an end to the Iraq War. Vitter was also a major topic.

“I’m not one to judge someone’s sexual activity, but what annoys me is that he’s so hardcore ‘family values,’ and he puts his wife and kids out there, saying he’s a Christian family man. Then he’s caught up in a prostitution scandal. He’s a hypocrite,” Daniels told Marie Claire. “I have nothing to hide. A sex tape of me isn’t going to pop up and shame me. There are 150 of them at the video store.”

Daniels also did not run from her time in porn while contemplating her candidacy, telling reporters her campaign slogan would be “Screwing People Honestly.”

“Those of you who don’t know who I am,” she told a lunch crowd in Baton Rouge, the New York Daily News reported, “I’d suggest that you don’t Google that until you get home from work.”

“Do you think you’re more qualified than Senator Vitter?” the interviewer from Marie Claire pressed Daniels.

“Absolutely not,” she admitted. “But in one movie, I did play a Secret Service agent marooned on an island controlled by North Korea. I butt heads with dictator Kim Jong-il and come out on top.”

Her potential Senate bid caught so much attention in the national press, FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver even gamed out her chances in a blog post.

“She’s certainly not without her, um, charms, apparently hoping to point out Vitter’s hypocrisy while campaigning on a platform of female empowerment in the business world,” Silver wrote. “In any other state, we’d say no, but in Louisiana, her candidacy is worth keeping an eye on.”

Daniels’s viability as a candidate suffered a blow in July 2009 when she was arrested at her home in Tampa.

According to the police report obtained by the Smoking Gun, Daniels became mad at her husband for the way the laundry was done, and the argument built when she discovered household bills were unpaid. Daniels then hit her husband “on his head with her hands several times,” police said. The charges were later dropped.

In 2010, Daniels announced she was declaring herself a Republican. But in June 2010, she announced she would not run after all.

“To begin with, like Governor Palin, I have become a target of the cynical stalwarts of the status quo,” Daniels said in a statement.

“Simply because I did not fit in their mold of what an independent working woman should be, the media and political elite have sought to relegate my sense of civic responsibility to mere sideshow antics. They did this not simply for the sake of expediency but because to have a woman of my background challenge the core conscripts of our political and social culture is simply too much for a system that holds that only lawyers and insurance salesmen are qualified to lead.”

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