A Helpful Summary of the Girls Gone Wild Internship Debacle

All the “he said, he said” getting confusing? We break it down.
Click on the image to view the letter from Chad Brownstein to Senator Mark Pryor.

Arkansas senator
Mark Pryor most likely didn’t start this week thinking his name would end up in the same sentence as
Girls Gone Wild, the reality TV and DVD sensation that features bare-breasted college girls. Similarly,
Joe Francis, the show’s creator, probably didn’t think a US senator would be asking the FBI to focus on him in an investigation. Lastly,
Los Angeles financier
Chad Brownstein likely didn’t expect he’d be apologizing for the whole mess. But that’s what happened–and all in about 48 hours.

The imbroglio began last week when, according to
Francis, he won an online charity auction for a four-week unpaid summer
internship
in the office of Senator Pryor. The item, meant to benefit LA’s
Wilshire Boulevard Temple, was listed for $15,000; Francis
bought it for $2,500 and sent in a check.

What he did next started the firestorm.

Francis, at the start of this week, offered the internship as part of the prize package for the winner of his
Search for the Hottest Girl in America contest show, who was to be announced next Thursday. Francis said he planned to send the “lucky woman” to Washington, which
he saw as “doing a good thing for women and charity.”

Except Pryor’s office claimed to be clueless about the whole thing. The senator’s communications director,
Lisa Ackerman, issued a statement Wednesday
afternoon calling the auction item a “hoax.” She said Pryor had notified
the FBI that their
office feared someone was impersonating the senator. While
Ackerman said they do have a summer intern program, “we don’t sell
it or auction it off.” It would be illegal.

Over the course of the following 24 hours, nearly
everyone began backpedaling. The Wilshire Boulevard Temple issued a
statement:
“Wilshire Boulevard Temple has learned that a private party
organized to benefit the Temple’s early childhood centers included
an auction item bid for by Mr. Francis. We have learned that
the party’s organizers returned the money and canceled the item.
We agree with that decision.”

Then word came from Francis today that the auction
deal was initially “brokered” by a lobbying firm with Washington
connections:
Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck. Its cofounder and chairman is
Norman Brownstein. Brownstein’s son is Chad Brownstein, a member
of the venture capital firm Crescent Capital Group. Francis
wrote: “I can confirm that the charity has told me that the Brownstein
Hyatt lobbying firm brokered the deal on behalf of Senator Mark
Pryor to sell the internship. They also confirmed that the
senator and his office were fully aware of everything.” Indeed,
it appeared that there were ties between the Brownstein family
and the Arkansas Democrat; Chad had twice donated to Pryor’s
campaigns and appeared in a Wilshire Boulevard Temple newsletter
giving the senator a tour.

By late Thursday afternoon, a public relations firm working for Chad Brownstein sent
The Washingtonian a letter, dated April 26, 2012, from
Brownstein on his personal stationery, addressed to Pryor, in which he
apologizes for
“any embarrassment that I have caused you” and says his father
had nothing to do with the deal. “Neither he nor his firm had
anything to do with it. I did this on my own.”

In his letter to Pryor, Chad Brownstein admitted he
had offered the auction item to the Wilshire Boulevard Temple. “Pending
approval of your office, I thought it might be possible to
auction off an unpaid month-long summer internship for a high school
student with your office.” He said the Temple posted it “before
I had a chance to check with your office.” He also said it
was posted without the caveat that the winning bidder “would
have to be approved.”

Thursday afternoon, we received a statement from Pryor’s office, which read:

“As previously stated, I have never sold, auctioned or
donated internships. I am glad the responsible party has come forward
to clear up the matter. I had already referred the case to the
FBI, and it is now up to them to determine whether a crime
has been committed.”

Francis, meanwhile, in a final communication this afternoon, said that he wanted an apology from the senator’s office for
calling it a hoax. He wrote, “Clearly now I have been cleared of ANY wrong-doing whatsoever.”

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