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Senator Rod Grams, a perennial toast of such groups as the American Conservative Union and the Christian Coalition-which recently proclaimed him “a solid voice for pro-family issues”-September was one bad month. On the 24th Grams’s 22-year-old son, Morgan, pitched himself out the third-story window of a Super 8 motel in Las Cruces, NM, in a vain effort to elude sheriff’s deputies who’d tracked him there. Grams the Younger was taken into custody along with an 18-year-old friend and the 15-year-old runaway girl they had brought along with them on a four-day joyride that started in Minnesota; he was subsequently charged with three felony counts of theft for stealing a shotgun, a Chevy Blazer, and $2,500 worth of silver and antique coins.
Over the past couple of years Morgan Grams has made headlines in Minnesota more often than his father, a former TV newscaster and notorious back-bencher whose sponsorship of legislation is usually confined to commemorative proclamations and “sense of the Senate” resolutions. (One notable exception: When the racist disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentencing guidelines became a public issue, Grams successfully co-sponsored a bill to remedy it-by raising the penalties for powder.) In July 1999, Rod Grams telephoned the sheriff’s office in Anoka County, Minnesota, to ask their assistance in finding his son, who had disappeared with a rental vehicle borrowed from a co-worker several days earlier. A deputy duly located Morgan Grams in the company of his merry band. He would subsequently report finding nothing amiss with the vehicle or its occupants.
The incident might never have made the papers if two other deputies had not arrived at the scene a couple of minutes after the first deputy. One of them saw a Grams passenger stuffing something in the waistband of his pants. It was one of nine bags of pot the youth proved to have in his possession; a tenth was discovered under Grams’s seat. There were also several empty beer cans in the vehicle, according to the accounts of a passenger and the man from whom Grams had taken the car. All Grams got from the deputy was a front-seat ride back to his motel, but he was not so lucky two weeks later when he stole a car and a purse from a woman he had taken to a suburban Twin Cities bar. That stunt landed him on probation, which he subsequently violated by failing to show up for a court-mandated drug test. He was wanted on a skip warrant at the time of his New Mexico arrest.
Following his son’s latest apprehension, a tearful Rod Grams met the press to offer assurances that, unlike last time, Morgan would have to face the music. But at least his travails with his son pushed into the background another family-related September scandal. Earlier in the month the Minneapolis Star Tribune published a report indicating that a series of anonymous smear emails about Mike Ciresi, a candidate in the state’s Democratic Senate primary appear to have originated with the Grams campaign’s political director, Christine Gunhus. If true, this bit of political dirty trickery would also be illegal under Minnesota campaign law. Gunhus has been a key Grams operative since his 1992 election to the House; more recently she was the chief of staff in his Senate office before departing to head his campaign. The family connection? Last year Roll Call identified her as the girlfriend of Grams, who divorced his wife in 1994. CP