I know the party reversal game can be repetitive, but it’s not unproductive: Picture if Rep. Ron Kind were a Republican.
If you don’t know who he is, you’re probably not alone. Kind, a Wisconsin Democrat, isn’t a headline-grabber despite the fact he’s represented the state’s 3rd Congressional District for 24 years — and yet, he’s amassed a great deal of quiet influence, sitting on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee since 2007, according to his official House website.
Thus, it’s not a small matter when he’s rented out one of his properties to a “massage parlor” that’s reportedly advertised on a website where spas offer services that extend beyond licit massages, to put it nicely. Kind earned between $15,000 and $50,000 renting out the building that houses the massage parlor in 2018 and 2019, according to Fox News, which cited financial disclosure forms. (Kind’s office told WKBT-TV that money includes rental income from the apartment about the massage parlor too. He hasn’t yet had to declare what he earned renting the property in 2020.)
It’s a bigger deal when he calls the revelation of these facts a “baseless smear” by his opponent — and a racist one at that, invoking last month’s Atlanta spa shootings to accuse his Republican challenger of dog-whistling. And, it’s a gigantic deal when Kind is said to be considering a 2022 challenge to Wisconsin GOP Sen. Ron Johnson.
According to a Wednesday report from Fox, one of the tenants of a building Kind owns in La Crosse, Wisconsin, was Asian Sunny Massage, formerly known as Impression Spa.
The business would reportedly advertise on sites like RubMaps, AssortList and BodyRubsMap, where massage parlors can post wink-wink-nudge-nudge advertisements that indicate their services extend beyond the realm of the legal. USA Today said RubMaps was a “Yelp for sex spas” in a 2019 article, while BodyRubsMap describes itself as the “best alternative to Backpage” — an infamous website, shuttered after a 2018 raid by the feds, which was little more than prostitution personals.
On AssortList, meanwhile, Asian Sunny Massage’s advertisements were listed under the “Women > Men” heading, according to Fox. On Impression Spa’s Facebook page, screen shots of those ads, which included suggestive pictures of women, reportedly appeared multiple times during 2019. Another post reportedly promised a “new young massager” along with more semi-prurient photos.
The Facebook page also provided insight into the services the parlor was supposed to be providing; one reviewer said Asian Sunny Massage had “no professional boundaries to the clients,” while another said the “actual massage was terrible” and alleged the parlor’s owner told him, “No money no honey.”
Parlor owner Jie Yang said didn’t provide other “services,” however.
“When pressed as to why the business was advertised on illicit websites, Yang said they ‘only use Google,'” Fox News reported. “When asked about the AssortList screenshot posted on its Facebook page, Yang said her ‘manager’ handled advertising and offered to have her manager contact Fox News.
“However, when asked for the manager’s contact information, Yang refused to share it, saying they would speak only to the police.”
Again, reverse the parties: Do you think the establishment media would make you very aware of who Ron Kind is, the influence he holds and who he rents his property to? How many CNN graphics featuring Kind’s face photoshopped together with a minatory-looking shot of Rep. Matt Gaetz do you think you’d be subjected to in the course of a day?
You can almost picture MSNBC’s Chris Hayes with that po-faced, glowering rictus he manages when he’s trying to pass as a serious adult:
“‘No money, no honey.’ These are the kinds of ‘family values’ Republican Ron Kind adheres to,” Hayes would say. “Human trafficking. Exploited sex workers. A ‘massage parlor’ that was anything but. This is the kind of negligent landlord Ron Kind is — unless he knew. I mean, allegedly, of course. All of this is alleged. [Hayes rolls eyes] Human trafficking expert Dr. Jane Doe has written for Mother Jones about Republican hypocrisy when it comes to illicit sex work. She joins us now …”
But Kind is a Democrat, so you won’t be surprised to learn Thursday’s episode of “All In with Chris Hayes” didn’t include anything like that. (Actual top story: “Biden is ending the Reagan era with bold, progressive agenda.”) Aside from Fox News’ investigation, most of the reporting has been local thus far. And according to Kind, the whole thing is a racist political dirty trick by Derrick Van Orden, a Republican vying for his seat in 2022.
“As a former special prosecutor, I take any allegation of wrongdoing seriously. But that’s not what this is. This is a baseless smear rooted in racism and insinuations,” Kind said in a statement to the La Crosse Tribune.
“Because of Derrick Van Orden and his allies pushing lies, local police are increasing patrols to ensure the safety of this Asian-owned small business. In light of what has happened across the country and especially in Atlanta last month, it is irresponsible, dangerous and despicable of Derrick Van Orden to slander this local business owner and put law enforcement in harm’s way.”
Right. Consider shenanigans called. Unless a major news organization fell for faked advertisements on RubMaps and AssortList — something that’s very hard to fake, given the trail of digital breadcrumbs these things leave — there’s enough smoke here to believe Asian Sunny Massage was doing illicit business, which calls into question what their landlord a) knew and b) should have known.
Furthermore, Van Orden’s statement followed Fox News’ report on Wednesday, according to WisPolitics.com, not the other way around. There goes that theory. And there’s the fact Kind’s damage control-tastic statement seems more centered on preserving the safety of his political career arc than of any “Asian-owned small business.” (Bringing up the specter of the Atlanta spa shootings, in particular, was a monstrously cynical touch that wouldn’t have seemed out of place in a Christopher Buckley Washington satire.)
After that substance-free deflection from Rep. Kind, he still has to explain some unpleasant facts. He earned up to $50,000 over two years renting out a property that houses a massage parlor that seems to have marketed itself as something a bit, well, more than that. And, despite the fact he’s a possible challenger to Johnson in 2022, this story hasn’t escaped the orbit of local outlets.
Oh, the joys of being a Democrat.
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