Jill Kelley, the mystery vixen in the David Petraeus scandal, is now flanked by a high-profile Washington attorney and a professional “crisis manager.”
This can only mean that she wants her own reality show, a book deal or both.
It was Kelley who received the anonymous email warnings from Petraeus’ biographer-slash-mistress, Paula Broadwell, and it was Kelley who then contacted a friend in the FBI, Agent Frederick Humphries II.
(Humphries, an anti-terrorism specialist, once emailed to Kelley a shirtless photo of himself. Write your own joke.)
Broadwell thought Kelley was making a move on Petraeus, and told her to back off. Once the feds identified Broadwell as the source of the emails, her affair with Petraeus was exposed, he resigned as director of the CIA – and another distinguished public career ended in a sleazy Florida skid.
News organizations have described Kelley as a “Tampa socialite,” a term heard about as often as “Boston alligator-wrestler.” Recent media reports have demoted Kelley to “a Tampa hostess,” a phrase which calls to mind one of those upbeat greeters at the Olive Garden.
In fact, Kelley’s hostessing talents drew a lofty crowd. She is a thrower of major parties for high-ranking military types at her big bayfront house (currently in foreclosure proceedings, what else?).
She and her surgeon husband got chummy with Petraeus while the four-star general ran the U.S. Central Command, also known as CENTCOM, which is headquartered at Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base.
MacDill is the strategic operation center for American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, and also for the war on terrorism. Kelley was a volunteer social director for the base, which apparently entitled her to visit without an escort. Perhaps she went there to review wine lists with the brass.
In addition to Petraeus, she was also close to Marine Gen. John G. Allen, NATO’s top officer in Afghanistan. Until recently he was on track to become the supreme allied commander in Europe.
Today the Pentagon inspector general’s office is reviewing 60 to 70 emails that passed between Kelley and Allen, some of which have been characterized by unnamed sources as “inappropriate” and “flirtatious.”
Allen, who like Kelley is married, adamantly says there was no illicit relationship. That Kelley had any relationship at all with a top wartime general and also the CIA chief is somewhat mind-bending, for discreet she was not.
In a chipper email to Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn last year, Kelley said: “I’ll be in DC this weekend with Petraeus, but let’s set up a double date when I return!”
Kelley has now hired attorney Abbe Lowell, who successfully defended John Edwards on campaign corruption charges. Presumably, Lowell did not have to audition for Kelley by stripping off his shirt.
Lowell’s first act on Kelley’s behalf was to formally inquire of the Justice Department how the name of his dismayed client first got leaked to the media – a move that assured her name and face would be all over CNN once again.
Also joining the Kelley team was Judy Smith, a self-described crisis manager to whom Monica Lewinsky and Michael Vick turned for reputational guidance.
Hard work lies ahead. A New York businessman named Adam Victor says Kelley offered to help him land a $4 billion natural gas contract in South Korea, in exchange for a 2 percent commission.
You might be wondering how a Tampa party maven could credibly present herself as someone who could facilitate an international megadeal. Well, it turns out that Kelley was an “honorary consul” for the government of South Korea.
Like Forrest Gump, she pops up in the darnedest places.
Although it was mainly a ceremonial gig, Kelley showcased the honorary consul title on the license plate attached to her silver Mercedes. An $80 million commission surely would have eased those car payments, not to mention that troubled mortgage, but the gas deal went nowhere.
Last week, South Korea brusquely de-consuled Kelley. She has also lost her solo roaming privileges at MacDill.
So far there’s been no evidence that she posed a security risk, or that she did anything worse than try to make a quick fortune using her manifest skills as a schmoozer. It’s Florida, for God’s sake, the land of opportunism.
Nobody forced those generals to hang out at Kelley’s house, drinking her booze and snarfing down her canapes. When she tells her own story – which she undoubtedly will – prepare to be further surprised by who else came to party.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon might be asking itself if Tampa is really an ideal place to run our wars from. The FBI might be having similar doubts.
Sure, Alaska would be safer, but how would you unwind? Who wants to peel off his shirt for a snapshot when it’s 20 below?
Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Readers may write to him at: 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132.