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Posted at 02:17 PM ET, 04/26/2012

Businessman Chad Brownstein apologizes to Sen. Mark Pryor, takes blame for ‘Girls Gone Wild’ internship [update]


Sen. Mark Pryor in 2007. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

UPDATE 2 p.m.:

A California businessman issued a letter Thursday apologizing to Sen. Mark Pryor for listing an internship with the Arkansas Democrat as an offering in an L.A. charitable auction — without getting the senator’s permission first.

The apparently-fictitious internship blew up into an embarrassment for Pryor this week when it was purchased by softcore-porn entrepreneur Joe Francis — who promptly declared he’d award it to the winner of his next hot-girl contest.

In the letter his publicist shared with us, venture capitalist Chad Brownstein explained to Pryor that he and other members of Wilshire Boulevard Temple were asked to “identify an internship” that could be offered in an online auction benefitting its school. Brownstein said he suggested “an unpaid month-long summer internship for a high school student” with Pryor — to whom Brownstein contributed $2,000 for his first Senate race in 2002.

Brownstein said he “didn’t realize the item would be posted before I had a chance to check with your office.” The son of a prominent lawyer/lobbyist, Brownstein denied Web reports that there was a connection between the the phantom gift and his father Norm Brownstein’s firm, Brownstein Hyatt. The firm also put out a statement denying any connection.

The temple — which Pryor visited with Brownstein in 2008 — has not responded to calls for comment Thursday. Pryor’s office declined to comment earlier today, citing a pending investigation.

This post will be updated; the original story posted at 10 a.m. Thursday continues below:

Two names you would not have expected to see linked as of 24 hours ago: Joe Francis, the tax-evading, self-promoting ex-con entrepreneur behind the naughty “Girls Gone Wild” videos. And Sen. Mark Pryor, the evangelical Christian, conservative-leaning Democrat from Arkansas.

And yet linked they are, after Francis put out a press release early Wednesday touting a ‘Search for the Hottest Girl in America’ contest. Among the prizes: A summer internship in Pryor’s office.


Joe Francis (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
Pryor’s office immediately denounced the claim as a hoax. — supporters implied to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that the stunt represented an attack by the porn industry on one of its harsh critics. (Pryor has pushed to tax and limit access to adult Internet sites.) Francis pushed back, insisting he’d bought the internship fair and square via an online charity auction for a preschool run by a Los Angeles temple — whose director told the AP late Wednesday that the auction was part of “a private party” for the school’s benefit, but offered no information on how the Pryor job ended up on their roster.

By late Wednesday, Pryor’s office was calling for an FBI investigation, alleging illegal “impersonation” of a U.S. senator and “fraudulently attempting to sell a government position.” Francis, meanwhile, told Roll Call Wednesday night there would be no internship and that he’d gotten a refund from the charity.

Read more: Ark. Sen. Pryor asks FBI to investigate auctioning of internship to ‘Girls Gone Wild’ founder

By  |  02:17 PM ET, 04/26/2012

 
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