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Allegations Of Spousal Abuse Rock GOP Consultant

In first on-air interviews, people tell CNN that Don Sipple abused two ex-wives

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Sep. 2) -- The kind of story Regina Spencer Sipple tells is all too familiar. It's one of love turned to violence.

"The first two years of our marriage were very nice, very loving, calm, and then it started with yelling and shoving and then it moved to more aggressive and dangerous behavior, the hitting and the kicking and the screaming," she said in a CNN television exclusive.

She had been a model. Her husband, Don Sipple, was a rising political aide. But she says he had a jealous, raging temper.

"He timed me whenever we went to the grocery store just to make sure I didn't have time to meet anyone else," she said.

"He would also get violent if he saw me speaking to another man for a longer period of time that he thought I should, or if I danced with another man at a party, including the governor.

"I was injured a number of times. When I was pregnant and he beat me severely and broke my cheek and my nose, and I had a friend take a picture of my face," she said. "Just in case anything happened to me, I wanted somebody to know."

She divorced him, raising their son, Evan, alone while taking part-time jobs. While he became rich and famous creating political ads, she was struggling with a drinking problem.

Sipple's TV ads for Republicans often stress family values, like a 1994 ad for Texas gubernatorial candidate George W. Bush: "George W. Bush takes his responsibilities as a dad very seriously," the ad said.

Other ads appealed to women's fears, such as one for Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar which showed an pistol-wielding thug attacking a woman as she tries to get into her car.

Sipple is at the top of his craft, one of GOP presidential candidate Bob Dole's men last year, earning well over $1 million in a single year. He was, at least, until this month, when Regina Sipple's story was told in Mother Jones, a magazine devoted to muckraking journalism and liberal politics.

It's a story Don Sipple strongly denies, but a story that is rocking Republican politics.

It's "a surprise," said Dole. "You know, my business with Don Sipple ... he's just a very quiet, well-mannered guy."

Last week Don Sipple sued Mother Jones and the reporter for libel. He declined to talk to CNN. Sipple's lawyer said, "He'll let the lawsuit do the talking."

Regina Sipple first told her story, with no reporters present, in a Missouri courtroom five years ago.

"Were you physically abused by Don?" lawyers asked her.

"Yes," she answered.

"Did he ... push you, kick you, pull you?"

"All of the above." She said there were 20 to 30 incidents.

At the trial, Don Sipple denied all that.

"Have you ever struck her?" lawyers asked him.

"No," he replied.

"Have you ever kicked her or pushed her or shoved her, or used excessive force against her in any way?"

"No, I have not," he responded.

Regina was desperate. Don was suing to get custody of their son after he had flunked the seventh grade, and after Regina had been hospitalized for alcoholism.

But Regina was not alone. Also testifying was Sipple's second ex-wife, Deborah Steelman, a prominent Washington health care lobbyist.

"Did he ever strike you?" lawyers asked Steelman.

Steelman: "Yes."

"Did he physically abuse you?"

"Yes," she answered.

"Did this occur on more than one occasion?"

"Yes," she said.

Sipple denied Steelman's accusation, too, calling her testimony "perjury."

"You heard her testify that you abused her. Do you disagree with that?" Sipple was asked.

"I sure do," Sipple replied.

Steelman wouldn't talk to CNN, but before her divorce she confided in a co-worker, John Rother, who's now also a Washington health care lobbyist. "I remember quite distinctly her coming to me quite agitated, emotionally distressed, and at that point confided to me that she had indeed been beaten by her husband and that she had decided to leave the marriage," says Rother.

Steelman also spoke to her brother, David Steelman, a Missouri lawyer, while he was helping arrange her divorce. "When she got to Missouri and started talking about it, I do remember some of the details," David Steelman says. "And candidly, some of them are too graphic and too terrifying to -- I don't want to talk about them, really, except to say that I knew then that it was true and it wasn't just a little abuse."

Regina Sipple lost custody of her son to Don, whose current wife testified their marriage was happy.

Regina never complained about Don to police, and neither did Steelman. But somebody is not being truthful -- either Don Sipple, or both his ex-wives.

"I would hope that your viewers would have the common sense to know that this is a scared man trying to protect himself," Regina Sipple told CNN. "I mean, who wants the world to know what you do behind closed doors?"

Whatever happened, it took place well over a decade ago. But the stories are having an impact today. Sipple already has lost one House client and other clients say they're taking the allegations seriously.


In Other News:

Tuesday Sept. 2, 1997

Hillary Clinton Will Attend Diana's Funeral
Allegations Of Spousal Abuse Rock GOP Consultant
How Will Clinton Use His Line-Item Veto?
Senate Resumes Business, Prays For Diana
Gov. Symington Jury Still Mulling His Fate
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