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Gramm Strikes Back, Calls Spokane Man Wife-Beater

Phil Gramm fired up his damage-control machine Friday, lashing out at the Spokane man who confirmed the Texas senator’s past investment in risque movies.

The conservative presidential candidate’s office faxed The Spokesman-Review a detailed memorandum attacking his former brother-in-law.

The memo challenged assertions by South Hill resident George Caton about Gramm’s investment in two R-rated movies Caton was producing in 1974. It also cast Caton as an abusive husband.

The Gramm memo implies Caton was blackballed by the Gramms after he mistreated the sister of the senator’s wife, Wendy.

“Wendy’s sister, Sharon, divorced Caton in 1975 after suffering a beating at his hands,” the memo states.

Caton, a former Los Angeles attorney and movie producer, called the Gramm memo groundless character assassination.

“It never happened. It’s a complete fabrication by a guy in a desperate position to defend himself. I will sign a statement under penalty of perjury that this is untrue, totally false.”

Caton shared a 1975 court document which shows he, not Gramm’s sister-in-law, initiated the divorce. The document also indicates the divorce was uncontested, and that the couple was still living together at the time.

“We had simply decided to get a divorce,” said Caton, 52, who moved to Spokane four years ago.

Gramm concedes he invested in Caton’s movies, but claims he didn’t know about their content. He also maintains Caton is pursuing a family vendetta to ruin him.

Caton admits he felt shunned by Gramm, who has not talked to him in at least 11 years. But Caton said he has not tried to hurt Gramm’s career. He simply grew tired of hiding the movie deal from reporters and campaign opponents, said Caton, whose politics are as conservative as Gramm’s.

Attempting to further discredit Caton, the Gramm memo, titled “There’s No Business Like Show Business Like …” refers to specific court filings in Spokane County Superior Court.

Two of the three filings deal with Caton’s current marital difficulties with his fourth wife, Karen. The two have separated, but have hopes of getting back together, Caton said.

The third court filing noted in the Gramm memo regards a 1991 lawsuit Caton filed against a contractor renovating his cliffside home. The case was settled out of court.

“What relevance does that have to Phil’s making an investment in a film?” Caton asked. “This is a nightmare. All I tried to do was be a decent citizen. All I’m getting here is a ruined reputation. … I don’t need this in my life. Obviously, in retrospect, I’m sorry I ever confirmed the truth about Gramm’s investment.”

The New Republic, a Washington, D.C. magazine, published a story Thursday called “Porn Broker?” It contrasts Gramm as the family values candidate with the college professor who invested $15,000 in Caton’s movies. Gramm says it was $7,500.

One of the movies was called “Beauty Queens,” a failed script that was to have starred ambitious, bare-chested beauty contestants.

Gramm’s interest in Caton’s movies began after the Texan saw some of the promotional materials for “Truck Stop Women,” Caton said. Gramm insists he was simply helping out a needy relative.

Gramm is known as a tough, budget-cutting politician with a national power base among arch conservatives and the so-called religious right.

The National Journal’s Almanac of National Politics describes Gramm this way: “Gramm sees himself as a natural successor to fellow party-switcher Ronald Reagan. But he does not have Reagan’s geniality; there is a note of anger to him - a sharp edge of hostility.”

Gramm is known as a fierce campaigner.

In 1984, Gramm relentlessly attacked his liberal U.S. senate opponent for allegedly holding a fundraiser at a gay strip joint.

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