Lane Hudson

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DAVID BURNETT / CONTACT FOR TIME

Lane Hudson in front of the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Lane Hudson first met former Florida Representative Mark Foley in a Washington bar in 1995. According to Hudson, Foley hit on him, unsuccessfully. He "made everyone, gay and straight, uncomfortable with his sexual advances," Hudson says. "Mark Foley's sleazy behavior was the worst-kept secret in Washington." In a different world, a less wired world, that would have been the end of the story.

Fast-forward a decade. On Sept. 24, 2006, Hudson posted on his blog Stop Sex Predators some amorous e-mails that Foley had sent to a congressional page. Other bloggers linked to them; soon the news networks were covering it, and some incriminating instant messages surfaced. Five days later Hudson was standing in line at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport when his cell phone and his BlackBerry went crazy. Mark Foley had resigned from Congress and dropped out of his re-election campaign. "My heart stopped," Hudson says. "I thought, Oh, my God, what have I gotten myself into?"

Now 29, Hudson is no political outsider. A lifelong Democrat from Charleston, S.C., he has worked for quite a few politicians, including John Kerry in his 2004 campaign. His feelings about what happened are complicated. "How can I not be so excited about how this turned the midterm elections?" says Hudson. He says he's surprised by the furor he started, although he has been around long enough to see the judo-like power even a tiny blog can have over a towering public figure—Trent Lott in 2002, for example, or Dan Rather in 2004. "Gotcha" moments like the Foley affair suggest the power of citizen journalists to root out hypocrisy in public life—Hudson isn't slow to point out that Foley chaired the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children Caucus—but also to create a kind of pseudo-Orwellian atmosphere of universal scrutiny. "The magnifying glass over people in public life is getting bigger and bigger," he says. "Politicians have got to start being themselves from the beginning, then they won't screw up so much. Stop pretending."

Hudson has become something of a celebrity in the Washington gay community, but the Foley affair hasn't exactly jump-started his career. He would love to end up as a political consultant or a political commentator. For now, he's started up a new blog called News for the Left. "Everyone told me, 'Oh, you're going to have so many opportunities now,'" he says. "'Everyone is going to offer you a job.' Well, nothing has materialized yet." If he sounds a little bitter, it's understandable. He lost his old job, with the Human Rights Campaign, when it came out that he had used company resources to blog about Foley. "I like to tell people that I'm the only person fired over this whole scandal," he says, "and I'm the person who told the truth."

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—Reported by Jeremy Caplan and Kathleen Kingsbury/New York, Susan Jakes/Beijing, Jeffrey Ressner/Los Angeles, Grant Rosenberg/Paris and Bryan Walsh/Seoul