This Is a Honeymoon?

A rookie Senator struggles to overcome a wave of controversy

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IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN A TIME OF TRIumph. Carol Moseley-Braun, the newly elected Democratic Senator from Illinois, arrived last week to claim her place in history as the first African-American woman sworn into the Senate. Instead, Moseley-Braun faced a press corps asking pointed questions about her personal life and finances, and about allegations of sexual harassment made against her boyfriend and campaign manager, Kgosie Matthews. After her first week on Capitol Hill, she declared, "If this is a honeymoon, I'm going to divorce." -

The charges were especially stinging because they involved the kind of indiscretions Moseley-Braun had campaigned against. The former Cook County recorder of deeds entered the Senate race in response to the Judiciary Committee's mishandling of Professor Anita Hill's sexual-harassment charges against Clarence Thomas. A compelling speaker with a winning smile, Moseley- Braun, the divorced mother of a 15-year-old son, became a media star. But as she swept to victory, she was criticized for poor judgment and a sloppy campaign.

Her current problems mostly involve Matthews, with whom she became romantically involved during the campaign. The Chicago Sun-Times reported last month that two women who worked on the campaign accused Matthews of asking them to go out with him; when they refused, he treated them harshly, they said. Moseley-Braun hired a lawyer to investigate the allegations, which proved groundless, she said last week.

Other questions linger. While Moseley-Braun's campaign is more than $400,000 in debt and most staff members went unpaid for weeks, Matthews received a $15,000-a-month salary through Nov. 15. Moseley-Braun tried to put some of her former campaign staff members on the government payroll by giving them jobs at the Cook County recorder's office; after her successor complained, she admitted she had made a mistake.

Her personal spending has raised eyebrows as well. After winning the election, she moved into a $3,000-a-month penthouse apartment in Chicago, bought a new Jeep and an expensive wardrobe, then headed for Africa and England with Matthews and her son for a 27-day vacation. The threesome flew from London to New York City on the supersonic Concorde. During that time, other rookie Senators were setting up offices. Moseley-Braun replied that she was taking a well-deserved rest. She also says her travel was paid for by private contributions. But voters are beginning to wonder if her bumpy beginning is more than just a run-in with overzealous journalists, as she alleges.

Last week as Moseley-Braun struggled belatedly to put together a staff, she learned that she had won seats on the Senate's Banking and Judiciary committees. "I'd like to be accorded the chance to do my job," she declared, "and be taken seriously as a legislator." One way she could do that is to take more care to avoid the kind of behavior usually associated with the old breed of politician.