The Best Five Parts of Frank Keel’s Amazing Lawsuit Against David Axelrod

It's not just a legal document — it's a heck of a good read.

John Street, David Axelrod,gle at Bochetto's  and Frank Keel.

John Street (Jeff Fusco), David Axelrod (Twitter) and Frank Keel (Facebook).

Whatever else you think of Frank Keel’s lawsuit against David Axelrod over who came up with the idea to blame Republicans in then-Philly Mayor John Street’s FBI bugging scandal, we want you to know this: It’s one heck of an entertaining read.

Keel’s attorney — George Bochetto — has a flair for the written word, and a kind of noir sensibility. If you’re tempted to giggle at Bochetto’s slightly over-the-top description of Keel as a man’s man, getting things done with brashness and style in the dirty world of Philadelphia politics, well, the overall description of behind-the-scenes power struggles during 2003 feels just a bit cinematic. Who is going to make this into a movie?

You can read the whole lawsuit. Or you can let us do the hard very fun work for you — here are our five favorite passages:

Frank Keel Is Ari Gold!

Love the way Bochetto sets the scene with his descriptions of Keel:

Frank Keel is Ari Gold!

Frank’s Big Risk

During the 2003 campaign, an FBI bug was discovered in Mayor John Street’s City Hall office — just as he was struggling in his re-election bid against Republican Sam Katz. Dozens of people would be convicted in the resulting corruption investigation, though Street wasn’t one of them. Still, the revelation threatened the campaign. Keel says he conceived a strategy of blaming the investigation on Republican dirty tricks — and soon got a chance to put the strategy into action when a campaign event was canceled. According to the lawsuit, Keel called campaign manager Shawn Fordham and said it was clear somebody needed to meet the press. That somebody would be Keel. And the decision to do so meant putting his neck on the line:

franks-big-chance

Axelrod: Johnny Come Lately?

In fact, Keel and Bochetto say, not only did Axelrod not come up with the “blame Republicans strategy” for responding to the bug, he actively opposed it before eventually coming around in the face of the strategy’s success:

axelrod-johnny-come-lately
David Axelrod: Untrustworthy?

Keel and Bochetto point to another dustup over Axelrod’s memoirs to paint him as less-than-reliable:

AXELROD-LIARThe Damage Done

So why all the kerfuffle to claim credit for a 12-year-old political maneuver that, by the way, everybody agrees was kind of misleading? Because, Keel and Bochetto say, it’s bad for business:

the damage done

Axelrod’s team has not yet filed a response. We’ll monitor the lawsuit as it proceeds. And, hopefully someday we can update all of this with casting information.

[Update 3:20 p.m.] Penguin has released a statement from Axelrod defending his portrayal of the affair, but adding: “Nowhere in the brief passage of my book covering this episode … did I suggest that others in the campaign could not have arrived at the same conclusion or proceeded on parallel tracks. I stand by every word I wrote in my book and nothing in this lawsuit impeaches my very clear recollections or public statements at the time.”

The full statement and relevant book excerpt below.

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