The back story of how a 1977 interview with Arnold Schwarzenegger in a now-defunct sex magazine got to be the latest hot story of the campaign is a tale of intrigue on the Internet.
It started with the Web site of online journalist Mickey Kaus.
"Where's all that Arnold dirt?" read a bold-faced plaint that Kaus posted Aug. 22 on his site, a must-read for the small but connected network of pundits, journalists and various other fans of political news analysis. He got an answer, of sorts, at 9:46 a.m. Tuesday from a man whom Kaus identified only as from the Midwest.
"He says, 'Where's the dirt? Well, it's probably in this magazine I have at home that I intend to put up for sale on EBay,' " Kaus recalled Thursday, paraphrasing the e-mail writer. "He says, 'Why haven't more people tracked this down?' " Kaus was curious. "I sent him an e-mail back saying, 'What's in it?' "
The e-mail writer said he would fill Kaus in later after he, himself, read the story carefully.
About 10:30 that night, the e-mail writer responded with a summary of the question-and-answer interview in which Schwarzenegger, then a young bodybuilder, detailed some of his sexual escapades. "He included quotes and the EBay listing," Kaus said. "At first I thought, do I trust this guy? Is it a hoax?"
The man had told Kaus he was "not an Arnold backer or Arnold detractor" and "as a nonresident of California, he said he doesn't have anything directly at stake," Kaus said. The man also said he was not a Republican. "He's just fascinated by the spectacle and he hoped to see what the magazine will fetch on EBay," Kaus said.
After seeing that his e-mail correspondent had favorable consumer feedback on EBay, Kaus decided, in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, not to print the actual quotes sent to him but simply write about the magazine's existence: "Attention, Anti-Arnold Dirt-Diggers and Negative Researchers: You really want to buy this 1977 issue of Oui magazine for sale on EBay. It appears to contain a very ... candid Arnold interview.... To raise your expectations, read the seller's product description.... How trustworthy is the seller? EBay users say 'very'!"
Kaus then e-mailed four other people with Web sites, touting his scoop. One of those people contacted the "Smoking Gun." The flashy Web site devoted to aggressive scoops of its own immediately started foraging for the magazine article itself. Managing Editor Danny Green said he tracked down someone -- he won't say who or whether it was the EBay seller. He posted by mid-afternoon Wednesday.
Times staff writer Scott Glover contributed to this report.