Fighting Cox

Did a Register reporter come to the congressmans aid in a controversy over Feinstein?

Dena Bunis, The Orange County Register's Washington, D.C.-based congressional correspondent, reported on Oct. 28 that Newport Beach Congressman Christopher Cox was fighting mad about a story that recently appeared in Capital Style. The magazine's November issue reported that Cox told fellow Orange County Republicans that Democratic U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein is "old, fat and lazy, and her husband doesn't want her in politics anymore." Feinstein is up for re-election in 2000.

News of the alleged personal attack prompted a vehement denial by Cox, who last year backed out of a planned challenge to Feinstein and is now supporting an exploratory Senate campaign by California Republican Congressman Tom Campbell. Capital Style editor Bill Thomas, however, noted that not one but two of his reporters heard Cox make the inflammatory remark at a GOP gathering in Anaheim. But Bunis came to the hometown congressman's rescue, publishing a quote from the Feinstein camp that appears to back Cox's version. "I take him at his word," Bunis quoted Kam Kuwata, Feinstein's campaign manager, as saying.

End of story? Not quite. Bunis—who has historically delighted the Newport Beach millionaire politician with favorable coverage—may have skewed Kuwata's sentiments.

Significantly missing from her account was that Kuwata had not, in fact, let Cox off the hook. As was widely reported outside Orange County, Feinstein's adviser had added, "But if he did say it, it's really beneath him to stoop to that level. It diminishes him, and it diminishes his candidate."

When asked to explain the discrepancy, Bunis would only tell the Weekly, "I really don't make a practice of discussing my interviews with other reporters, or even members of the public, for that matter."

Deep Thoughts?

Steven Burgard's pusillanimous editorial page in the Orange County edition of the Los Angeles Times continues to search for a meaningful voice in county affairs. The paper served up three more duds in its Oct. 31 issue of "Orange County Perspective." The lead editorial, "A Stack of Initiatives," fretted that local voters "are going to have to sort out the complicated Safe and Healthy Communities Initiative, which would require a two-thirds public vote to build or expand airports, large jails near homes and hazardous-waste landfills."

Sounds like a pretty damn simple (and worthy) initiative to us. But not to Times OC executives. To them—even though they easily explained the initiative in the editorial—the measure is "a mouthful" and—don't puke—"adds up to fog settling over the El Toro runways."

The newspaper got scarier this Halloween. In "Throwing Bad Money After Bad," a piece about highly questionable taxpayer-funded payments to Yorba Linda's former city manager, readers were weakly told, "It's a good thing one-time items like this do not come along often. It's like a storm." The Times OC's blatantly obvious advice to the city: "tighten things up."

In the third editorial, "A Problem Solved by Neighbors," the paper solicitously noted that Anaheim Republican Councilman Tom Tait "is asking some good questions" about city housing code enforcement. Noticeably absent from the editorial is a list of those supposedly good questions. Reminiscent of how the Newport Beach-Costa Mesa Daily Pilot reported earlier this year that two kids had "died at the hands of a Cadillac," the Times OC finished the column with prep-school hyperbole, noting that community volunteers "can move mountains."

Speaking of Pusillanimous

News that bitter, defeated ex-Congressman Robert K. Dornan—who chose drama school in West LA over Korean War combat duty—might run for the South County congressional seat being vacated by retiring Representative Ron Packard prompted a beautiful shot by Times OC columnist Dana Parsons.

"When I heard that he might be interested, my first concern was some of his children must be out of work," Parsons wrote on Nov. 5. In the last election, the Weekly first revealed that Dornan had given four of his five adult children, whom he calls "Team Dornan," a total of more than $125,000 in campaign funds in exchange for political work.

To contact R. Scott Moxley, e-mail him at rscottmoxley@ocweekly.com.
 
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