Dear Mr. Fuentes

Letters to the most powerful Republican in Orange County

April 28, 1999

Tom Fuentes

Tait & Associates

701 N. Park Center Dr.

Santa Ana, CA 92701

Dear Mr. Fuentes,

In January [1999], you were re-elected as chairman of the Orange County Republican Party for the 14th consecutive year.

You’re the man in charge!

Which brings me to a small favor I’d like to ask: I’m collecting autographed photographs of famous Orange County celebrities—you know: Richard Nixon, Joey Bishop, John Schmitz, Dennis Rodman, Steve Martin, Diane Keaton, Tommy Lasorda. I’d like to include you in what I call "my own private pantheon."

You might be asking yourself, "Why me? Why Tom Fuentes?"

Don’t be so modest. As the local GOP chairman in the 1980s, you were in command when Republicans held every elected office in Orange County. I can’t name an organization in the free world with that record of total domination! Of course, these days, we have a few elected Democrats here—Loretta Sanchez-Brixey, Lou "The Puppet" Correa and Joe Dunn. But I’m sure you’re working on ways to punch their Democratic lights out in the next election.

You’re the toastmaster, the kingmaker, and the boss of one of the biggest and most important Republican counties in the USA.

But enough about you. My name is Nathan Callahan. I’ve lived in Orange County for 30 years, and I write for the OC Weekly. Don’t let that throw you, Mr. Fuentes. The Weekly is more conservative than you might think. Have you read my article "One More Reason to Hate Bill Clinton"? You should. I’m not claiming to have your conservative résumé, but I actually shook hands with Nixon when I was 5 years old. (He looked right at me.) And because my grandfather was secretary of the Reserve Officers Association of America, my family welcomed guests like Strom Thurmond to our Southern California home. Strom used to call me "Little Buddy."

Anyway, if you could see it in your heart to send me an autographed photo, I’d be delighted. You can inscribe it anyway you want. If, however, you’re drawing a blank on what to write, consider this:

To my buddy Nathan, Scientia est potentis. Your friend, Tom Fuentes.

In case you’re wondering, "scientia est potentis" is Latin for "knowledge is power." And you’ve got plenty of both.

Here’s to you, Mr. Fuentes. Congratulations again. I’ll be checking my mailbox for your 8-by-10 glossy.

Sincerely,

Nathan Callahan

m

May 12, 1999

Dear Mr. Callahan,

Thank you for your kind letter. . . . While I do not have a photo to offer, I would enjoy talking with you over lunch when your calendar permits. Please call me at (714) 560-8200.

Cordially,

Tom Fuentes

m

May 30, 1999

Dear Mr. Fuentes,

I’ve got some great news! After I received your letter, I visited the Weekly offices after-hours and snooped around. Guess what? I found a great shot of you in their computer photo file. I printed it out on some glossy paper, and you look sharp. You’re in a silver-toned sharkskin kind of jacket—just the right background to sign your name on. You’ll find it enclosed in this envelope. So how about that autograph?

Frankly, Mr. Fuentes, you ought to consider keeping a few photos of yourself on hand for admirers. When I told my friend Mike—who’s a political consultant—about your photo situation, he laughed. Mike said that maybe the Republican Party couldn’t afford a Fuentes glamour shot. I thought he was just trying to be a smart-ass, but, no, he was half-serious. He said an Orange County Republican Party splinter group —New Directions—is trying to unseat you. Mike said they’re a bunch of fat cats who think you’re "a far-right-wing, out-of-step-with-the-mainstream good old boy." Ouch!

Some of these New Directions kooks are reportedly withholding donations to your party in an attempt to leverage you out.

They’ll never be successful. You’re too clever for them. Mike told me a lot about you. Catholic school. The 1960 presidential campaign. Richard Nixon (Protestant) vs. John F. Kennedy (Catholic). You were the only student at your Catholic high school who wasn’t a JFK supporter. Nixon was the one for you. Boy, could you separate church from state!

I bet you had mixed emotions when Kennedy was elected the first Catholic president.

"Catholics for Nixon." Boy, that takes guts. I told Mike that he was 100 percent wrong about you and the photo and the money. I figure the demand for Tom Fuentes photographs is so high that you just ran out of them.

But all this Catholic stuff got me wondering if you hated the quote I picked out. Maybe that’s why you didn’t send me a photo. Latin may not be your favorite form of expression. Not to worry. I found another, more appropriate quote.

Let me explain. Eight years after the Kennedy victory, you went on to become a renowned local political fund-raiser, and Nixon went on to become president. When he visited Orange County, you were master of ceremonies at the Republican Party Richard Nixon Presidential Shebang. The event was a huge success. Nixon loved your professionalism and style. "I have never had an MC handle the occasion better," he said.

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