Rackauckas Gives Aides Reason to Belch

Soft-spoken Tony Rackauckas proved he has balls. On Oct. 1, the embattled Orange County District Attorney, who likes to use his office to aid political allies and punish enemies, sent a big "fuck you" to state Attorney General Bill Lockyer and the OC grand jury, changing department policy to allow staffers to spend taxpayer money on booze at bars and private clubs.

We can only imagine that Don Blakenship, the head of Rackauckas' detectives unit, belched at the news. It was Blakenship who, the grand jury found, had a habit of using public funds to pay for his regular bar bills at the private Santa Ana Elks Lodge ($4,600 worth of drinks from 1999 to 2001) and who once spent $98 in a single three-and-a-half hour drinking binge at two Palm Springs resort bars.

Rackauckas may have felt free to make the move after Lockyer announced on Sept. 28 that the DA had not committed illegal acts—despite the grand jury's blistering, 100-page June 30 report. Though that report uncovered more than 100 potential felonies, the AG declared Rackauckas' only trouble is poor management style. (Missing from Lockyer's assessment were answers to two remaining mysteries: why Rackauckas helped his wife, a powerful deputy DA, avoid a grand jury subpoena, and why Rackauckas blocked an organized-crime investigation into his slumber-party buddy, Newport Beach millionaire businessman Patrick N. Di Carlo.)

One explanation for Lockyer's kindness is Rackauckas' political savvy. To represent his case in Sacramento, the DA hired Tom Umberg, a Democrat who worked with Lockyer in the state Assembly and who remains an influential party leader. Then there was Rackauckas' suspicious last-minute decision last fall to award—in apparent violation of the department's bidding policies—a $7.4 million contract to Robinson Calcagnie Robinson, a Newport Beach law firm whose partners are close to Lockyer. The contract requires the firm to do environmental work for the DA's office—a legal area in which the firm has no obvious experience.

In addition to his habit of sticking the public with his booze bills, the grand jury said, Blakenship repeatedly double-billed the county for his expenses. That's likely a crime, but one which Rackauckas is just as likely to make legal under some forthcoming policy change.

CONSERVATIVE'S VERSION OF FAIR AND BALANCED NEWS

You can only laugh at The Orange County Register's attempts to resuscitate Bill Simon's sputtering gubernatorial campaign. Everyone knows the newspaper management wants the Republican to win. The only question is how far will the Register go to sugarcoat Simon and demonize Governor Gray Davis? Answer: as far as partisanship will take them.

On Oct. 1, the Santa Ana-based paper devoted their lead editorial to Simon, but he was as bland and uninspiring as we've come to expect. Here's the two Simon quotes the Reg editorial writers thought were worthy of publication: "Davis is such a flawed governor" and "Davis is such a bad governor."

The next day, the Reg published a flurry of anti-Davis headlines in a two-page span:

•"[Davis] Committing an Error."

•"Davis the Debate Dodger."

•"A Bad Crop of Legislation [by Davis]."

•"[Davis] Legislation Punishes Farmers."

•"Our Left-wing Governor."

•"[Davis'] Primary Insanity Prevails."

 
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