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Fleischman's stated opinions on anonymous blogging may change from day to day, but Cunningham is remarkably consistent. Whether writing under his own name or as Jubal, Cunningham is consistently in the right wing of Orange County Republican politics, and praises and damns the same people.
Nowhere is Cunningham's Heinleinian impulse clearer than in Tuesday's race for California's 35th Senate District seat. The race should have been a blowout: Tom Harman is a Republican with years on the HB City Council and several terms in the Assembly; Diane Harkey, his opponent, entered politics just two years ago, when she was elected to the Dana Point City Council.
Despite that asymmetry, Harkey has the backing of the party's political operatives, men like Cunningham and Jubal, whose love of Harkey is overshadowed by a hatred of Harman they can trace back to 2000, when he beat Republican Party insider Jim Righeimer for the Huntington Beach Assembly seat. Harkey is supported as well by virtually every politician whose off-camera activities make the Weekly such a lively, sexy read. There's Mike Schroeder, the most powerful man in the county, managing, as he does, the campaigns of the two most powerful law-enforcement agents in OC—our embattled (sexy) sheriff and our DA. There's Sheriff Mike Carona himself, a man whose name ought very quickly to become associated with the stink of political death—and, sure, sex; Costa Mesa City Councilman Gary Monahan and Mayor Alan Mansoor, who'd like local cops to pester anyone with brown skin for their papers; Huntington Beach resident Jim Silva, maybe the dumbest man in politics but a reliable insider; fellow HB resident Scott Baugh, head of the county's Republican Party; and HB Congressman Dana Rohrabacher.
Cunningham backs Harkey too, though he has failed to inform his readers of his financial interest in her campaign. Documents show Harkey's campaign paid $1,050 to BlogAtomic, Cunningham's blog consulting business, on Jan. 17. He hasn't disclosed that payment in any of his subsequent posts on the senate race, all of them pro-Harkey, and he certainly hasn't disclosed the payment on OC Blog, where he has been even more vociferous in support of Harkey.
Don't expect moral outrage from the mainstream press. Writing on his own blog, Orange Punch, Orange County Registereditorialista Steve Greenhut declared, "There's a good reason for [anonymity] at OC Blog, given that its writers are well-connected people who cannot write freely without harming their careers or their bosses."
It's hard to imagine Cunningham's blog work—as himself or Jubal—"harming" his career or boss. For one thing, he is his boss. For another, he is a Republican political consultant in a Republican county. His postings, whether as Cunningham or Jubal, are consistently right of center. And, like I said, everyone in the know already knows that Cunningham is Jubal.
While it's hard to see how Jubal's writings could harm Cunningham's reputation, it's easy to see how he has used his secret identity to abuse the trust of his readers. He's only been able to get away with it because those who know about it—insiders—either support it or consider it unimportant. And so Cunningham's been able to go on with his fraudulent little duet, promoting Jubal who promotes Cunningham, in both cases pretending to supply readers with real insider knowledge. But, of course, the real insiders can see through Cunningham's con. The only people who can't are those who believe they can trust what they read on FlashReport and OC Blog. Saps.
Portions of this story first appeared in Blotter items by Will Swaim.