By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
For the past six years, Scott Baugh has served as captain of Orange County’s dominant Republican party. All five members of the county’s Board of Supervisors are Republicans. Those supervisors rely not just on getting the GOP endorsement each election to remain in control over billions of dollars in annual local government spending, but they also rely on Baugh to lure wealthy contributors to their reelection campaigns.
That scenario places Baugh, an attorney and lobbyist by trade, in a potentially unique position of influence. A weak man might be tempted to take advantage of that status, but we all know that Baugh—a self-proclaimed Christian conservative of unswerving principles for thrifty government—isn’t weak, right?
Well, late last month, the Republican supervisors voted unanimously to pay their political party’s leader more than a half-million dollars—about $5,100per week, plus expenses—in a two-year, no-bid deal to lobby for the county in Sacramento.
By any measure, it’s a lucrative arrangement for the GOP boss. Regardless of whether he goes a week, a month or even four months without lobbying on specific issues in the Legislature for us, through the last day of December 2012, he’ll receive a whopping $1,020 per day. It’s not city-of-Bell outrageous, but it still stinks.
The Baugh deal could mean our county’s elected officials—Van Tran, Chris Norby, Chuck DeVore, Jim Silva, Diane Harkey, Lou Correa, Mimi Walters, Jose Solorio and Tom Harman—aren’t adequately representing OC’s interests in the state capital.
Or that Baugh’s lucrative taxpayer-funded contract is shameless political payola.
Baugh—a gregarious, intelligent Huntington Beach resident who did not return messages seeking an interview—doesn’t mind stepping into hypocritical waters. He declared earlier this year that Republican candidates are not allowed to affiliate with public-employee unions. Such associations taint the good principles of the party, according to Baugh, who as a candidate accepted labor support. Frank Mickadeit, the cigar-chomping Orange County Register columnist, called the Republican rejection of labor the “Baugh Manifesto.”
There is evidence that Baugh—who comes from the powerful Dana Rohrabacher/Mike Schroeder contingency of the local GOP—continues to have personal ties to labor interests. Platinum Advisors, a lobbying firm for which he is “special counsel,” lists as a client the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), one of the nation’s most-liberal employee unions. Glenn Beck of Fox News fame has called SEIU members “the mob” that practices “intimidation tactics.”
Baugh’s firm is not only taking allegedly evil labor money, but it’s also lobbying on behalf of evil. That’s one reason certain dissatisfied party activists are hoping in coming months to dethrone Baugh, a graduate of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University in Virginia and a man who for years has also oddly blocked efforts to open the party’s books to an independent audit.
All this leads to a new OC Republican rule. Let’s call it Baugh’s Law: Even political principles routinely espoused with wide-eyed, fiery rhetoric are still for sale.
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SERIOUSLY, DON’T HOOK UP WITH SEVENTH-GRADERS
Inside Orange County’s central courthouse this past February, John Stuart Moses breathed a huge sigh of relief when a jury voted him not guilty on two sexual-predator charges involving a 12-year-old Anaheim Hills middle-school student. Moses met the girl online in December 2007 at Vampirefreaks.com, began dating her, and ended up, depending on who’s talking, trading French kisses and hugs or oral sex and intercourse in the back seat of his car. Police discovered the affair and arrested the 23-year-old, who offered this explanation: The girl said she was 18.
Despite the 11-year age gap, the excuse almost worked. If a girl is under 14, an adult in California is legally blocked from using ignorance of her real age as a defense for sexual relations—even if the child insisted, as was the case here, that she was 18. Juries, however, can sympathize with the defendant and ignore the law by voting not guilty if they believe he was duped or, to be frank, if they don’t like the minor. I interviewed members of the jury who felt the girl, who admitted to drug use and promiscuity, wasn’t “a victim.” (See “When Is It Not a Crime for an Adult to Hook Up With a Seventh-Grader?” March 4.)
Nevertheless, that jury deadlocked on a third lewd-conduct charge, which allowed Deputy District Attorney Robert Mestman to recently retry the case. Last week, a second jury heard the same evidence and convicted Moses of engaging in a lewd and lascivious act with a minor. Judge David Thompson ordered deputies to immediately place the green-eyed, red-haired Moses in custody. Thompson is scheduled to impose a sentence on Nov. 5. The possible punishment ranges from probation to up to eight years in prison.
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BEST BUY FACES CONSUMER COMPLAINT
In February 2007, Richard M. Kershenbaum bought a Connect 3D memory card from California-based Best Buy for $30 with an advertised $30 mail-in rebate. Kershenbaum mailed the necessary rebate form and was approved to get his money back. But Connect 3D ultimately refused to pay. Five months later, Best Buy offered to give the ripped-off customer a $10 gift card.
An unhappy Kershenbaum sued Best Buy for misleading advertising and, believing he was not alone in his plight, requested class-action status against the company. He didn’t accept the company’s claim it had no duty to make good on Connect 3D’s offer. Superior Court Judge Gail Andrea Andler blocked Kershenbaum on both issues. Andler said Kershenbaum’s claims were too “vague.”
But late last month, a California Court of Appeal based in Santa Ana reversed Andler’s decisions. Without taking sides in the dispute, Justices Richard Fybel, Kathleen O’Leary and Raymond Ikola opined that class-action status was appropriate and that Kershenbaum’s misleading-advertising allegation was adequately specific for his lawsuit to continue.
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UNABASHED LIBERAL DEFIES OC STEREOTYPE
In Orange County’s vast sea of Republicanism, Melissa Fox stands nearly alone as a defiant Democrat. Espousing decidedly lefty political stances, Fox easily won her political party’s nomination in the fight for the 70th State Assembly District seat currently occupied by outgoing Republican Chuck DeVore. The district is overwhelmingly conservative and last elected a Democrat in, well, best I can tell, never.
But in her race against traditionally conservative Republican Don Wagner, Fox isn’t trying to soften her stances or pretend she’s a conservative Democrat. In fact, she’s eagerly pushing a policy many Republicans label as class warfare. She’s calling for higher taxes on California’s corporations and wealthy citizens as the only way to correct an “unfair” tax burden on the middle class.
Can that message resonate in suburban OC neighborhoods such as Newport Beach, Tustin, Irvine, Laguna Beach, Laguna Woods, Lake Forest and Aliso Viejo? Fox’s admirers insist it can, but I’m not so sure. Especially given the present anti-tax, anti-government political climate, this South County small-business attorney may have taken herself out of contention.
This column appeared in print as "Buy, Buy Baugh? OC Republican Party boss Scott Baugh gets a big lobbying deal with the county."