For several months in 2011, lefty Orange County protesters gathered in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, hoping to sway public opinion on the notion that a greedy corporate and political elite are working to trample ill-informed masses. The passionate, mostly youthful activists chanted, waved homemade posters and marched in numerous cities including Santa Ana and Irvine. They even held all-night vigils.
The impact of such activism depends on who is opining. Conservatives say Occupy OC was a meaningless exercise by anti-capitalist radicals. Liberals hope seeds were sown for a vibrant progressive community. Regardless of which view is right, there is no dispute the movement excreted a byproduct: Gregory A. Diamond.
It's not that Occupiers knowingly and willfully gave us Diamond. The mysterious, 50-plus-year-old, former low-level Manhattan corporate lawyer dreamed of abandoning American society in disgust for imagined Third World pleasures, but instead quietly parachuted into the bustling metropolis of Brea in 2006 (or 2007; he has given conflicting dates) after a divorce and a series of employment failures. He worked on the campaigns of two ultimately trounced Democratic candidates, and then was named Jerry Brown's 2010 gubernatorial campaign "co-coordinator" for Orange County, a position on par in importance with being named Mitt Romney's Castro co-coordinator in San Francisco.
Diamond, who had been looking for a cause to give his life meaning, joined the Occupy ranks in 2011. The anti-establishment protests energized him. Not everybody can afford to protest 24 hours per day, but the attorney (who has taken piecemeal work from a firm that is the Kinko's of the legal community) had no daily job responsibilities.
For months, Diamond protested, but he also held a secret goal: to become a player in local politics. He kept a precise log of the amount of time—allegedly 3,773 hours—he volunteered. Though it was forbidden for anyone in Occupy to grab leadership titles, he named himself "Primary Civic Liaison" and often nestled himself between reporters seeking quotes and other protesters.
Last spring, from his Brea rental, Diamond—whose solo law practice made him less than $1,999 in 2011—announced his campaign for a $100,000-per-year seat in the California state senate, representing the 29th District. He isn't running for himself, of course. He claimed, "I'm doing it because tying my political fate closely to Occupy and fighting like hell is the best way I can think of to advance the Occupy critique."
Bob Huff, the incumbent in the seat that includes portions of Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, is the Senate Republican leader. In 2011, the League of California Cities voted the Diamond Bar resident its Legislator of the Year. Theoretically, toppling him would hand Occupy LA and OC a historic electoral victory. "This is a chance to significantly affect our state's policy debate by changing California," Diamond wrote in a fund-raising pitch. "Those of you who have ever argued with me know that I'm stubborn, progressive, tenacious, incisive, dedicated—and I know how to bring it and make it hurt."
But far from working to make himself a serious candidate, Diamond is giving birth to what could easily be one of California's worst, most inept campaigns for state senate in memory. Those superlatives have nothing to do with his liberal stances. He is clueless on how to successfully run for office and, worse (especially for Occupy interests he claims to represent), has oddly diverted his attention from his own campaign to dig into the marital relations of a candidate in another race.
On July 26, the Friends for Fullerton's Future blog published a brief item about Diamond filing a public-records act request with the local police department. He'd sought five-year-old internal records of an incident at Republican Assemblyman Chris Norby's home. Norby is facing a challenge from Democrat Sharon Quirk-Silva, Fullerton's mayor.
The revelation underscored Diamond's wandering attention to old, unsubstantiated rumors and forced him to admit he'd inserted himself in Quirk-Silva's contest without her knowledge. Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez has been called everything from whore to retard in blogs and not once gone postal. In contrast, Diamond freaked out that he was caught snooping and left a whopping 57—that is not a typo—comments on the blog entry.
His character-revealing remarks center on neurotic, disingenuous logic: He hadn't wanted to use any negative information on Norby, but now that the pro-Norby blog embarrassed him, he had to smear Norby to clear his own name.
"I'm writing the story now," Diamond commented, even while admitting he didn't "have the goods" on Norby. "If you didn't want this to see the light of day, [you] shouldn't have written your post. . . . Don't worry, [my blog post] won't just go to [Orange Juice Blog, where Diamond blathers regularly; his own campaign blog, on the other hand, hasn't been updated since February]. A lot more people than three will read it. . . . I think that spousal abuse and police cover-ups of charges of spousal abuse against public officials—if that's indeed what happened here—are very important. . . . I'm putting off the story until Monday, though. Readership is higher."
Aware of Diamond's penchant for empty bluster, the folks at Friends for Fullerton's Future told him to shut up and write his blog post. "Stay tuned, little dog man," he replied. "Just sit tight and wait for the story, which I'm slating for Monday."
Diamond's threatened exposé didn't appear on Monday, July 30, nor has it been seen in the more than two months since. In the process of interviewing him for this story, Diamond sought to divert me into probing Norby. When I didn't take the bait, he sent me this note: "Right now, I'd be satisfied with an ironclad pledge from Norby that if his wife leaves him and asserts that he committed domestic violence against her within a year of the election, he'd immediately resign the seat. Does that seem fair? If he did that, I'd happily drop the issue between now and the election."
The obsession with Norby prompted me to question Diamond about how much work he's putting into his own campaign. In May, he promised his supporters he'd raise more than $100,000, yet with the race in its final days, he hasn't managed to collect $25,000—or far less. He refuses to reveal the exact amount, saying, "I wonder why this information is of interest."
(Huff reported cash on hand of almost $400,000 as of June 30.)
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Candidates also usually share schedule details to demonstrate their commitment to win. Not Diamond, whose "events" page at his campaign website has been empty for months. "How much I've campaigned per day and what events I've orchestrated that aren't already public record are closely guarded secrets," he said.
Realizing our interviews weren't going well, Diamond demanded we reverse roles. He sent a list of questions and threatened to write a blog post about me in the aftermath of this article. He was incredulous when I didn't recoil in fear. To underscore his power, he proclaimed, "I'm now among the most-read political bloggers in OC."
This column appeared in print as "The World's Most Worthless Diamond: Greg Diamond prefers digging into another man's marriage rather than focusing on his California senate race."