Ex-OC Assemblyman In Bed With Lobbyist
Michael D. Duvall resigns after Weekly breaks story of his sexual relationship with a female lobbyist, which he bragged about on tape during a public meeting
Freshmen legislators arriving in Sacramento receive advice from veteran politicians about the intricacies of working in California’s capital. One of those tips is to remember that microphones broadcasting legislative debates can also capture embarrassing, career-ending personal admissions if a politician isn’t careful. Michael D. Duvall, Orange County’s now former 72nd Assembly District representative, must have forgotten the warning.
In July—two days after Assembly Speaker Karen Bass and Republican leader Sam Blakeslee put Duvall on the Rules Committee that oversees member ethics—the second-term, conservative, Republican assemblyman sat in a public hearing of that committee and vividly described lewd details about his trysts with a female lobbyist whose clients had business before another committee on which Duvall sits.
Duvall, speaking to a relatively mum Republican colleague seated to his left, apparently had no idea his dais microphone became live beginning about a minute before the start of a cable-televised committee hearing. He was captured in the middle of recounting portions of an affair.
“She wears little eye-patch underwear,” said Duvall, who is married with two children. “So, the other day she came here with her underwear—Thursday. And so, we had made love Wednesday—a lot! And so she’ll, she’s all, ‘I am going up and down the stairs, and you’re dripping out of me!’ So messy!”
That line may quickly become part of colorful Sacramento political lore. In the meantime, it leads me to a question: Can someone please buy the man a box of condoms?
Duvall—who owns an insurance agency; was twice a president of the Yorba Linda Chamber of Commerce; and served two terms as that city’s mayor before entering the assembly in 2006 to represent Anaheim, Fullerton, Placentia, Orange, Brea, La Habra and Yorba Linda—continued his tale: “So, I am getting into spanking her. Yeah, I like it. I like spanking her. She goes, ‘I know you like spanking me.’ I said, ‘Yeah! Because you’re such a bad girl.’” He then laughs.
The assemblyman then offered clues to the identity of his sex partner. “And so her birthday was Monday,” he said at the Wednesday, July 8 committee hearing. “I was 54 on June 14, so for a month, she was 19 years younger than me. I said, ‘Now, you’re getting old. I am going to have to trade you in. And she goes, ‘[I’m] 36.’ She is 18 years younger than me. And so I keep teasing her, and she goes, ‘I know you Frenchmen. You divide your age by two and add seven, and if you’re older than that, you dump us.’”
According to voter-registration records reviewed by the Weekly, veteran Sacramento-based lobbyist Heidi DeJong Barsuglia turned 36 years old on Monday, July 6.
Legislative sources say they have witnessed Duvall socializing after-hours with Barsuglia. Sources—who asked for anonymity because of Duvall’s power in the capital—say Susan Duvall usually stayed in Orange County during the week, when her husband wuold fly to Sacramento. They also say they have seen Duvall with Barsuglia, who is also married, in a hotel restaurant, “arm-in-arm” at political fund-raising events and even shopping together for groceries just blocks from the capitol building.
“Their relationship is the worst-kept secret in Sacramento,” a capitol staffer recently told me. “He’s old and fat. She’s hot, blond and about 20 years younger. He could have never gotten a woman like that before he got this job.”
In April—two months after Duvall became vice chairman of the Utilities & Commerce committee—privately owned California utility giant Sempra Energy hired Barsuglia as one of its top lobbyists, according to Secretary of State records.
Barsuglia, who has a law degree and once worked as a speechwriter for Governor Pete Wilson, had previously worked at the California Retailers Association (CRA). During 25 months of work at CRA, she reported that she incurred no reportable lobbying expenses.
The San Diego-based utility conglomerate isn’t shy about lobbying lawmakers for favorable treatment. This session, it gave Duvall $1,500 in campaign contributions. In May, the assemblyman officially adopted the company’s negative view on Assembly Bill 64, which proposes increasing the percentage of electricity the utilities must procure from environmentally sensitive sources.
Repeatedly asked to explain his recorded sexual boasting, a red-faced Duvall fled me and another reporter, Dave Lopez of Los Angeles’ KCBS-TV, three times on the afternoon of Sept. 8 in capitol hallways. He also ignored three handwritten interview requests that were delivered to him on the floor of the assembly.
That evening, the Weekly published a story on our Navel Gazing news blog about Duvall’s taped boasts. The next day, after he’d been removed from his committee posts by Speaker Bass (who called the information in our report “appalling”), the assemblyman resigned his office.
Barsuglia did not respond to an interview request made Sept. 8 at Sempra’s offices, located across the street from the capitol.
Things between Duvall and Barsuglia may soon cool. At that fateful July 8 committee hearing, Duvall wasn’t content to just share one adulterous tale. He referenced a second, simultaneous affair with another woman. He seemed amused that he was cheating on both his wife and a mistress.
“Oh, yeah, Sher, Shar, Shar,” Duvall said. “Oh, she is hot! I talked to her yesterday. She goes, ‘So are we finished?’ I go, ‘No, we’re not finished.’ I go, ‘You know about the other one [Barsuglia], but she doesn’t know about you!’”
The assemblyman punctuated his observation with laughter.
During his political career, Duvall unabashedly espoused conservative principles and is known as a partisan Republican with a knack for theatrics: He has noisily driven his Harley-Davidson motorcycle to functions. In 2008, Duvall blasted efforts to legalize gay marriage. Legislatively, he proposed bills to aid the insurance industry and government contractors feeding off the state’s massive transportation kitty. He offered a law to alter the First Amendment rights of Americans by banning anti-war activists from putting the names of fallen soldiers on T-shirts with messages such as “Bush lied” on the front and “They died” on the back.
Such thinking impressed certain constituencies. Earlier this year, the man who never graduated from high school received “100 percent” approval scores by the California Republican Assembly, the state’s leading conservative outfit, and the Capitol Resource Institute (CRI), a fierce guardian of traditional family values.
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“Assemblyman Duvall has been a consistent trooper for the conservative cause,” CRI president Karen England announced in March. “For the last two years, he has voted time and time again to protect and preserve family values in California. We are grateful for his support of California families.”
Acknowledging the CRI award, Duvall observed in a press release that as long as he was in office, he would work to protect “California families” from “constant assault in Sacramento.”
Check our Navel Gazing blog for further developments.