In 2006, Daystar wanted to takeover Orange County's public broadcasting channel at KOCE in Huntington Beach. The Texas-based evangelical television network hired Platinum Advisors, a California lobbying outfit, to block legislative attempts to thwart the company's desire. I'll let Rick Reiff, executive editor of the Orange County Business Journal and host of Inside OC on KOCE, tell the rest of the story.
"[Scott] Baugh, who works with Platinum, helped to deliver [Orange County's] GOP delegation [in Sacramento]," wrote Reiff at the time in a column, "Lobbyists Swarm in KOCE Fight." Reiff then noted, "that Baugh's buddies in the conservative blogosphere also weighed in for Daystar and he quoted George Urch, then a legislative aide, saying, "I haven't seen [Baugh] that motivated on anything."
Finally, Reiff observed, "Baugh's actions against the hometown station still have raised eyebrows."
Reiff's reference to Baugh's "buddies in the conservative blogosphere" undoubtedly included Matt Cunningham at Red County. Cunningham, known to adopt fake names and write glowingly about himself in the third person, is arguably OC's most shameless political hack. His apparent self-appointed daily task is to protect and coddle Baugh and the inner circle that runs the Orange County Republican Party.
If Baugh needs a blog post to promote one of his favored candidates or issues, Cunningham dutifully obliges. If Baugh wants a blog post attacking a news article or a journalist, Cunningham dutifully obliges. If Baugh wants, well, you get the point. There is value, if unintended, in Cunningham's robotic regurgitations: you read him and you know exactly where Baugh stands on a particular point.
Good example: I won Cunningham's ire after I exposed how Jeffrey Ray Nielsen--one of Baugh's best friends and a congressional aide to Congressman Dana Rohrabacher--had a relentless history of targeting 7th and 8th grade boys for sex--a point ultimately confirmed by Nielsen's conviction and three-year trip to the slammer. Before the sex crimes conviction, however, pro-Baugh and Nielsen sources pathetically attempted to drive me away from the story by claiming that I had worked with one of the victims to blackmail an innocent Nielsen.
Skip ahead a couple of years to my current column in OC Weekly, "Buy, Buy Baugh." It outlines legitimate concerns about the county's Board of Supervisors recently giving Platinum Advisors, where Baugh is listed as "special counsel" and "lobbyist," a no-bid, multi-year $5,100-a-week lobbying contract. That's a fact. I pointed out that all five supervisors are Republican and count on Baugh's blessing not just for the party's powerful election endorsements but to lure large contributors to their campaigns. That's a fact. I noted that Baugh, as party chairman for all five supervisors who control billions of dollars in annual public spending, is in an undeniable position to use his influence for personal gain. That's a fact, too.
Because of Baugh's subsequent media strategy to attack reality, let me spell it out in greater detail:
~Baugh has had a financial arrangement with Platinum Advisors to win government lobbying contracts. To this day, the company lists him as a "professional" with the company (see screen shot below). Lobbying directories also list Baugh as a lobbyist with Platinum Advisors, a liberal, Sacramento-based company that brags about its "access" to elected officials.
~Around the time he became chairman of the local Republican Party in 2004, Baugh--then working as a lobbyist for a different company--capitalized on his insider access to Republican office holders by grabbing a lucrative "consulting" contract from the OC Board of Supervisors.
~At the time, Supervisor Chris Norby, a Fullerton Republican, felt Baugh's contract didn't pass the smell test and said so publicly, a bold move that pissed off Baugh and his cronies. Indeed, Baugh's relationship with Norby subsequently became, as one GOP insider told me, "cold--very, very cold."
~After the OC GOP boss joined Platinum Advisors in 2006, OC's Republican supervisors moved the consulting contract from Baugh's old firm to Baugh's new one, Platinum Advisors. The lucrative contract, more than $1,000 in taxpayer compensation every work day through the end of 2012, has remained there ever since. Baugh would have you believe that the transfer of the contract to his new company, one that had had no real presence in OC until that point, had nothing to do with his arrival there.
So after my column appeared, Baugh sent an emissary to see if I'd take Baugh's word that he had no influence in Platinum Advisors maintaining the Orange County consulting contract. I said that scenario wasn't good enough given the extensive public record detailing his weighty position at that firm; I asked if Baugh had performed his lobbying services for the company for free and was told no.
Frustration that I wouldn't merely take Baugh's word led the next morning to Baugh sending an e-mail blast to GOP Central Committee members.
"The story is false . . . absurd," Baugh wrote. "I ceased all work for the County of Orange in 2006--four years ago. My current law practice receives zero compensation from the County of Orange or any other government agency for that matter."
Baugh didn't mention his position of influence with each of the five Republican supervisors. He didn't even mention his tie to Platinum Advisors or that the consulting gig followed him when he switched firms or that it was a no-bid deal.
Note Baugh's next slight of hand trick. He said his law practice "receives zero compensation" from the supervisors. But that wasn't what I asserted. I clearly wrote that Platinum Advisors, where Baugh works as a lobbyist--not his Scott R. Baugh & Associates law firm, got the contract. He also didn't mention his financial arrangement with Platinum Advisors, which I was told was not going to be made available for inspection to confirm his claims.
But Baugh's e-mail was enough for Cunningham, his trusted blogosphere assassin, to weigh in with his particular willingness to twist or ignore facts in the service of his longtime pal.
"OC Weekly Screws The Pooch On Baugh Story," Cunningham wrote, calling my column "false."
"Scott Baugh doesn't even work for Platinum Advisors," wrote Cunningham. "Moxley's story is just plain sloppy."
In Cunningham's fantasyland, there is absolutely no tie between Baugh, Platinum Advisors, the county's Republican supervisors and the no-bid contract.
Having worked himself into a tizzy, Cunningham then penned a second blog post for Baugh.
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Headline: "More on Moxley Hatchet Job On Scott Baugh." In it, Cunningham tried to argue that Baugh has no connection to the Platinum Advisors' Orange County contract because his name didn't appear in the paperwork, a lesson Baugh might have learned after the Norby complaint.
What's fascinating is that until that point, Baugh's camp hadn't once disputed the GOP chairman's association with Platinum Advisors. What they claimed was that Baugh wouldn't perform any actual lobbying work during the consulting contract period, an assertion that is meaningless about how the firm got the contract, the no-bid status and how Baugh is listed as the firm's OC leader to this day.
It's not surprising that Baugh and his lapdog are sensitive about finances. Cunningham has made a career yelling about wasteful government spending and nowadays enjoys a lucrative government consulting contract that pays him as much as $200-an-hour to listen to local talk radio shows and other menial PR tasks, a disgraceful fact uncovered by the Friends For Fullerton's Future blog.
Baugh's got other trouble too. He's facing mounting pressure inside the party to explain why for six years he has ignored central committee bylaws that demand regular financial audits of the millions of dollars spent annually. One Republican Party activist told me the situation "smells" and a veteran GOP central committee member asked, "Why block audits unless there've been some shenanigans with all that money?"
I'm betting that Baugh now wishes that Cunningham had a CPA license.
--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly