Photo by Jack GouldKevin Cook wrote a letter to The Orange County Register, and all he got was a Christmas stalking.
A week after the Santa Ana-based paper ran Cook's Dec. 6 letter, in which the Ladera Ranch businessman criticized Huntington Beach Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, his neighbors received an unsigned letter ripping Cook.
The letter went after Cook for his "reprehensible and hateful" attacks on the Republican firebrand. After questioning Cook's intelligence and asserting that Cook is "not nice," "not very honest" and "vicious," the letter writer conjured up the most frightful terms of opprobrium he could imagine, calling him "selfish," "liberal"—and "a single guy . . . who can't even find a wife and make a real commitment."
Cook's neighbors know him to be a kind of classic Orange Countian. He's a self-described conservative Republican who's married and has two kids and a home. "This person obviously thinks it's an insult to say someone's a liberal or not married," Cook says of the Secret Anti-Santa. "But I don't."
Cook says his neighbors have dismissed the missive as the work of a crank. He is tempted to do the same. "It's such a pathetic letter," he said. "So many of the basic facts about me are wrong that I figure this person's probably not much of a threat to me."
Still, Cook admits he's a little weirded-out by the fact "someone put this kind of time and energy into trying to malign me."
The source of the disagreement is Rohrabacher's stand on the construction of an international airport at the abandoned El Toro Marine Corps Air Station. In a Dec. 2 letter to the Register, Rohrabacher claimed, "If the voters had fully comprehended the choices they were making" when they voted in March 2002 to build the Great Park, "they would not have voted for tens of thousands of more homes over a modern airport to serve their needs and provide revenue for the county."
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If a liberal had written those words, conservative activists would have accused him of elitism—the implication that voters were stupid or merely underinformed is there for the rhetorical plucking.
But Cook took a milder approach in his response. He mused on the fact that "Rohrabacher's solution to increasing population and traffic congestion is to build a huge international airport in the geographic center of Orange County." And then he wondered whether this is "the kind of intelligence that gets one elected to the United States Congress."
Then came the unsigned letters in the neighborhood mailboxes. Cook says he suspects the anonymous author is not a neighbor, but an outsider who scoured county property records to develop the mailing list: one of the envelopes was addressed to a man who is named on the property title, but not an actual resident.
Rohrabacher was traveling in the Ukraine at press time. Calls to his aides for comment were warmly received by his receptionist but went unreturned.