Thursday, September 17, 2009

Tom Fuentes, Caspers' "bagman"?

If you can't believe a Boy Scout, who can you believe?
Yesterday, I noted Gustavo Arellano’s description of a 1972 incident involving former OC Supervisor Ronald Caspers, who died mysteriously in a boating incident in 1974.

Included among Caspers’ employees was one Thomas Fuentes—the future Chair of the OC GOP (from 1984-2004) and SOCCCD trustee (2000-present).

Caspers’ curious death is the subject of rumors and theories and, according to Gustavo (I contacted him), no new light has been shed on it in recent years. One theory—I heard about it from a certain prominent OC political writer—is pretty hair-raising.

Given Mr. Fuentes’ Karl Rovian reputation, I have always wanted to learn more about his mentor, Mr. Caspers. Evidently, he was the sort who would call Mexican Americans "banditos." Tsk Tsk.

In the past, I have Googled Caspers’ name but have found little information about him. I briefly tried again today and did come across this obscure LA Times article from May 20, 1986:

It's Hoffman vs. Sumner, Badham vs. Rosenberg at TV Taping - KOCE's May 29 Election Special Is Highly Charged

The article, written by political writer Lanie Jones, describes a half-hour show on KOCE featuring a debate by candidates for a congressional seat then held by five-term incumbent Robert E. Badham (Newport Beach).

Badham’s challengers appearing on the program included fellow Republican Nathan Rosenberg.* Presumably, Rosenberg new his way around the OC Republican scene:

Early in the show there were angry exchanges between Badham and Rosenberg, with Rosenberg attacking Badham for allegedly missing votes and spending campaign funds improperly. Badham meanwhile defended his performance and his ties to President Reagan….

At one point, Rosenberg, 33, a former Young Republicans president making his first bid for elective office, also took a swipe at Orange County Republican Chairman Thomas A. Fuentes, calling him "a bagman" for former county Supervisor Ronald W. Caspers.

That remark came as KOCE host Jim Cooper asked Rosenberg about a Friday night incident that Fuentes had dubbed "Rosengate," in which a Rosenberg campaign worker, using a fictitious name, was discovered at a Badham campaign meeting.

Rosenberg said his campaign worker "went on his own" to Badham headquarters, but then added, referring to Fuentes' term "Rosengate": "Coming from Ron Caspers' bagman, I don't feel bad about Mr. Fuentes' comment."

(From 1970 to 1974, Fuentes served as executive assistant to former Supervisor Caspers, who was lost at sea in a boating accident.)

Asked later what he meant by "bagman," Rosenberg said. "I don't mean anything. It means exactly what it means. Look it up in Webster's dictionary. I said what I said."

Told of Rosenberg's comment, Fuentes laughed, "I guess as we get closer to June 3, the heat is turned up in campaigns and people get more and more excited." Fuentes, who has been angry at Rosenberg since March for challenging a Republican incumbent, also called Rosenberg's remark "unfortunate."

Well, OK, Nate. I looked up “bagman” on my Mac’s dictionary. Here’s what I got:

bagman |ˈbagˌman; -mən|
noun ( pl. -men)
1 informal ~ an agent who collects or distributes the proceeds of illicit activities : one million dollars cash paid to the general's bagman.

Hmmm. Again, presumably, Rosenberg was very familiar with the (c. 1986) players of the OC Republican Party. So he would have known Fuentes and his, um, style. (By 1986, when this incident occurred, Fuentes would have been party chair for perhaps two years.)

Caspers’ era would have ended a dozen years earlier, but, presumably, had Caspers been the sort who had use of a “bagman,” GOP players would be aware of that fact, especially if their new chairman was that very “bagman.”

Ain’t politics fun?

*NOTE: In 1988, Mr. Rosenberg opposed Chris Cox in the 40th Congressional district Republican primary. Nowadays, Rosenberg is Chairman of the Board for the Orange County Council, Boy Scouts of America. (See.) He is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy.

On the other hand, Mr. Rosenberg is est founder Werner Erhard's brother! See.

BACK IN 1985:

I came across this fascinating old Times article from January 07, 1985. Fuentes was about to start his gig as OC GOP chair:

Changing of the Guard for Orange County GOP - Incoming Chairman Sees Party's Role as 'Anchor to the Right' for State
…Fuentes, occasionally dubbed the Prince of Orange for his exotic gourmet excursions that offer belly dancers and Broadway production numbers for dessert, is as much a part of the Orange County Republican Party as the familiar red, white and blue elephant on the party's letterhead.

"I admire Tom very, very much. Obviously I wish him well--and I worry about him," [four-term OC GOP Chair Lois] Lundberg said. "I don't mean this the way it sounds, but I think even my enemies would have to say that I did not lean, or let any segment take over or become dominant. I've had a 20-year history of politics in Orange County, where I've seen the right wing fight the left wing, and the moderates fight each of them, and they all fight each other, and the party go down the drain."

[Fuentes:] "I see Orange County as an anchor to the right for the California ship of state, and winds gust from the left from West Los Angeles and San Francisco, and in our role as that anchor to the right, we have to be very vigilant about maintaining that [OC GOP] registration edge."

Fuentes credits former Supervisor Ronald Caspers for much of his political rearing. He worked as an aide to Caspers for four years in the 1970s. Caspers' boat was lost at sea with 10 aboard--including Caspers --in 1974. (Fuentes would have been aboard the Shooting Star himself on the voyage to celebrate Caspers' reelection to a second term but decided against going at the last moment.) None of the 10 aboard was found.

Fuentes had hoped that he would be appointed to replace Caspers. When he discovered that there was a one-year residency requirement that he did not meet, he decided to carry out an earlier plan to enter a seminary and study for the priesthood.

A year later, Fuentes was back. "I found that the pace of seminary life and that monastic setting was just all too slow for me. I could never turn the motors off to slow down to that pace which is required to serve in the capacity of priesthood."

Memorabilia from Nixon's visit to the county in 1982 line the entire hallway outside his office. "I had the honor of being his host and master of ceremonies," he said. "He was so very gracious. I'll just read you this because it's my most treasured note. It says, 'Dear Tom, In the many years during which I have attended literally thousands of such affairs, I have never heard an emcee handle the occasion better. You were crisp, in charge, and inspirational. The party is fortunate to have your leadership, and I am greatful for your friendship. With warmest regards, R.N.'


Anonymous said...

Why do you keeping digging up all this ancient history? just like Arellano and the pedophile priests that Fuentes helped protect! It's all water under the bridge. the man has gone on to do so much good for so many and he's apologized for the rest.

Roy Bauer said...

I've been a close observer of Mr. Fuentes since his arrival at the SOCCCD nine years ago. He is the same unscrupulous creep today that he was in "ancient" times. Given his dismal record as trustee (making the district a part of his GOP farm system and old boys' network, linking IVC to Sheriff Carona's tarnished star, playing politics with Saddleback programs and accreditation reviews, etc.), it is interesting to discover that he has long had a reputation for unscrupulousness--and to learn the details of his saga of stunning misconduct and colossal hypocrisy.
And what if he really was Caspers' bagman? Are you saying that he's apologized for that, so all is forgiven? Please tell us when this apology occurred. I too want to be dazzled by this apparent prodigy of humility and redemption.
There's no apology. There's no admission. This is a powerful guy who's gotten away with some very nasty things. With people like you in the world, such creeps are safe, I guess.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Who? Roy? Anon 8:19? Fuentes?

Anonymous said...

8:19 -- for what has Fuentes apologized? I'm not asking to be rude, I really want to know.

Anonymous said...


First, to quote a post from another story on the blog, "a history lesson is a good thing." Always. Especially when the nefarious are still in power.



Anonymous said...

Tom was "crisp" said Dick.

Anonymous said...

Fuentes seems genuinely to admire Nixon, not only for his achievements, but as a man. How very odd. Nixon was plainly a very troubled and complex man, someone capable of betraying some of his professed values for the sake of other things (values, too, I suppose). Fuentes love of Nixon says a great deal about the former OC GOP chair, I think.

Anonymous said...

Yes, you abandon them so you won't get caught-Haldeman and Ehrlichman. Your loyal henchmen go to jail for you and you j u s t resign.

Anonymous said...

Nixon opened China.

Anonymous said...

I believe that was Marco Polo.

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