Tuesday, February 1, 2011

New flag/FPPC complaint/lobbying reform in OC?

     BRAND SPANKIN' NEW AMERICAN FLAG. This morning, we noticed that the very ragged American flag that has flown outside the administration building at Irvine Valley College has finally been replaced—with a very sharp-looking new flag. We’ll have photos tomorrow.

Fancy Schmancy Rutan and Tucker representing Fuentes
     MY FPPC COMPLAINT RE TOM FUENTES. Today, I finally received a confirmation letter from the Fair Political Practices Commission re my complaint regarding Trustee Tom Fuentes’ failure to report his “Senior Vice Presidency” of LFC (a real estate auctioning firm) on his Statement of Economic Interests (form 700). Elected officials, such as Fuentes, must submit these forms,* and, near as I can tell, Fuentes should have included on his 700 that, beyond his title of Senior Vice President, he was given the use of an office, phone, and email by LFC for a period of years.
     It appears that Fuentes has over the years sought contracts for LFC with the County and with the Coast Community College District—the kind of action that would be expected of someone with an economic interest in the company. In an article in the Voice of OC,** Fuentes acknowledges connecting LFC with the County, and I have been contacted by an official at the Coast Community College District who asserts that Fuentes lobbied that entity on behalf of LFC (in 2007).
     The FPPC letter is unremarkable (see below), but I noticed that it is cc’d to Michael Houston of the law firm Rutan and Tucker (see above).
     Hmmm. The South Orange County Community College District has hired R&T over the years (once defending the district when I successfully sued it for violating my 1st Amendment rights in the late 90s). Naturally, Mike Houston is a very active Republican; he is sometimes described as a Republican "activist." I did some quick checking, and he has contributed to “Strickland for U.S. Senate” and the “National Conservative Campaign Fund” (Fuentes is on the NCCF's board of directors) among others and he has written for the right-wing blog, Flashreport, whose John Fleischman is closely associated with the Schroeder/Rackaucas/Carona/Fuentes crowd.

It's in the mail.
Hmmm. Who's payin' R and T?
**From the above mentioned Voice of OC article:
     ...Legendary former Orange County Republican Party Chairman Tom Fuentes at one point had an office at [LFC], and sources close to the transaction said he made the introduction between the company's owner and [OC Public Administrator/Guardian John] Williams.
     Fuentes said he couldn't remember making the introductions but admits it "may well have been the case."
     "I've known the owner of LFC for 30 years. I was there for a couple of years, and I know John Williams," Fuentes said.
     But, Fuentes said, "there's no business relationship" with the firm currently, which is why his state statement of economic interests (Form 700) filed with the South Orange County Community College District doesn't indicate any income from the company.
     Fuentes said he had his offices at LFC several years ago when he became a senior fellow with Claremont Institute because the firm donated office space to the program. He still regularly communicates with an email address with an tag.
     Yet Fuentes said he had no knowledge of the LFC land transaction for Williams' office. However, he has always been a strong supporter of Williams, and sources say he has lobbied county supervisors on Williams' behalf.
     Fuentes' introduction of Williams to LFC was around the time that Williams convinced county supervisors to combine the appointed job of Public Administrator (with an annual salary of $20,000) and the elected job of Public Guardian (which pays $138,000) and hand both offices to him.
     Fuentes said he didn't recall lobbying for Williams in recent years but said he is a strong supporter and wouldn't discount the fact that he's let people at the county know his opinions in the past. Fuentes said he's also a big proponent of offices like Williams' being elected offices, arguing that it goes with conservative values of heightened accountability....
     *Note: Fuentes has been an SOCCCD trustee for over a decade (since August of 2000). His "stay" at LFC occurred during that decade-long period.
     Note also that (according to his 700s), during the past decade, Fuentes has (some years) been a highly-paid consultant for the Claremont Institute.

Fuentes' business card
     LOBBYIST REFORM IN OC? Over the years, it appears that Fuentes, often described vaguely as a “consultant,” has been some sort of lobbyist. That he has been in that line while serving as the chair of the OC GOP (from the 1980s until 2004) has raised eyebrows. (Fuentes has been involved in embarrassing episodes of "influence" of government officials. See for instance this.)
     Well, today, it seems that, for the first time, the OC Board of Supes has approved (a draft of) an ordinance that regulates lobbying of the County: Lobby Reform Passes (Voice of OC)
     The Orange County Board of Supervisors took a big step toward transparency Tuesday by unanimously approving the first reading of an ordinance that would require lobbyists who are paid more than $500 to register with the county and file annual reports.
     Today's vote marks a victory for those who for years have been calling for lobby reform in Orange County. Supervisors failed in three attempts in recent months to come to agreement on a law….
     Most large California counties – including San Diego and Los Angeles – have had lobbyist registries for years.
. . .
     Although lobbyists would be required to register under the ordinance, they would not be required to disclose who their clients are. Also, lobbyists would be able to change clients throughout the year without having to report the changes to the county, according to County Chief Executive Tom Mauk. The law calls for lobbyists to start registering July 1.
     A key issue yet to be resolved is whether to exclude non-profit organizations from the requirement….
     It remains to be seen whether the ordinance, if ultimately passed, will have any teeth. Never underestimate the capacity of Fuentes' crowd to protect its hinky and lucrative ways.


Mr. Moto said...

Fuentes and Co's lapdog, Matt Cunningham, today opined that "This isn't reform, it is an act requiring a certain segment of the citizenry to register with the county government in order to exercise their constitutional right to influence it." Two of the Supes offered a similar view today.

Anonymous said...

I saw the new flag too! The old one was so worn from Fuentes, Raghu, Wagner, et al. wrapping themselves in it.

brava Dissent!


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