Shooting Star, part 9: straight-shooting conservative Tom Rogers on Caspers, Harber, and what they portended
|Tom Rogers (1924-2006), OC GOP chair, 1969-1972|
TALK TO TOM ROGERS. The other night, I spoke with an old acquaintance who’s been active in mostly Democratic politics in Orange County going back at least thirty years. I mentioned to him that I was researching the sinking of the “Shooting Star.” He immediately knew what I was referring to.
|Tom Riley, developers' friend|
He was a leader: he served as the Chair of the local GOP from 1969 to1972 and then served as a state GOP big shot during Reagan’s gubernatorial years (see).
|Irvine Heritage Library: "lost"|
Couldn’t find it.
Couldn’t find the book.
|San Juan Capistrano Library: "lost"|
Couldn't find the book.
That sent her into search and confer mode, and, at the end of that process she declared that the book was “lost.”
|IVC Library: "Got it!"|
This is from Rogers’ “Introduction.” According to Rogers’ "unabridged" OC History, starting in the 1970s,
the driving forces behind those who would gain political control of Orange County were motivated by the pursuit of corporate profits, and party affiliation was simply a matter of convenience rather than conviction.
. . .
The most devastating result of dollar politics was that Republicans and Democrats abandoned their core party principles. The temptation was just too strong to win elections with the unlimited funds available to those who passed the litmus test. The special interests were soon able to control the county and some cities when computer technology replaced motivated volunteers as a decisive force in winning elections.
|El Toro Road (in Caspers' district), 1970|
a relatively small group of Republican incumbents began to exert influence at the state level, by pre selecting candidates for State Assembly and Senate. The criteria for their selection process was a willingness … to accept and embrace the incumbents’ view of what constitutes a “proper” conservative. Once they passed this Biblical/Philosophical vetting, those Republicans who made the cut would have the assurance of sizeable donations plus professional management of their campaigns. This all-knowing, all-powerful group became known as “The Cave Men” [elsewhere, Rogers notes that the term is non-pejorative], who by virtue of being incumbents had the capability of extracting money from lobbyists in Sacramento, a literal bonanza for all ambitious politicians…. Whether it was the financial support of the special interests or of the GOP incumbents, the net result was that in many cases individuals were elected to an office for which they were totally unqualified.
|Tom and wife at Supervisor Riley's annual BBQ, c. mid-80s|
1970 Mysterious newcomer runs a behind-the-scenes campaign to gain election to the Board of Supervisors. Ron Caspers is elected in the 5th District, changing the direction of politics in Orange County. Ralph Clark is also elected to the board making a third vote for the emerging special interests. This new group of wealthy individuals is called The Coalition, and they begin to exert power in Orange County. [Rogers later states that the “Coalition” comes to an end in 1978 with the indictment of Louis Cella, Richard O'Neill's partner in achieving political influence.]
|Dr. Louis Cella|
Harber had been considered a prime mover in county politics…. Prior to his disappearance, he was alleged to have been involved in a shakedown of a developer in behalf of Supervisor Caspers. The builder Richard V. Jordan, in a sworn statement, declared that Harber had contacted him after his project in Casper’s 5th District had been turned down, and had told him what it would take to solve the problem. “$10,000 and $2,000 per month” Harber is alleged to have demanded form Jordan….
Jordan asserted in his deposition that the meeting with Harber was prior to meeting with Caspers in a rubber raft off Cabo San Lucas. Jordan was represented by attorney R.S. “Sam” Barnes and his client contacted District Attorney [and Cella foe] Cecil Hicks and arranged for a payoff with marked bills. [A sting!] Before the plan was put into motion, Caspers won reelection and, with Harber, boarded the Shooting Star and headed once again for the Cape…. [From there, the ship headed north and disappeared.] In the end the county paid off $700,000 to Jordan’s company…, as a result of losses caused by the extortion scheme.
Rogers’ account of the dirty tricks campaign waged in 1969 against Republican Supervisor Alton Allen is fascinating. As it turns out, Ron Caspers was behind that campaign. Caspers won the Supervisorial seat away from Allen in 1970, with Tom Fuentes’ help.
"Appeared to be"?
SEE Part 10
|OC Supervisor Alton Allen, 1969.|
Essentially taken out by dirty trickster Ron Caspers.
Tom Fuentes was Caspers' right hand man