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I will admit right up front that this story is SOMEWHAT SPECULATIVE, but as I now understand Orange County journalism (especially as practiced from about 500 miles away) THAT IS OK!
In my report earlier today, I noted that OC Register “Total Buzz” blogger Brian Joseph, whom I understand may also have some other responsibilities with the paper, had published a story about 24 hours ago raising the question of whether AD-69 candidate Julio Perez MIGHT BE LYING ABOUT BEING A RESIDENT OF HIS NEW DISTRICT, which Joseph reminded us is something that has gotten Richard Alarcon and Rod Wright in potential trouble with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office. Joseph’s basis for this political-race-changing claim? That a process server swore under penalty of perjury that tried to serve Perez papers for a lawsuit at Perez’s stated — nay, sworn! — residence and found not only that he was not there, but that some woman who lived there said that he didn’t!
Challenged as to why this was not an occasion for, um, “reporting,” Joseph disclaimed ANY RESPONSIBILITY for checking out the story: there were two opposing sworn statements, one from a leading political candidate and one from a hapless and unknown process server, and THAT WAS ALL HE NEEDED FOR THE STORY (which, incidentally, divulged that Perez was sued over some credit card debt from graduate school that he apparently couldn’t pay off due to family medical bills.)
Jacob’s story led to a FRENZY in the local media, with Michele Martinez advocate Art Pedroza flogging the story on two websites, GOP (and alleged Tom Daly) political operative Matt Cunningham going into overdrive flogging the story on Twitter, and even the labor-oriented “actual news” outlet Voice of OC printing much of Jacob’s story verbatim. Things looked bad for Perez! Someone was lying (probably, well, possibly), and with only two (OK, three) possibilities the chances (without any investigation or thinking-through-things) that it was him hovered at as much as 50%? HOW WOULD HIS CAMPAIGN SURVIVE?
And then something VERY UNUSUAL happened for the OC journalism scene: JOURNALISM!
Voice of OC Editor Norberto Santana Jr., perhaps a little put out at the possibility of being used as part of what might be a unfounded smear campaign, reported this afternoon that the publication sent a reporter TO THE ADDRESS IN QUESTION to talk to Perez directly. And HERE IS WHAT THEY FOUND!
Perez. Bills to Perez at that address. Other evidence that Perez lives there.
Is this all part of a nefarious plot to make Brian Joseph look like either a willing accomplice in character assassination OR a dingbat being played by some political pro? WE DON’T KNOW! Joseph has not yet replied to various comments suggesting that he fess up as to who handed him this “scoop” — and I won’t say scoop of what — so as to get damaging information about Perez into the world.
WE CANNOT BLAME BRIAN JOSEPH FOR THAT BECAUSE HE MAY HAVE BIGGER FISH TO FRY!
I will admit that I made the error myself of presuming that Joseph’s interested in the story may have derived from the prospect that Perez may be up in Sacramento with him by December and possibly giving him some stink-eye shipped directly from his employer’s district. But THAT MAY NOT BE TRUE!
It could be — hear me out on this one! — that the Register‘s Sacramento reporter has been quietly preparing a HUGE EXPOSE on the process service industry (which at least one Voice of OC commenter has alleged does not have the highest reputation for swearing truthfully under oath in all circumstances.) Perhaps his real target was not Julio Perez at all, but process server Raul Peraza, who swore an affidavit that may not be entirely true (unless he did encounter a former tenant still hanging around Perez’s house for the purpose of warding off process servers. Hey, IT COULD HAPPEN!)
One must wonder at this point, could PEREZ HIMSELF have been in cahoots with Joseph as part of a plan to catch Peraza in a sworn misstatement? Stranger things have happened! (Presumably. Well, possibly.)
We know that Joseph’s focus may have been on Peraza all along because he answered a question as to why he would go with the story right away without investigating it — say, by having someone go check out Perez’s long-planned-and-announced BBQ fundraiser at his house on Sunday — thusly:
As you’ll note, the story includes links to numerous source documents. You can judge for yourself whether I accurately reflected those documents. As for your suggestion that I wait until Sunday, I’m not sure why. Even if I had waited to see his fundraiser, the central issue regarding the discrepancy between Mr. Perez’s signed candidate declaration and the process server’s sworn declaration would have remained.
THERE WAS A DISCREPANCY! Someone was … DISCREPANT! Discrepancies can’t wait! (Or, at least, whoever fed Joseph the story didn’t want to wait!) It was a story either way: either Candidate Perez or Process Server Peraza had sworn to an untrue statement (if one overlooks that Peraza’s statement was largely hearsay.)
We harbor no ill-will, prior to getting the actual facts, towards Raul Peraza — but if he did the crime we feel safer knowing that Brian Joseph is ON THE CASE and WILL NOT BE STOPPED. (After all, it was a story either way, right?)
By the way: as I had opined earlier that the real point of the hit job (which Matt Cunningham has apparently been tweeting the hell out of for much of the day, but THAT DOESN’T MEAN THAT HE FED THE STORY TO JOSEPH) was to call attention to Perez’s credit card debt. So, let’s quote a little from the Voice of OC article on that:
Perez said he left college with a credit card debt of about $20,000, which ballooned in recent years to $35,000 after someone he was close to suffered a medical condition that Perez said impacted family finances.
“When people talk about the need for affordable housing, having bad credit and struggling, I get it,” Perez said. “Here I am, with a masters and still struggling.”
Perez said he regrets his financial decisions but has not been dishonest about his debt problems.
“I haven’t made the most wise financial decisions, but you do what you can to move your family forward and survive.”
Will having gotten into debt in graduate school and having trouble repaying it due to a family member’s medical expenses make voters in the relatively impoverished 69th AD look down on Perez? Or are they more likely to see a sneaky attempt to get this story out there by accusing Perez of possible perjury as the more offensive act?
I would ask Joseph’s source for his or her thoughts on the matter, if I knew who it was.
Anyway, Perez’s fellow candidates Martinez, Barragan, Daly, and the other guy now have the opportunity to weigh in on — and condemn — this use of tactics, should they choose. My guess is that Martinez will (having gone through similar flak over her financial history) and that Barragan will (because he’s a nice and decent guy.)
Will Daly condemn this as well? Maybe we’ll see if we can ask one of his advisers.
UPDATE: Scott Lay’s Nooner (essential reading on Cali politics, by the way) reports:
“Yesterday, I linked to a story that alleged AD69 candidate Julio Perez didn’t live at the residence he claimed. While OC Register reporter Brian Joseph, who I respect, stands by the facts in his story, Voice of OC reports there is another side.”
Brian Joseph stands by the facts – as if the facts are the problem! Will he stand by the implications (and stand by this being journalistic “best practices”)