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The OC Register fulfilled an important part of its civic responsibilities at the end of last week when it released its Voter Guide for the June primary election. Before you fill out your absentee ballot (if you use one), you should take a look at the link.
As a candidate for District Attorney-Public Administrator, I of course hope that you’ll take a look at the page for my race. You’ll find my answers to some tough questions posed by the Register — but you won’t find any answers from my opponent, who wimped out. (He paid $29,000 or so for a ballot statement to reach the voters; I, haven’t belatedly entered the race when it became clear that he’d otherwise be unopposed, did not. So I heartily thank the Register for providing somewhat of an equalizer between those candidates who can raise $419,000 in a night, as my opponent has, and those of us who not only can’t, but would hesitate to appear to be “selling access” to the office at that level, even if we could.)
The Register asked three policy questions (with a strict 75 word/500 character limit): as I did most of the writing here, I think that I’m entitled to reprint my answers to their questions. I encourage you to read not only what appears below, but also the responses of other candidates in other races to their own questions from the Register, before you vote. The Register’s questions are in bold; my answers aren’t.
Should district attorney candidates be allowed to receive campaign contributions from defense attorneys? Why or why not?
Under 2012’s “Spaccia” decision, California requires recusal only if the “appearance of impropriety” combines with an “actual likelihood of unfair treatment.” So, to accept $1,900 contributions from potential court opponents – say, defense attorneys representing organized crime – IS generally lawful. I’d avoid it regardless; it feels wrong to me. Public faith in our legal system suffers if a district attorney’s loyalty to the public and to fair justice seems diluted by gratitude to contributors.
Would you prefer to keep Orange County political ethics enforcement local or pass it onto the state Fair Political Practices Commission? Why?
I’d retain our local TINCUP ethics enforcement and I favor our excellent grand jury’s proposed Ethics Commission. Local ethics enforcement is quicker and assures better knowledge of local context. Sadly, our DA’s office lacks expertise and (critically) impartiality. As an impartial, trustworthy and zealous DA who adopts national “best practices” in enforcement, I can “scare people straight.” I oppose the perverse “reform” of raising the donations limits to $4,100 if we institute FPPC control.
If the D.A. office received an additional $5 million dollars, how would you allocate it?
(1) Greater focus on domestic violence; child, elder and worker abuse; and (given the 2001 & 2012-13 Grand Jury reports) government corruption. (2) After 16 years of an entrenched incumbent, intensively audit past departmental performance. Was it fair? Honest? Strong? Efficient? Effective? (3) Assess and adopt other counties’ “best practices.” (4) Post the Constitution – with orders to follow it. (5) Fair justice ALSO requires a well-funded Public Defender’s Office – to keep the OCDA honest!
That’s right — I’m a District Attorney candidate who believes that the Public Defender’s office needs more money, because they are a necessary player in the pursuit of justice. I’m not interested in putting as many people in jail as possible, but in putting guilty people in jail, and that only when jail is preferable to other less expensive and less damaging forms of punishment. The DA’s Office and the Public Defender’s Office should be adversaries in court — but should be able to work together in negotiations prior to (and ideally instead of) trial to assess who’s guilty and what is the best response to them. We can’t do that effectively when Public Defenders are so overburdened that they can barely get to know their client’s cases. And we should not be putting innocent people in jail merely because they can’t afford the risk of trial with inadequate representation — in part because when the innocent go to jail, the guilty may go free.
(Yes, this is what you get when a candidate doesn’t have a campaign consultant — but does have a conscience.)