First Service, Then Check: Santa Ana Council Considers Pay for Play

"I vote 'yea' on the motion! Now where's my check!"

[GD}: As I may have mentioned once or twice, I’m for Julio Perez in the AD-69 race, in part because when I was running Jerry Brown’s campaign in the county in the summer of 2010 he showed absolute ethical responsibility — and I found that both impressive and refreshing.  But when another candidate does something right, I have to nod in their direction, and Paco Barragan — the other Spanish-fluent Latino Democrat in this most Latino of all Assembly Districts — just nailed it.

Here’s what our Paco just sent around.  (You’ll want to read this Liberal OC story on “pay for play” for background.)

Sayeth Señor Barragan:

The Santa Ana council May Repeal Campaign Finance Ordinance this Monday night May 7th, even after several members like Michelle Martinez and Sal Tinajero have accepted $thousands of dollars in campaign contributions and then voted immediately to favors these donors in violation of state and local law.

1)   How can supporters of Michelle Martinez attach their name and credibility to her Assembly campaign if Michele Martinez is violating the law, or proposing less citizen oversight and less citizen control over elected officials and their actions, and continued higher taxes on Santa Ana’s small businesses through the unconstitutional PBID.

  • What negative message does that send out to the larger community in Orange County about Latinos/Hispanics & Mexican-Americans accepting illegal and unethical behavior of elected officials, since Santa Ana is an All Latino city council?
  • What harmful message does that send to our youth in our community?
  • Are citizens and residents in Santa Ana apathetic because they are powerless, or are they powerless because they are apathetic?  And how much does acceptance of this type of behavior contribute to this apathy and powerlessness?  What is or should be our responsibility as community leaders to change this?
  • What is the responsibility of the Santa Ana City Council to bring greater transparency, disclosure and accountability?
  • We should all realize that nothing will change if we ourselves don’t change our acceptance of this type of behavior.
  • 2)  In a democracy, we may all disagree on policy decisions and must accept the outcome if constitutionally sound; however, we should never accept unethical or illegal behavior from an elected official or a body of elected officials.

    Paco then links not only to the above Lib OC “pay for play” article, but to two others:

    Should Voters Care About the Personal Finances of AD-69 Candidates Perez and Martinez? May 2, 2012  (SEE ME COMMENTS there) [Note: as a comment there notes, one compelling answer to the question in the title is: “no” and “yes,” respectively.]

    “Santa Ana City Councilwoman Michele Martinez broke the city law governing campaign contributions when she took $500 from Naranjo Landscape shortly after voting to approve a city contract with the company,  Shirley Grindle, Orange County campaign finance watchdog, said last week.”  February 15, 2012

    Paco Barragan doesn’t seem to have much of a chance in this race, but he is solidifying himself as a future player in Santa Ana politics.  (I hope that that starts with a Council run for November.)  Most Perez voters with whom I discuss the race say that he would be their second choice on the merits — but, of course, he has less ability to compete with Daly and Martinez in an expensive race like this one.  If he finishes low in the standings, it won’t be because he has not won a lot of  fans, but because in this race there was just someone running with a similar ethos and a stronger base.

    As for whether the City Council should vote to kneecap this campaign finance law in an election year: as a writer who likes to campaign on an anti-corruption platform, I suppose their doing so would have certain benefits for me personally — it would allow me to engage in all sorts of righteous ranting about it here, for one — but in the interest of good government I’m willing to do without them.

    I hope that the members of the Council remember that people are watching them — and vote “nay.”

    UPDATE: According to Joe Hill in the Liberal OC (who, by the way, I dreamed I saw last night), the Michele Martinez agreed to a 30-day postponement of the proposal, taking it past the primary.

    Her opponent Paco Barragan came out with another press release today, expressing skepticism:

    This is a TEMPORARY VICTORY for our citizens since this will come up again.

    Narrow special interest money from CORPORATIONS And UNIONS has been having a corrupting influence on elected officials, as evidenced by the improper/illegal votes taken e.g. by Michelle Martinez and Sal Tinajero.

    When this comes up again, a real victory will be to EXTEND The BAN, to prohibit soliciting or receiving funds from after 3-months of their vote, TO 6-MONTHS to A-YEAR From their Vote, or FROM AN ELECTION.

    This will strengthen controls and may prevent rewarding politicians for improper behavior, from the quid-pro-quo (“I scratch your back, you scratch my back”) nature of large contributions given with a “wink and a nod” to benefit large donors to the detriment of the interests of our citizens and our community.

    Congratulations to the citizens for responding to our call-to-action, and also for the media and bloggers (ie. The Liberal OC, OrangeJuiceBlog, OC Political, and Voice of OC) in being proactive in publicizing this extensively.

    I say, It’s time to let politicians and special interests fear us . . . Let’s continue to be mobilized to let them know that while money may buy them politicians, it will not buy them citizens!!!

    As I noted there in comments, the staff report argument for eliminating the restriction doesn’t make much sense:

    “by approving the proposed ordinance the City of Santa Ana is removing a restriction, not required understate law that unfairly affects Santa Ana Council candidates running for state or other elected office.”

    Here’s a wild idea: if you think that you might take money from an interest over the next three months, recuse yourself from the vote so that you’re pretty much useless to them.  Then see if they give you money or not.

    About Admin

    "Admin" is just editors Vern Nelson, Greg Diamond, or Ryan Cantor sharing something that they mostly didn't write themselves, but think you should see. Before December 2010, "Admin" may have been former blog owner Art Pedroza.