BOE-4: New Mike Schaefer Website is Out — OUCH!

A new Mike Schaefer website has appeared on the scene. It’s called — but while it stars Mike Schaefer, it definitely is not from him. Instead, it’s all some of the things that he’d like to hide. The website, associated with his OJB-endorsed opponent David Dodson, is a timeline, going back decades, of Schaefer scandals — some of which, like his stalking Everybody Loves Raymond actor Brad Garrett because he didn’t get some comp tickets he wanted to a Las Vegas show — I had forgotten about.

A “colorful character” isn’t quite so amusing once he starts stalking people, and getting disbarred in two states, and abusing his wife, and spewing racism from the Board of Equalization dais, and screwing over his slumlord tenants, and … how much time do you have, anyway? WHY are the California Democratic Party and UNITE-HERE Local 11 still supporting this unqualified joke, after he donated $30K to Republican PACs, when so many others have woken up and run away from him? Images from

And while you’re there, click the links! The one that bowled me over is a must-read piece by detailing how Schaefer has funneled $30,000 of his own money to a San Diego Republican PAC, some of which went to promote him and some apparently to other Republican efforts — and incredulously asking how it is that the Democratic Party has not pulled its endorsement. (For those who have trouble distinguishing among Northern California cities, note that this is a different story than the one detailing his being disbarred, a slumlord, a spouse abuser, etc.)

One of the worst types of political appeals are the ones that lie to your face because they think that you are too stupid or lazy to figure out the truth. The story has some great examples of this. (All highlighting is mind.) For example:

State campaign finance filings showed Schaefer’s campaign donated $30,000 on Aug. 19 to Citizens for a Better East County. “East County” refers to the less populated eastern region of San Diego County that includes largely conservative voting communities such as El Cajon and La Mesa. A member of the Citizens for a Better East County confirmed they are a GOP-leaning political committee. Their donation history going back a dozen years also shows support only for conservative candidates and causes. This included its largest donation of $12,500 given to the San Diego County Republican Party just a month after it received the Schaefer campaign donation.

Despite this, the Schaefer campaign denies Citizens for a Better East County is a Republican-aligned group or that its donation will help Republicans. Campaign manager Chris Castillo told SactoPolitico by email, “I want to be clear Citizens for a Better East County is not a Republican Organization. Vice Chair Schaefer has invested thousands of dollars into Democratic causes and candidates to help them increase our majorities and win!”

When reached directly, Schaefer said, “I don’t really have a comment on this.” He suggested he left those details to Castillo and his campaign consultant Gary Gartner (who is also Schaefer’s chief of staff). “I’ve been talking in general with them about the campaign, but I am not familiar with any specific donation.”

[No] representative of Citizens for a Better East County would speak on the record about the Schaefer campaign’s claim their group is working to increase Democratic voter turnout. In response to the later $12,500 donation from Citizens for a Better East County, executive director of The San Diego County Republican Party Jordan Gascon denied any involvement in the Schaefer race. He said none of the donation they received is earmarked for any specific purpose, and “as for Schaefer, we do not support Democrats.”

We’ll get to what I placed in boldface about Gartner near the end of this story.

It’s not surprising that Gascon doesn’t admit to having received a candidate contribution with the understanding that he would to earmark it for what would appear to be an independent expenditure. The FPPC would end up having a word with him over that; maybe the District Attorney as well. But note that based on his story, Schaefer just gave the money to this anti-Democratic Party group to do whatever they wanted with it. This, it bears repeating repeatedly, is a Democratic Party endorsed candidate!

The article notes that, as of the end of June, Schaefer had given less than $6,000 to Democratic causes and candidates. That’s under 20% of this $30,000 in donations to increase Eastern San Diego Republican turnout — not just in his own race, by the way, but in everyone’s races. It also quotes Ryan Darsey, vice president of San Diego Democrats for Equality — a group that has endorsed Dodson and rated Schaefer as unqualified <em>even after spending one term playing at being in office!</em> — to say: “I think it’s hypocritical to say you want to turn out Democratic votes while you donate to a group that in turn donates to other groups that go against our Democratic values. This includes against LGBTQ rights, against worker rights, against reproductive freedom. A real Democrat who wants to turn out Democratic support would not be donating to Republican groups.”

(It’s really worth reading the whole story — in part so you can see Schaefer Campaign Manager Chris Castillo’s unconvincing denial that Republicans boosting turnout in a conservative area of the county helps Republicans. Its author has definitely earned the click!)

I updated this research a bit for this story. Schaefer has now donated $102,000 to his campaign — and almost no one else has. (Some guy in New Jersey named John Lynch gave him $1,000 last week; that might bear future scrutiny.)

Does the report of disproportionate contributions to Republicans still stand up? Look for yourself!


(Addendum to the above table: on Oct. 24, Schaefer donated $2,500 to DPOC. This and the second San Diego Party donation seem likely to reflect his attendance, accompanied by one or more staff members, at the two County Parties’ annual fundraising dinners.)

So that’s one big — and possibly illegal — contribution to Republicans, and (not counting his delegate dues) and $7,453.83 to Democratic organizations and Malia Cohen. (Just under 1/4 of the amount — nice touch!) It’s also nice case study in how one woos a party: $1,000 before the Cal state party endorsement is a mild attention-getter, $250 to Cohen — who should know that he’s unqualified — may (uncharitably reasoning) have kept her on board, $600 and $500 respectively to San Diego and IE Democratic parties, $100 and change to Point Loma for their 50th anniversary, and then another $5,000 to the San Diego party and $2,500 to the Orange County Party, seemingly to attend their fundraising dinners. Schaefer may have been a little worried about Dodson, or about the word coming out about his big Republican splurge. (Why San Diego’s party got twice as much is an interesting question.)

Having given you the contributions figures, I can tell you that something has been left out. Under expenditures, we see that the biggest expenditure is $7,572.50 in the “Legal and Accounting Services” category for Los Angeles law firm Strumwasser & Woocher. (This is clearly all for legal services; the campaign had a separate Treasurer.) Fred Woocher is a legendary and celebrated Democratic Party-connected attorney — and retaining him provides a nice talking point for Democratic Party officials, as well as a deterrent for anyone who might sue him. (We can also see that he’s on three slate mailers: one general, one aimed at Senior Citizens, and one — ironically for someone who hires political advisors for policy positions — for “Budget Watchdogs.”)

I’ll now get back to what I boldfaced before, about Schaefer’s campaign consultant Gary Gartner also being his top staffer — with a salary of around $200,000. This may be legal if the wall between government activity and campaign activity is scrupulously honored — but, you know, this is Mike Schaefer, after all!

What having this position go to a campaign strategist definitely constitutes is a dereliction of duty: a failure to bear this district’s expected share — as one of only four statewide districts — of the burden of managing property tax policy.

The Board of Equalization, in addition to making policy decisions and supervising county auditors, is supposed to use its bully pulpit to provide professionally informed opinions about proposed tax policies — whether they originate in the legislature and, perhaps more critically, when they appear in initiatives like last cycle’s Prop 19. According to Dodson, other members of the Board of Equalization hire professional tax policy experts staffers who can help with these sorts of matters.

Schaefer’s hired staff included Gartner: a smart man, a skilled campaign strategist, but about three decades behind David Dodson — the longtime manager of the Board of Equalization’s Los Angeles Office — when it comes to understanding tax policy (presuming that he even has that aptitude at all.) The other top hire was then-current head of the San Diego County Democratic Party, whose apparent job it was to ensure that Schaefer got the California Democratic Party endorsement. Soon after that feat was accomplished, he was terminated. (There were other reasons for that — but they existed before that endorsement vote, and were endured while he was useful.)

Had anyone in the party been paying attention, that would have been harder than it sounds. Schaefer routinely rants from the dais at Board meetings about how — state law be damned! — the Board should not have to translate documents into non-English languages (because all California residents should know English well enough to comprehend writings about tax policy.) He similarly rants against making documents accessible to the disabled (because … well, God knows why Mr. Crankypants thinks that.)

(Adding: this might be why Schaefer, the party-endorsed Democratic candidate, is himself endorsed by the major conservative individual influencers on local voting — i.e., my conservative counterparts — in their endorsement guides. They can probably spot a repressive-minded person when one comes along!)

I interviewed Gary Gartner before the primary, when I was investigating how a racist post had come out on one of Schaefer’s social media accounts. Gartner had been recommended to me as a stand-up guy by more than one member of San Diego LGBT community, of which he is part. (Those recommendations have since been retracted, as San Diegans such as Darsey, mentioned above, have recoiled from Schaefer.) I promised Gartner that would be an off-the-record conversation; I’ve kept that promise since and will continue to do so. But I am able to report what other sources of mine have to say about him, which is that he fancies himself as someone who will be able to step into Schaefer’s seat in four years (or whenever Schaefer vacates his position.) He’s more qualified than <em>his boss</em>, certainly, but it would take him at least two decades — even presuming that he had the aptitude — to be in Dodson’s league.

I don’t know that anyone else would agree, but what I really think about Gartner is that, if he’s even half the man that his former admirers thought he was half a year ago, he simply would have resigned. He should have taken the money and ran, maintaining his position as a Democratic consultant and an LGBT leader rather than defending — if not originating! — this plan to shovel money to San Diego Republicans in order to preserve his own hefty paycheck. (He’s too smart to think that Schaefer is the better candidate.)

So we’re left with one mystery: why is the Democratic Party continuing to put up with racist, unqualified, disbarred spouse abuser and slumlord Mike Schaefer?

In state Democratic Party leadership: CDP Chair Rusty Hicks has come to be seen as a weak leader who won’t likely survive the next election for State Chair. (Betty Yee is rumored to be the likely victor.) He would prefer to adhere to the tatters of a principle that Democratic incumbents get endorsed and endorsements don’t get changed — apparently even if that Democratic incumbent is essentially a racist scofflaw con artist and big donor to Republican-affiliated efforts — than respond to a candidate betrayal with a huge kick in the ass.

But the local party endorsements are perhaps even more damaging. DPOC’s Ada Briceño is not a weak Chair — she’s more the tyrannical and driven-by-overweening-personal-ambition sort. She would, quite literally in this case, sacrifice what she represents as her personal ideals to keep in the good graces of the state party (which it wouldn’t surprise me she might also want one day to run.) Sources tell me that Ada is quietly telling those who inquire that the party is no longer sending out material for Schaefer: that may be easy to change electronically — no, whoops it’s still there! — but given that he’s listed on party slates this would seem to require someone getting busy with a black Sharpie. (Anyway, while I think that my sources may have heard her say this, if she did I expect that she was lying.)

More disturbing, Ada’s own union, UNITE-HERE 11 — yes, she has both positions, and a DNC position as well, so Party people know not to cross her! — has endorsed Schaefer as well. (Given how she runs things, this is essentially her own endorsement.) And the weird thing about that is that Ada’s bucking not just the Orange County Labor Federation (which is good here, though bad this year on the local races where DPOC has been pretty good), but the California Labor Federation as well! Longtime San Diego politician Lorena Gonzalez knows Schaefer as well and has no fondness for him.

As we have noted before, it may seem strange for us to have devoted so much “ink” to this somewhat obscure race — but this is the clearest example we can find this year where competence and probity and so starkly set against a stew of incompetence, dishonesty, corruption, and spectacularly bad character. If right can’t prevail over the might of money and incumbency here, it’s an especially bad commentary.

This is the last full piece we plan to do on the BOE-4 race this year, but we will include updates for anything that doesn’t justify its own full story. (Of course, your comments may lead me in new and unexpected directions!)

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)