San Clemente’s Steve Knoblock tried to Bribe District Elections Attorney to go away.

I’ve been sitting on this story for nearly a year, but now it can finally be told: Nutjob San Clemente Councilman Steve Knoblock tried to bribe Attorney Michelle Jackson “up to $15,000” to retract her “demand letter” instructing his city to switch to District Elections, abandon her client (the Voter Equality Association, a 501c4), and just go away.

But before I tell this sordid tale, you’re gonna need TWO TRANCHES OF BACKGROUND:

Ah, Steve Knoblock. Barely re-elected in 2022, coming in third just 23 votes above Donna Vidrine, this extreme MAGA social conservative has been making embarrassing headlines for San Clemente for several years now. He is like a one-man Huntington Beach majority, on an otherwise reasonable City Council.

  • Remember when he tried to make abortions illegal in San Clemente? (And none of the Council would go along with that but it made lots of headlines and scared people, and it was a black eye for the town.)
  • Remember when he tried to require voter ID’s in San Clemente (because apparently too many “illegal aliens” helped get him elected?) Another no go.
  • Remember how he was a featured speaker at the big Oct. 2020 MAGA rally on the beach, side by side with soon-to-be Jan. 6 insurrectionists Russ Taylor and now-imprisoned-felon Alan Hostetter, and even worse, LAURIE DAVIES? (Don’t get me started on Laurie Davies!)

Despite all that, believe it or not, Steve has been a longtime INSIDER, a former CalOptima board member, nephew of a big San Clemente developer, and a member of the OC GOP Central Committee. That committee is, more and more, a haven for both extremists and kleptocrats, and their craven, valueless Chairman Fred Whitaker kowtows to their every whim, just to retain his position. Which helps explain both the dumb things the Party has been doing lately, and the dwindling Republican registration in the OC.

Anyway that’s Steve Knoblock. You must have noticed that these sorts of politicians tend to be lawless. Lawless AND dumb. Their paranoia and victimhood makes them feel the laws and legal system are stacked against them and those who share their beliefs. So they end up doing dumb illegal things, and finding themselves justified. Bear that in mind when you read about Steve’s latest escapade.


If you follow this blog, then you know that a non-profit called “Voter Equality Association,” employing the services of crack Dana Point attorney Michelle Jackson (and now the ACLU), has been using the California Voter Rights Act (CVRA) to get the South OC’s four hold-out cities (Rancho Santa Margarita, Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel & San Clemente) to join the 21st century and switch to a District Elections system, for the goal of fairer representation.

And if you didn’t know, now you know. San Clemente has actually been the only co-operative city, in this endeavor, complying with the law, they’ve got their map worked out, and are ready to transition to district elections this fall. [Cue brief applause.]

(The other three cities, at the urging of bad city attorneys greedy for billable hours, are defying the law in various ways: Laguna Hills is full-on bracing for a kamikaze fight against the CVRA, while RSM and Laguna Niguel have accepted the reform in principle but are refusing to pay Ms. Jackson her nominal $35K fee, just because they hate her husband Bill Brough and wrongly think he has anything to do with this. Now you know that too.)

Except, even with San Clemente, there was this little wrinkle – the Knoblock Wrinkle. Just a few days after Council received Ms. Jackson’s demand letter – July 17, 2023 at 2:30 pm to be precise – she got a text from Knoblock asking her to call him. Hmmm. And when she called, he asked her, “Is there any way we can just make this go away? I can offer you as much as $15,000.”

Day-um! What a smooth operator. Steve was offering Michelle 15 grand to either drop her client and leave them without representation, or talk her client into dropping their San Clemente demand. “Do you have any authority for this?” queried a bemused Ms. Jackson.

“Um…” responded Steve Knoblock, “I can get it.” Yeah, right. The City Council is gonna deputize their nuttiest member to go out and bribe an attorney. Michelle called her client, they laughed, they hurled, they gave a big fat NO.

Then she called San Clemente’s City Attorney, by all accounts a darn decent one name of Elizabeth Mitchell, and asked, “Do you know anything about this Knoblock guy offering me money?” “No!” “Is this okay with the City?” After a pause, Mitchell responded, “No comment.” And it’s been no comment ever since. [All conversation paraphrased.]

The client, Voter Equality Association, is happy with San Clemente’s co-operation. But it’s nearly always the case that incumbent politicians react badly to reforms like term limits or district elections, which could conceivably get them replaced by some damn upstart with less money and from the wrong part of town! And San Clemente did initially show a few signs of recalcitrance. But what Knoblock did sorta took the wind out of that.

Self-sabotage. Thy name is Knoblock.

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official political troubadour of Anaheim and most other OC towns. Regularly makes solo performances, sometimes with his savage-jazz band The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at, or 714-235-VERN.