MOORLACH UPDATE — The Current — January 29, 2010

For many years I have not taken political contributions or endorsements from public employee unions, especially in my race for County Supervisor.  (I also refuse to take political contributions from Orange County Employees Retirement System money managers.) 

How can I take contributions from those I have to negotiate with?  I personally believe it is a serious conflict of interest.  It’s not criminal.  But, it’s unconscionable.  So I don’t.

When I make endorsements, I don’t know if public employee unions will also endorse and support the same candidates later during the race.  And, having been the recipient of a pulled endorsement in 1994, I’m not too keen on doing this myself.

The quandary that Scott Baugh will face is how to implement his policy. 

The Orange County Republican Central Committee by-laws require its members to endorse the Republican candidates in the General Elections. 

In the primary, it’s open season.

One would think that sincere candidates would turn down public employee union endorsements, contributions and independent expenditures.

You would also think that voters would be turned off by candidates that accept them.

Scott Baugh has certainly elevated the issue and that, in and of itself, is a good start.

Venezia: Council candidates weigh taking union money

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BARBARA VENEZIA

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

bvontv@earthlink.net

The Republican Party’s facing a philosophical dilemma that must be reconciled if they’re to survive. On Jan. 18th OC’s Republican Chairman Scott Baugh made a speech that will probably define his chairmanship.

Outing his party for betraying their basic conservative principals of fiscal responsibility, Scott declared "we failed to confront the duplicity of Republicans who claim to be for limited government and then vote for ballooning debts and increased spending." In an unprecedented move he set a new standard for political endorsements saying "no candidate will be supported by this party who receives contributions from public employee unions."

This could have serious consequences, especially for city council candidates struggling this year to raise every penny they can. Cutting off such lucrative funding sources could be problematic. But as the old saying goes, "There’s no free lunch." And therein lies the problem.

Republican candidates run on "law and order" platforms, so can they survive without police/fire union endorsements and dollars? The big question, which endorsement holds more value with voters, Republican or union? Obviously the beast they helped create has now turned on them. Public employee unions are a powerful political force striking fear in the hearts of candidates they oppose. They’ve been called "the religious right of the left."

Newport councilman Mike Henn’s running for reelection this year and says he made the decision not to take any funding from the city’s labor associations way before Scott’s speech. New candidate Ed Reno told me he feels strongly about supporting NB fire and police but will stand by his friend Scott Baugh.

(Ok this is awkward; I took NB Fire and Police dollars and endorsements when I ran in 2007).

Newport Mayor Keith Curry says the issue isn’t cut and dry. He isn’t sure about Scott’s strategy, but understands "he’s trying to level the playing field." Keith cautions against judging those who do take union dollars too harshly; rather, look at the candidate’s voting record.

Last year, Costa Mesa Council candidates Jim Righeimer, Eric Beaver and Gary Monahan made headlines when they refused to take money or seek the endorsements of the police or fire associations in their city. Chatting with both Jim and Gary, they seem pleased with the direction Scott’s taken.

Supervisor John Moorlach’s been beating the "out-of-control pension spending drum" forever but faces another dilemma; does he follow Scott’s lead and not endorse fellow politicians he knows are good people just because they’ve taking union money?

In talking to Scott days after the speech, I could hear the emotion in his voice of how passionately he felt about what he did. I asked if he thought he’d committed occupational suicide with such a ballsy move. He didn’t know, time will tell. Scott explained he’d been struggling with this crisis of conscience for some time. He knew he could no longer justify the hypocrisy and openly admitted he was part of the problem. This epiphany seems to have settled his soul.

There’s something wildly daring, or wildly stupid, about the risky move Scott Baugh’s taken. He’s drawn a line in the sand; now let’s see who stands with him, who breaks ranks, and who steps over it and him as well.

Freelance writer Barbara Venezia’s opinion column appears online and in The Current every Friday. Email BV at bvontv@earthlink.net

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