- Written by John MacMurray
16 Oct 2012
POLITICS - While Republican efforts at game rigging and voter suppression in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, and New Mexico are getting a lot of press lately, not so many of us know about the long history our own Orange County Republican Party has in efforts to restrict access to the democratic process to their chosen few. And we should.
The most recent GOP office seeker to get caught red handed being underhanded was, of course, Tan Nguyen.
Nguyen livened up his 2006 challenge to Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez for the 47th CD seat by sending out an official-looking letter to 14,000 registered voters with Hispanic surnames telling them that”…if you are an immigrant, voting in a Federal election is a crime that could result in jail time.”
Nguyen’s senior campaign advisor, by the way, was Tom Fuentes, former OC GOP Chair, who played a prominent role in the Curt Pringle “guards at the polling places” scandal.
Nguyen blamed several staff members for the gaffe, but Federal prosecutors found differently. He is currently serving time on a felony Obstruction of Justice charge for lying to the Feds about his role.
This makes Nguyen the only Orange County Republican to actually be sentenced in a voter-rigging scheme, although current OC GOP Chairman Scott Baugh came pretty close.
But more about him in a minute.
For sheer brass it would be hard to top Curt Pringle’s 1988 escapadein the 72nd AD where his campaign sent private security guards in blue uniforms to “supervise” voting in Hispanic precincts. The blue-uniformed guards carried signs in English and Spanish warning non-citizens not to vote, and were seen writing down voters’ license plate numbers. In some instances, the guards sat behind tables with poll workers and at least one of the guards was observed handling voters’ ballots.
Pringle was running a tight race against Democrat Christian Thierbach and in fact only won by 843 votes of the 66,831 votes cast.
Pringle consultant Carlos Rodriguez was quoted as saying, “I’m not sure we would have won” without the guards. Rodriguez, along with another Pringle consultant David Gilliard, was blamed by then-OC GOP Chairman Tom Fuentes for hiring the guards and for hiring a sign company to place signs reading “Thank You Curt Pringle” in predominantly white areas and bilingual signs saying “Non Citizens Can’t Vote” in largely Latino areas.
Fuentes went on to be campaign manager for Tan Nguyen’s 2006 race in the 46th CD.
The FBI investigated the issue, but the matter was finally settled by a civil lawsuit where the OC GOP agreed to an out-of-court settlement of $400,000. The Registrar’s office paid $20,000 on top of that, and the company that provided the guards paid another $60,000, bringing the total to $480,000.
Since the Pringle incident, both Gilliard and Rodriguez have been involved in a series of questionable and questionably-legal political efforts, but more about them in a minute.
Which brings Scott Baugh back into the spotlight.
Baugh was charged with two felony perjury counts and 11 misdemeanor violations of the Campaign Reform Act for his role in placing an alleged Democrat, Laurie Campbell, in the 1995 election for the 67th AD in order to dilute the Democratic vote.
Prosecutors alleged that Baugh purposely misreported tens of thousands of dollars in contributions and loans.
Baugh’s case was eventually settled in 1999 when Attorney General Bill Lockyear accepted the FPPC’s recommendation for Baugh to pay a civil fine of $47,900 for nine violations of the state Political Reform Act, ending a political misconduct case that began with his election in 1995.
Where are they now?
Tan Nguyen will probably have a difficult time putting his life back together, mostly for the crime of listening to campaign advice he’d paid for, from someone who had been previously caught subverting the system.
And while Curt Pringle’s fingerprints don’t seem to show up directly on these nefarious doings he has been connected with, it is interesting to note that his aides have been linked in court testimony to the Scott Baugh decoy scheme, as well as his 1988 Assembly campaign.
And thanks to some underhanded and illegal doings by people on his campaigns, Curt Pringle has had a career as a state legislator, mayor of Anaheim, and was given appointive positions on several state and local commissions.
Pringle currently owns a public relations and government affairs consulting company.
David Gilliard went on to form his own consulting firm, and is currently handling the campaigns of State Senator Mimi Walters and Rep. Ed Royce.
Scott Baugh served in the Assembly until he was termed out. He is currently chairman of the Orange County GOP, principal at a law firm, and a registered lobbyist handling county business.
And when a Republican DA does his job, as Mike Capizzi did in when he investigated and prosecuted Scott Baugh, his party leaders proceeded to throw him under the proverbial bus.
So, the party that invented “three strikes” presents us with an interesting dichotomy: while they relentlessly push for hard jail time for people who steal purses, they demand sympathy and compassion for their own members who only plan together to steal the State of California.
Why does it matter?
Voter fraud in any form is a serious matter. It deprives eligible people of their legal right to have a say about the people and actions that frame our lives and livelihoods.
Voter fraud in Orange County is especially serious because of the scale of the crime. With 1.6 million registered voters, Orange County has more voters than many states. In fact, it ranks 30th in the United States in number of voters, ahead of 20 states.
So, tampering with the voting or registration process in Orange County is akin to tampering with the process in Alaska, the District of Columbia, North Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming put together.
Tampering with the voting process in Los Angeles County is theft on an even larger scale. With 4.4 million voters, LA County is the 7th largest voting bloc in the United States, ahead of 42 states.
So tampering with the voting process in LA County is like tampering with all the states above, plus Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and West Virginia.
And we’ve seen that what happens in Ohio, Florida, or Pennsylvania doesn’t necessarily stay there. It has happened close to home, and may happen again in the 2012 election.
But the good news is that you can keep it from happening. Check your own registration status (you can do it online), make sure you vote (vote by mail, if you’re not sure you can make it to the polls), work at a polling place (check with your County Registrar about how to do this).
Better yet, do all these things. It’s harder for the bad guys to steal our State when everybody’s looking.
(John MacMurray is a retired La Habra teacher and former Democratic candidate for State Assembly. He blogs at LAProgressive.com where this column was first posted.)
Vol 10 Issue 83
Pub: Oct 16, 2012