Slouching Toward San Diego to Be Born: Carl DeMaio, Spawn of the Wrecking Crew

by on September 10, 2012 · 1 comment

in Columns, Editor's Picks, Government, Politics, Under the Perfect Sun, Voter Guide 2012

It’s the week after Labor Day and the Carl DeMaio attack machine is in full force, with SuperPac-funded ads in the works designed to keep pounding away at Bob Filner while DeMaio furiously tries to repackage himself as someone palatable to moderate Democrats and Independents.  This will involve things like lying to San Diegans about his environmental record, spending big money to woo Latino voters, and hoping that some local Democrats are terminally stupid enough to buy his “independent” populist reformer act.   While I have written extensively about DeMaio’s right wing think tank pedigree, it never hurts to revive the historical record, particularly when we can count on the local news to fail on all counts in this regard.

Team DeMaio’s strategy will be to do anything possible to make Carl cuddly while demonizing Filner in every conceivable way.  As we have seen at the national level, facts will not be an obstacle for the Republicans.  The goal is to win at all costs and the DeMaio pedigree is well-suited for the task at hand.

So, what rough beast is slouching toward San Diego to be born?  It’s not the plucky little populist small businessman making his way across the TV screens of San Diego.  The fact is that DeMaio comes to us straight out of the right wing movement shock troops that gave us Ralph Reed, Grover Norquist, and Jack Abramoff.  But he is counting on you to be too dumb to do your homework.

Last week, Bill Moyers noted of the Republican National Convention that while much of the attention was on Clint Eastwood’s bizarre empty chair rant, perhaps the more interesting story was the re-emergence of Ralph Reed as a central player in the post Citizens United world.  Reed’s second act is remarkable for both its speed and shamelessness.

As Moyers reminds us, “When Ralph Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition, was discovered to have raked in millions of dollars from the super lobbyist — and eventually convicted felon — Jack Abramoff, Reed wound up in political purgatory. But outraged by the election of Barack Obama, and responding to what he describes as God’s call (via Sean Hannity), Reed returned to start the Faith and Freedom Coalition with the aim of toppling Barack Obama from the White House.”

Indeed, the GOP hasn’t even bothered to cover the footprints that lead the inquiring citizen back to the scene of the crime.  A case in point is the Republican Party platform plank calling for “flexibility” on the minimum wage in the Pacific territories.  As the Washington Post observes:

Some years ago, our government made an effort to clean up sweatshops on the islands — including Saipan— that have been under the control of the United States since the end of World War II.

Chinese women were brought over to the islands to work under awful conditions — subject to forced abortions and prostitution and paid pennies for producing garments labeled “Made in the USA.”

Corrupt local officials hired the firm of infamous lobbyist Jack Abramoff — for more than four million dollars — to try to stop the reforms proposed back in Washington. Abramoff, in turn, hired Ralph Reed and his political direct mail company, Millennium Marketing, to conduct a phony grass roots campaign urging Alabama Christians to write their local congressman to oppose the reforms.

Of course, Reed didn’t tell those Christians he was being paid to help keep running sweatshops that exploited women. Instead, he told them the reforms were a trick orchestrated by the left and organized labor. Limits on Chinese workers would keep them from being “exposed to the teachings of Jesus Christ.” His company explained it was just trying to encourage “grass roots citizens to promote the propagation of the Gospel” and that many of the workers were “converted to the Christian faith and return to China with Bibles in hand.”

But the right hand of God isn’t the only Republican to have earned his chops in the same circle of sleazy lobbyists and rightwing ideologues. As has been extensively documented by Moyers and others, Grover Norquist was also part of this unholy trinity, bringing in big bucks for his outfit via similarly disgusting schemes while crusading against the evils of big government.

And, of course, San Diego’s most famous connection to this conservative wrecking crew, to borrow Thomas Frank’s phrase, is Carl DeMaio.  We will soon see the launch of DeMaio’s scorched earth anti-Filner ad war that already has $1.2 million of commercials purchased with some local political insiders speculating that we may end up seeing upwards of $4 million by campaign’s end.

While pro-DeMaio cash will come from a variety of corporate and other right-wing money machine sources, his own fortune can be traced back to the early Bush years and his connections with the Abramoff crew.   Specifically, while DeMaio was setting up his “business,” he advocated for David Safavian to get a job at the Office of Federal Procurement Policy where Safavian would be well positioned to aid DeMaio’s operation.  As I have noted in earlier columns and Dirty DeMaio.com also points out:

DeMaio stepped up when President George W. Bush was having trouble with his nominee for director of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. Obviously, DeMaio had a major financial stake in the course of procurement policy — DeMaio was busy making his personal fortune by playing both sides of that particular road. Bush nominated David Safavian in November 2003, but by April the confirmation process was bogging down and DeMaio started pushing hard in support of Safavian. DeMaio called Safavian — who had co-founded a lobbying firm with Grover Norquist and worked closely with Jack Abramoff — “an ideal candidate to lead the OFPP,” and in December, 2004 Safavian was successfully confirmed . . . two months after Safavian was confirmed with DeMaio’s support, DeMaio was appointed to Safavian’s panel revising the practices and regulations that DeMaio was profiting from.

At the initial swearing-in meeting, Safavian brought in a former colleague who was working with Jack Abramoff. At the very first substantive panel meeting, DeMaio led off by worrying about “the potential for going overboard with internal controls” on the panel’s ethics and oversight. And less than six-months later, Safavian was ensnared in a massive pay-to-play corruption scandal and left the office facing multiple felony charges.

Self-styled taxpayer watchdog Carl DeMaio, concerned with the government becoming a “smart shopper” had pressed a successful campaign to put a criminally corrupt Norquist and Abramoff ally in charge of setting procurement policy for the entire federal government, responsible for roughly $300 billion taxpayer dollars, and then personally benefitted with added power and influence.

So there you have it.  DeMaio, like Norquist and Reed, was never convicted of any crime, but he “made it” by engaging in behavior that ought to be criminal.  And, like Reed and company, he is utterly shameless in his pursuit of power and happy to scam the rubes along the way.  Let’s just hope there aren’t enough dupes in town who are ready to buy his big swindle.  We shall see.  If DeMaio wins maybe he can do for San Diego what the Bush Administration did for America.  God help us, really.

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Jim Miller

Jim Miller, a professor at San Diego City College, is the co-author of Under the Perfect Sun: The San Diego Tourists Never See and Better to Reign in Hell, and author of the novel Drift. His most recent novel on the San Diego free speech fights and the IWW, Flash, is on AK Press.
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avatar Arthur Salm September 10, 2012 at 12:25 pm

Great piece. The plans and machinations of guys like Reed and DeMaio make me think of a line from Conrad: “The flabby, pretending, weak-eyed devil of a rapacious and pitiless folly.”

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