“Carl DeMaio burns inside with a desire to change things for the better. We could use far more elected officials with such passion and drive.”- UT San Diego, October 4th
By Doug Porter
On the eve of the election a Navy veteran has come forward to add a second voice to accusations regarding sexual harassment by congressional candidate Carl DeMaio.
Coincidence? I think not. Those looking at this campaign as simply a battle of incumbent vs. challenger should pause for a second before saying this latest revelation was the work of the Peters campaign. Those hoping to see DeMaio fail (and I am one of them) also need to step back.
As was true with the downfall of former Mayor Bob Filner, it is possible for two competing narratives to both have an element of truth in them. In the case of Carl DeMaio the primary narratives are: a) the candidate has serious issues with the truth and how he treats people b) the timing of these disclosures is deliberate.
People buying into one narrative or the other seem oblivious to the possibility that it’s not an either or situation. I say that’s exactly what’s going on. Today I’ll examine these views of the candidate and the campaign.
It’s All About Carl
The evidence of Carl’s ego-driven choices in life is ample. City Beat’s Carl DeMaio A to Z from April 2012 is as good a place to start as any. For purposes of today’s column, I’m quoting “B” as in Bully:
Bully: That’s how former colleagues of DeMaio describe him as they come out one-by-one to protest his candidacy. State Assembly candidate Ralph Denney tells CityBeat that DeMaio personally threatened to “cut off my balls with a rusty knife” when Denney refused to divert his volunteers to canvass for DeMaio’s buddy Phil Thalheimer, who was running for City Council in District 1. District 7 City Council Candidate Rik Hauptfeld recently told the conservative blog SDRostra.com that DeMaio had tried to pressure him out of the race because it would jeopardize DeMaio’s anointed candidate, Scott Sherman. “He talked about me being branded with a scarlet ‘S’ for ‘spoiler,’” Hauptfeld told reporter David Ogul. “He went on to say that they would make sure I never hold public office in San Diego” if Hauptfeld was on the ballot.
The National Journal story on pensions that DeMaio was accused of plagiarizing last spring, which serves as the starting point for his current troubles, wasn’t the first time he was charged with appropriating another’s work.
From Voice of San Diego’s How Carl DeMaio Made His Money:
DeMaio wasn’t known in Washington for pioneering big management concepts, but rather taking others’ ideas and running with them. One of his competitors contended he once took that to an extreme.
In 2003, Christopher Wye was planning a major conference on government performance for a center he ran as part of the federally chartered National Academy of Public Administration. Wye said he woke up one morning to find that The Performance Institute had decided to plan its own competing conference and had replicated Wye’s entire website down to its color scheme.
Wye decided to add embossed gold seals to his conference literature and gold seals on his website. They read: “The Original Performance Conference.”
(DeMaio denied copying the website and called the anecdote sour grapes from a competitor.)
After moving to San Diego a decade ago, DeMaio sold himself in part by exaggerating his connections with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s campaign for Governor.
From a UT-San Diego profile in May, 2005:
At a Republican businesswomen’s luncheon in January, DeMaio went so far as to say that “Gov. Schwarzenegger asked me to serve as his adviser during the campaign.”
According to [Schwarzenegger’s communications director] Stutzman, that was a “gross overstatement.”
“I can’t say they’ve never shaken hands once, but … Mr. DeMaio is no one that the governor would readily call upon for advice,” Stutzman said
Back in June DeMaio was caught falsely listing Scott Peters supporters as members of his own “Middle Class Democrats and Independents Coalition.” Those names disappeared off his website after the people named called him out on it.
The point of these five instances cited above is to point out the rather tenuous relationship candidate DeMaio has with the truth.
The original scandal concerning Carl DeMaio’s exhibitionist behavior “went away” after former City Councilman Ben Hueso, stopped commenting on a story about catching him masturbating in a city hall restroom.
While nobody else associated with elected officials in San Diego was willing to go on the record, it’s not like DeMaio’s conduct was any big secret. Even I heard the story (before it was originally reported in Voice of Orange County) from completely reliable sources not related to any of the persons who have been named in various news accounts as having knowledge of his alleged lewd loo activities.
Other local publications turned down the original story because it was thin on substance and long on assumptions. Short of having video, how wold you prove such a story? Nobody’s political career stood to benefit and the downsides were all too obvious.
None-the-less, this original tale takes on significance in light of currently circulating allegations.
From NBC7 News:
A familiar face in the San Diego political scene stepped into the fray of the 52nd District Race and raised new questions about recent sexual harassment claims levied against Republican candidate Carl DeMaio.
“What I believe is that there are other victims,” former City Councilmember Donna Frye said Wednesday. Fry was referring to former DeMaio staffer Todd Bosnich’s recent allegations that he was repeatedly sexually harassed by DeMaio while working on his Congressional campaign.
Sure enough, KPBS broke the story on Sunday, naming Navy veteran Justin Harper as a second person accusing Carl DeMaio of sexual harssment. The former regional political director said while standing at a urinal the candidate emerged from a stall with “his pants up, but his fly was undone, and he had his hand grasping his genitals.”
Thus began urinal-gate:
When contacted early Sunday by KPBS about the allegations, DeMaio’s campaign spokesman Dave McCulloch responded with a statement:
“Reporters with journalistic integrity have dismissed these false smears because they’ve been peddled by the same people fired from the campaign months ago – and the District Attorney dismissed these false allegations weeks ago. KPBS is reckless in reporting this outrageous lie because our office has not even had a urinal to use – a fact confirmed to KPBS by our landlord.”
JD Bols, the landlord for the office complex where the DeMaio headquarters is located, told KPBS on Sunday that there is only one urinal in the second floor men’s room, and it has been broken since January and has been covered with plastic wrap.
Harper said the urinal was not broken at the time of the incident. A receptionist for Babies First Ultrasound, another business in the office complex, also said the urinal is not currently broken.
Bols has contributed nearly $4,000 to DeMaio’s congressional campaign.
The DeMaio campaign has moved on now and is no longer talking about the urinal.
(City Beat editor….LOL)
@brantwill Even our crappy landlord fixes the toilet within a few hours.
— Kelly Davis (@citybeatkelly) November 3, 2014
While the circumstances of Harper’s admission–he was lobbied by unnamed veterans in San Diego and outed in a tweet from former campaign aide Todd Bosnich– raise serious questions about the treatment of harassment victims in the media, they do not change the fact that you simply can’t stuff the genie back in the bottle once it’s out.
Harper’s story would have gotten out eventually. And there is absolutely no evidence, despite assertions to the contrary, linking the reporter/news organization who broke the story with the veterans who Harper claims urged him to go public.
What we have here ultimately is three separate incidents involving an individual –who at best seems confused by the concept of truth– inappropriately showing his junk to other people. Nothing here is likely to amount to a crime; but I maintain there’s good reason to believe the pattern of behavior is not something conjured up by his many enemies.
DeMaio’s Victims Rising
So the second part of this story revolves around just how all this bad press about Carl DeMaio has come about.
Individuals blaming the news media for even reporting on these allegations of inappropriate / harassing behavior are simply wrong. The stories about DeMaio have met, or appeared to meet, generally accepted contemporary standards for what qualifies to get published these days. You may not like it –there are well known incidents of LBJ displaying his genitals and even urinating on a Secret Service agent that never got him in trouble or made the news–but that’s what reporting has become in the 21st century.
More to the point would be the question: how’s this stuff getting out to the media? DeMaio’s done a good job of making allies into enemies over the years.
Former Mayor Jerry Sanders can hardly be bothered to spit out DeMaio’s name.
Scott Lewis at Voice of San Diego chronicled the acrimony between DeMaio and former associates who’d declined to support him in a second run at the Mayor’s position. It’s a long list of connected people who moved on to work with an array of powerful politicos.
There’s the rabid homophobes on the right. Three national socially conservative groups, The National Organization for Marriage, Family Research Council, and CitizenLink (an affiliate of Focus on the Family) have denounced gay GOP candidates in a letter sent to the party leadership last month. Certainly they could be playing a role behind the scenes.
From The Advocate:
“They are wrong on critical, foundational issues of importance to the American people,” says the letter, sent to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner, and the chairs of the Republican senatorial and congressional campaign committees. “Worse, as occupants of high office they will secure a platform in the media to advance their flawed ideology and serve as terrible role models for young people who will inevitably be encouraged to emulate them.” The groups say they “will mount a concerted effort to urge voters to refuse to cast ballots for them in the November election.”
Then there are DeMaio’s enemies in the LGBT community in general and in Hillcrest in particular. The disputes here go back a long way and cut way deeper than simple partisan politics. They include allegations concerning the character of DeMaio’s significant other, Johnathan Hale, who, among other things serves as President of the Hillcrest Business Association.
The point here is that Carl DeMaio has lots of enemies who have lots of reasons, some of them personal.
How they’ve managed to get their message out is a story worth investigating.
There were signs, even before the latest accusation, that the campaign and their supporters are becoming unhinged.
From Poynter.org, which reports on journalism:
Congressional candidate Carl DeMaio has blocked on Twitter several journalists who cover him. KPBS reporter Claire Trageser told Poynter she noticed she had been blocked on Friday, which was a couple days before she reported that a second campaign staffer had accused DeMaio of sexual harassment.
If you block someone on Twitter, they can’t follow you, among other indignities….
CityBeat Editor David Rolland told Poynter DeMaio “blocked my entire staff” on Friday. His own account got briefly suspended by Twitter that same day: “I suspect that the DeMaio camp reported me as spam,” he wrote in an email, adding that he thought it was possible whoever blocked him reported him unintentionally at the same time.
And then there was GOP Chairman Tony Krvaric’s phone call to Assemblywomen Lorena Gonzalez.
Seriously?!? @TonyKrvaric just called to tell me I better stop talking about his inaction re: Carl or he’s going to make me resign! #crazy — Lorena Gonzalez (@LorenaSGonzalez) November 3, 2014
On This Day 1507 – Leonardo DaVinci was commissioned by the husband of Lisa Gherardini to paint her. The work is known as the Mona Lisa. 1921 Striking milk drivers dump thousands of gallons of milk on New York City streets. 1957 – Sputnik II was launched by the Soviet Union. It was the second manmade satellite to be put into orbit and was the first to put an animal into space, a dog named Laika.
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Lori Saldaña says
Doug- thank you for your analysis and insights into this ugly, muddy battle to the bottom of electoral ethics. It has been terrible up to the very end.
To hear that a man was pressured by other veterans to “speak out” about his abuse gives me pause. This is similar to the bullying tactics among active duty military that we heard a few years ago, when both the Congressional Women’s Caucus and the CA Legislative Women’s Caucus held hearings on sexual assault and abuse in the military.
The DoD reps refused to participate in the CA hearing after so much damning evidence of cover-ups, bullying and intimidation of military women and men was reported- sometimes to get them to “shut up,” other times to allege problems against others that were better targets, e.g., women who had affairs with married officers vs. the officers themselves.
It appears a similar pattern of behavior has taken place here, with veterans (presumably men) offering “encouragement” to another man in pain, to speak out for political gain. It’s horrifying to think of someone being abused twice in the same campaign, but that appears to be what has happened.
Harper deserved better: respect for his decision NOT to speak publicly was the least his fellow veterans could have offered. I wish him the best to recover from this, and meet with counselors and advocates who will honor his privacy and confidentiality as he moves forward in his life.
I would add: whichever candidate receives the most votes from a disgusted electorate on Tuesday will serve under a cloud of suspicion and mistrust. One man, for violating the trust of people working for him. The other, for being part of the violation of trust of a person who was pressured to come forward after initially not feeling comfortable doing so.
Neither man has displayed the character voters deserve in a representative.
“Winning at all costs” does have costs- and it will be the constituents of the 52nd who ultimately pay, as the next Representative struggles to recover from this awful campaign with a modicum of respectability.
bob dorn says
Peters, a non-person, vs. DeMaio. Is that all there is?
Dave Chase says
Thanks for covering this story Mr. Porter.
Lori Saldaña says
An Election Day prayer: As this election cycle comes to a close, may the men who came forward in recent days in the 52nd district campaign receive true support to heal and recover from their experiences, and receive justice for harm done to them.
“Urinal-gate.” & “Genie out of the bottle.” LOLOL