Saturday, December 10, 2005

For Some Politicians (Sen. Dunn, in this case) Truth is Merely an Obstacle in the Way of their Agenda

This is a tale of lying to score cheap partisan points, of honor and the truth, and of how persistence in pursuit of the truth can win in the end – even in politics.

On November 4, 2005, an article ran in the O.C. Register about a legislative resolution for an O.C. businessman. The resolution was requested only about a week before it was needed, and it was requested of several O.C. lawmakers at once. We lawmakers often coordinate on such matters, even across Party lines, so we can present one resolution and save a little tax money too. In this case, the mad rush led to three resolutions being prepared, one by my office with only Republicans on it, one by Sen. Joe Dunn’s office (D-Santa Ana) and one by Assemblyman Rudy Bermudez (D-Norwalk) (link).

Now, here’s where the story gets interesting. Someone in the Legislature, probably Sen. Dunn or one of his senior staffers, leaked this information to the press in an attempt to embarrass me and my office. Sen. Dunn was quoted in the paper:

"This behavior shows the level of immaturity that contributes to the very reason why the average citizen wants nothing to do with the political process," said state Sen. Joe Dunn, D-Santa Ana. "It's beyond stupidity. Is there never a time that the Orange County delegation can come together on something?"

Then the reporter wrote:

So Dunn's staff called DeVore's staff, asking permission to sign on. Several times. No one returned the calls.”

The problem is it never happened. It was all a set up. A lie. A cheap political stunt.

At this point the common inclination would be to roll over, go into a fetal position and moan something about the hopelessly left-leaning press and the unfairness of life on planet Earth. Not in my office. I enjoy a fight. I relish political combat in pursuit of the truth. Certain things are worth fighting for and the staff I hire share this sense of mission I’m proud to say.

Leisa Brug Kline, my District Director, is a legislative veteran. A PR professional, she used to work as a reporter. Leisa called the O.C. Register reporter, she called the reporter’s editor, and she called Sen. Dunn’s staff. She wouldn’t let go of the story. She suggested to the reporter that she ask for Sen. Dunn’s phone records (after all, they are public information). Sen. Dunn’s office slow-rolled the request.

After five weeks of pursuing the truth, yesterday, the O.C. Register ran a correction on page 4:

Staff members for Sen. Joe Dunn, D-Santa Ana, did not call the office of Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine, last month, asking that Dunn be allowed to sign onto a resolution honoring an Orange County businessman. Because of a reporting error and because Dunn and his staff provided incorrect information, a column in the News section of the Nov. 4 edition of the Register inaccurately described, in part, why Dunn's name did not appear on DeVore’s resolution.”

The truth has now been served. But, isn’t there a larger story here? A story about how a lawmaker and his staff purposefully set out to make a colleague of his look bad? And how he manipulated the truth and a reporter to do it? It seems to me to be a story in and of itself, deserving of more notice than a small correction at the bottom of page 4.

Lastly, what does this episode say about Sen. Dunn and some of his other recent exploits in the press, for instance, his grave assertion that the California National Guard set up a unit to illegally spy on Californians and then lied about it? As a member of the California Army National Guard since 1988, I took great umbrage with Sen. Dunn’s wild assertions and irresponsible media haymaking about my colleagues-in-arms in the Guard, thousands of who are fighting overseas right now to keep the truth-challenged senator safe at night.

So, there you have it. Proof that with enough tenacity the good guys can win every now and then.

It will be interesting to see how any of my bills that come before Sen. Dunn’s Judiciary Committee are now treated.