Even a broken timepiece is right twice each day. Even a blind pig sometimes finds an acorn. Sometimes even an irretrievably racist blogger digs up a document that reminds mainstream journalists how we do investigative reporting.
Beneath such classic headlines as “CONCEALING BLACK HATE CRIMES AGAINST WHITES” and “COPS LET BLACK MOB ROB 7-11 [sic],” and right under the bright red headline with a remarkable 11 dollar signs (“FOLLOW THE MONEY $$$$$$$$$$$”), Costa Mesa blogger Martin H. Millard reveals that the Orange County Employees Association (OCEA) is no friend of progressives/liberals/lefties.
Our story begins on September 20, 2010, when Costa Mesa City Councilmember Wendy Leece appeared before the OC Republican Party’s Central Committee for the figurative Tijuana donkey show that is the also-figurative sausage-making of actual party politics.1 In return for the endorsement of the party’s sanctum sanctorum, OC GOP chair Scott Baugh claims, Leece told the central committee that “3@502 was an unsustainable policy, that she regretted supporting 3@50 in the past, she would not do it again, and she committed to only supporting defined contributions for new municipal employees going forward. As a result of these commitments, she received an overwhelming vote for an endorsement. Her name appears on all of our Republican walk pieces in Costa Mesa.”
But then came the turnaround. On October 26, 2010, in Costa Mesa’s council chambers, Leece voted to lock in for four years the pay and benefits of the city’s public employees, a move that also locked in years of budget deficits. A day later, Millard reveals, the Costa Mesa Police Officers Association spent $12,122. 72 on a mailer for Leece’s re-election run for city council.
GOP central committee members flipped their solid gold hairpieces, denouncing Leece as a traitor. Progressives immediately and wrongly framed this as an issue of left v. right (sample headline from Orange Juice: “Wendy Leece defies OC GOP Stalinism.”)
Leece? She deflected. She told Bill Lobdell, then a columnist for the Daily Pilot, now the city’s communications director, that she hadn’t really broken any promises—that “she only promised, in writing, last summer to not accept any government union money for her campaign, a vow the local GOP wanted from all Republicans.”
That, of course, isn’t how GOP Central Committee members recall her declaration (read Baugh). And even if their recollection is wrong, she apparently broke the promise she thinks she did make–if only through the tool of an independent expenditure from the union (read Millard).
But neither of these compelling facts is as compelling as this one: Millard’s evidence (a campaign finance document showing the cops’ union’s $12k mailer in support of Leece) suggests that the unions at war with Costa Mesa’s council majority aren’t the engines of progressive public policy we liberals/progressives/lefties thought they were. We who suckled at the vestigial teat of Pete Seeger, or were nursed by the anarcho-Catholic Dorothy Day, believed unions were harbingers of social progress. In the case of public employee unions, at least, it turns out they’ll support anyone who supports the unions in the single-minded pursuit of just one issue: constantly rising pay for their members.
In Wendy Leece, the Orange County Employees Association (umbrella organization sheltering, among others, the city’s cops) supported an evangelical Christian who sees government as a vehicle for proselytizing among the dirty and the faithless. A few days after she was endorsed by her fellow conservatives, after she voted for a four-year raise in wages for public employees, and then narrowly won re-election, Leece thanked voters for her victory—signing off, “In God We Trust.”
It’s a phrase she has campaigned for years to have blasted into the walls of Costa Mesa’s council chambers. And if you think that religious assertion violates the First Amendment’s ban on religious establishment, she defends the motto in a way that is just positively brain twisting: “The intent is to encourage patriotism. It’s not religious; it’s a completely secular purpose,” Leece once told the Pilot.
When she wasn’t working to remind us officially of the role of her God in our lives—i.e., stretching to link Christ and country—Leece was promising to shred environmental regulations she regards as “anti-business.”
So an evangelical, anti-environmental right-winger, Leece is also an anti-nightlife crusader who, like some beer-barrel-busting temperance crusader, hates bars.
Let us summarize, then–right-wing Christian, anti-bar, anti-environment–and add this: she hates the First Amendment, and not just the anti-establishment clause. Leece got her start in the mid-1980s, as a young mother fighting the “proliferation of newsstands, some of which sold adult publications,” the Daily Pilot reported. She persuaded the city council to pass “a new rule requiring machines with racy material to cover most of it up ‘so the kids would not be enticed,’ Leece said. The machines also had to be kept in good working order so children could not just pull them open. ‘We felt that it was a way to protect not just our own kids, but it was a risk and danger to all of our kids,’ she said.”
We could go deeper here, but please don’t make us. It’s disturbing, Wendy Leece’s brain, like a Pilgrim’s cornucopia spitting out not the traditional crop of tumblin’ pumpkins and corn on the cobs, but naked chicks enticing apple-cheeked cherubs, high-particulate smog, the good-old American flag, weeping Jesus Christ. Oh, and the outrageous pay and benefits demanded by public employee unions—not because Leece supports a livable wage for all Americans (she doesn’t), but because public employee unions have money, and money wins the political campaigns that are necessary to get into office where you (she) can pursue the agenda of the dinner-by-4 p.m., Texas Governor Rick Perry, and Trinity Broadcasting Network crowd.
It’s dark in there (in Wendy Leece’s brain, I mean), but not so dark that the Orange County Employees Association can’t see bright, shining financial opportunity.
1. This is not one of the usual gay-baiting lines I’d throw out vis-a-vis the OC GOP—the justly notorious home of closeted gay Republicans. That’s a story for another time. No, here “sausage-making” is supposed to refer to the equally notorious (and reportedly gut-wrenchingly noxious) business of transforming livestock into wieners and its putative (if only metaphoric) relationship to statecraft. The line “Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made” is often attributed to Otto von Bismarck, but I heard it first from my English grandfather. That Will—Will Flitcroft—told me that comparing politics to wieners was “an offense to meat in casings, even haggis.”
2. The policy of allowing public employees to retire at 50 years of age with an annual pension calculated at 3 percent of final annual salary multiplied by years of service.