Monday, January 30, 2012

Buck McKeon Scandal About To Blow Sky High?


Boehner consorting with the McKeon criminals

Even a casual reader of DWT is aware that California Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon (R) has been writing himself a record of corruption noteworthy even by Inside the Beltway standards. A Mormon, McKeon doesn't drink alcohol or even coffee... he takes bribes. "Oh but everyone in Washington takes bribes," you might say, shrugging it off. And you'd be half right. Lots of-- most of?-- our political elite is involved in a system that encourages bribery. But there are rules that aren't supposed to be broken, and that's when they call it bribery. McKeon has crossed the boundary.

Local newspapers in his Southern California district have gone beyond hinting that a bigger story is about to break, and break nationally. And this isn't just the still unwinding Countrywide scandal, which saw him taking massive bribes from Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo to stave off personal bankruptcy. No, no, there's a lot more to the breakdown of Buck McKeon's personal ethics than just a bribe here or there from a financial fat cat.
Why are venerable media outlets like the Los Angeles Times Washington Bureau, the Washington Post, the New York Times and Politico apparently looking into the campaign finances of 38th Assembly District candidate Patricia McKeon? Well, it’s certainly not to do a fluff piece on the State Assembly candidate and wife of Congressman Buck McKeon!

Our sources are chattering about the fund raising activities of Mrs. McKeon going back to a Capitol Hill fund raiser held last October in Washington D.C. Wait, raising money for a California Assembly seat race in D.C.? Yep, allegedly there was some political arm-twisting going on in October to raise money for Patricia’s run for California State Assembly.

Hmmm, I wonder if that had anything to do with her husband being Chairman of the Armed Services Committee!? Of course it did and that may be the smoking gun for a whole lot of issues.

The National Journal also smells a rat in the dispute between the McKeons and his ex-top staffer Scott Wilk, currently being challenged in his Assembly run by Patricia McKeon, who's been using all of Buck's connections-- some blatantly illegally-- to advance her campaign. Until now Patricia McKeon has been used basically a bagman for Buck's operation, much the same way John Doolittle used to use his wife (another money-mad Mormon couple, by the way). When Wilk heard that his former boss was running his wife for the open Assembly seat, he says, “I started laughing, because honestly that’s a scenario that never crossed my mind. Her political acumen stops at seating charts.”
Wilk, 52, is a longtime political staffer who serves on his local community college board, has been chief of staff to two state legislators, and made an aborted run for the Assembly in the mid-1990s. Patricia McKeon, 69, has been a “full-time mother” (of six), president of a local PTA, and a community volunteer, according to a letter she sent to supporters. She’s been married to Buck McKeon for 49 years.

Rep. McKeon has already thrown his considerable weight behind his wife’s run. He hosted a fundraiser for her last fall in Washington, blocks from the Capitol.

“His main role has been that of a supportive husband,” said Alissa McCurley, the congressman’s spokeswoman. Patricia McKeon and her campaign declined to comment for this story. Wilk said they are running a purposefully stealthy campaign.

“The congressman has told people in the district that he plans to lock her in the room, raise all of her money, and win it on her name ID,” Wilk said.

Neither Wilk nor McKeon has filed a fundraising report yet, though McKeon has seeded her campaign with $40,000 of her own money, state records show.

The stature of McKeon’s husband is already a factor in the race. One of Wilk’s early backers reneged out of fear of offending the congressman. State Sen. Tony Strickland said he withdrew his endorsement after launching his own bid for Congress to replace retiring Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Calif.

“A lot of folks in the delegation feel uncomfortable going all-out to help me when I’m going against Buck’s wife,” Strickland said.

“You take your wife’s races a little more personal than even your own,” added Strickland, speaking from experience as his wife followed him into the state Legislature. Strickland said Wilk, whom he described as an “old friend,” was “very understanding.”

Wilk still has backing from Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., a former boss who is something of a kingmaker in California’s conservative circles. “He impresses the hell out of me and that was one of the easiest endorsements I’ve made in my whole career,” McClintock said of his former chief of staff. McClintock said he hasn’t spoken about the primary with McKeon.

The race marks Patricia McKeon’s first bid for office. In the letter to supporters, she said her decision to run for state office came when she was forced to pay 10 cents for a paper grocery bag. “I reached my tipping point,” she wrote. (The bag fee was a local levy, however, not the result of a state law.)

McKeon wrote that she overcame any “sensitivities to voters seeing two McKeons on the ballot” by realizing “we are two separate people-- with different perspectives and strengths.”

McKeon has spent a decade serving as her husband’s campaign treasurer. She was paid nearly $47,000 in the first nine months of 2011. From 2001 to 2006, she received more money from her husband’s treasury-- a total of $263,168-- than any other congressional relative, according to a 2007 study by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

“It’s not illegal, but it’s certainly unethical,” Wilk opined.

McCurley, the congressman’s spokeswoman, said he has “taken great comfort in that he never has to worry about the money” with his wife controlling the account. “He was able to completely trust her,” she said.

Buck McKeon has a different ethical issue brewing. It recently became public that he allegedly received a discounted mortgage from the former Countrywide Financial. The congressman “appears to have obtained a significant discount on his VIP loan as a direct result of personal intervention by [then-] Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo,” Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., ranking member of the House oversight panel, wrote in a letter released this month. The case was referred to the House Ethics Committee to investigate whether the loan amounted to an improper gift.

The new Buck McKeon district (25th CD) is a classic swing district. Within the new lines, Obama beat McCain in 2008, but Meg Whitman bested Jerry Brown for governor two years later. Clueless DC pundits rate it as "safely Republican," but of course they're wrong. Even before McKeon's reputation began crumbling, this more and more Hispanic district was becoming ripe for the taking. The DCCC, however, is ignoring it completely-- even with McKeon's obvious problems.

Fortunately, the California Democratic Party is ignoring the DCCC and coalescing strongly behind the progressive doctor, Lee Rogers, who's giving McKeon a run for his money. As we mentioned when first introducing Dr. Rogers, McKeon has been the most vocal and persistent defenders of aggressive war and aggressive policies towards funding war of any Member of Congress. His newly drawn district isn't necessarily one that will support that attitude, especially not with a well-financed opponent, Dr. Lee Rogers, eager to talk about McKeon's slavish acquiescence to the military-industrial complex front and center for the campaign. If you'd like to help replace McKeon with Lee Rogers, we just added him to our ActBlue page.

This Santa Clara Valley Signal poll (click to enlarge) seems to have been too embarrassing for the cause of Buck McKeon's reelection-- it was "disappeared." See the postscript below (with a screen shot of the final version of the poll).

POSTSCRIPT: With Friends Like These...

The Santa Clarita Valley Signal has taken down the above poll, which was showing that most voters in CA-25 think it's time for McKeon to go. In addition, yesterday the paper published an op-ed extolling, or meaning to extol, the crooked congressman's virtues. Tim Myers identified himself as a longtime McKeon supporter who plans to vote for him in November (assuming McKeon doesn't retire under pressure before then). However, to a normal person it reads like a chilling indictment of McKeon, which would make the person search out an alternative-- any alternative.
Say what you will concerning McKeon, and many, now mostly Republicans, do-- unlike Romney, his personal experience most closely mirrors the experience of his constituency.

First of all, he made his living (like many in the SCV) from a family business that eventually collapsed when it could no longer support the hoped-for lifestyles of the extensive clan. Like many, particularly recently, McKeon personally guaranteed certain debts of the family business while it swirled under; debts that he honorably repaid and did not discharge through a personal bankruptcy.

Second, in 1998, after the failure of the business and the necessity and expense of maintaining two residences in the D.C. area and Santa Clarita, McKeon did what any normal SCV resident would do to enhance cash flow. He got a good deal on a mortgage, and put his wife, Patricia, on his campaign’s payroll to channel some of that money from campaign to personal funds.

With respect to his supposedly discounted Countrywide mortgage deal reported recently: Any critic who states that the congressman “should have known” he got a sweet deal must admit that if they do not themselves work in the finance industry or in a financial position, they vet the loan solely by determining the affordability of the monthly payment.

Third, like any in the SCV, my Nebraska bride and myself included, he needed to help his children with their emerging adulthood with additional cash from time to time, hiring them to perform services for the campaign, once again channeling money to personal use and instilling the Republican value of hard, though nepotistic, work.

Fourth, he bought a residence near the peak of the market in Westridge, which probably now stands completely underwater with the mortgage well exceeding the value like 70 to 90 percent of his neighbors.

Fifth, also like many SCV residents, he will utilize personal connections and heft to get another job for a spouse or child, this time plumping for his Patricia McKeon to take the California Assembly seat vacated by Cameron Smyth.

And while many Republicans rail against these actions, I strongly believe that they would avail themselves of these perks personally if they only could.

But, seriously, I have and always will vote for McKeon for nothing else other than his courage in voting for the TARP bill in September 2008, when the global banking system spun toward default and the country (and world) needed fast action to keep the globe from slipping back into a barter economy and travelling back in time to Europe in the Middle Ages.

McKeon did this despite the fact that it went against every bone in his body, but he still cast that necessary vote, even though some fellow Republicans and populist Democrats rolled the dice with their no votes and put the world economy on edge. McKeon did not, and thus he earned my vote forever, and ever and ever.

Finally, here is that screen shot of the final version of the Signal poll before the paper made it disappear without a trace:

UPDATE: Neither McKeon Has Been Arrested Yet

Just moments ago California's top investigative journalist, Lee Fang, published the results of his own on-going investigation into the McKeon's disregard for campaign finance regulations and probable criminal activities.
Recent disclosures reveal that a federal lobbyist with ties to Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA), the senior member of the committee overseeing the Pentagon, provided financial support to McKeon’s wife, who is seeking a seat in the California State Assembly this year. As defense industry lobbyists scramble to head off looming cuts in the Pentagon budget, they are looking for new ways to ingratiate themselves themselves with McKeon.

...Patricia McKeon, Buck’s wife, surprised many when she announced her intention last September to run for an open seat that largely overlaps her husband’s district. One of the first reported contributions to her campaign came  a political committee called the Fund for American Opportunity, registered to a Post Office box in Washington DC, donated $1,000. The Fund, which is financed by a number of corporations including the drug industry trade association PhRMA, is owned and operated by Mark Valente, a Beltway lobbyist.

The contribution, reported here for the first time, appears to be an effort to circumvent federal campaign limits. Federal campaign disclosures show that Valente has already maxed out in donations to Congressman McKeon this cycle giving $2,5000  to his campaign for Congress. And the contribution came within a day of Valante’s donation to Patricia’s campaign for the California Assembly.

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At 1:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I spent half my childhood in the district Mckeon represents and went to school with some of the Mckeon family members. That family was some of the most screwed up people I ever met. They were only matched by the other Mormons I met there. Having a conversation with one of them was very awkward because it would seem like they lived in another world, and they always had a thousand yard stare.


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