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Politics, Nepotism & Cash

| Gazette | April 10, 2012

By Linda Lott
Speaker Tip O’Neill famously said that all politics is local. For the McKeon family of professional politicians, “local” refers to East Coast and Washington, D.C. lobbyists and PACs.

Buck McKeon ran for Congress in 1992 against local attorney Jim Gilmartin, and back then Buck McKeon advocated for “term limits”; but, after almost two decades in Washington and at age 73 he is not yet ready to retire.

Buck McKeon felt that his business acumen would be helpful and that Government should be run like a business – “I see the problems we have in business – the problems that government causes for business. If they’d run the federal government like a business the last 20 or 30 years, we wouldn’t have the deficits we’ve had.”1 The one business he was involved with prior to becoming a lifetime politician was Howard & Phil’s, which filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in November, 1995.  When the business closed, employees were left unpaid, as was the State Board of Equalization, which was owed $395,776.80 for unpaid sales and use taxes relating to Howard & Phil’s.2

We only need to look in our own backyard of SCV to find a true example of nepotism. The wife of our current Congressman, Patricia McKeon, (mother of 6 and grandmother of 31) is currently running for California State Assembly. She claims her interest in running is somehow related to plastic grocery bag fees. Until she decided to run for California State Assembly she spent the last two decades working for Congressman McKeon.

“McKeon paid his wife $238,438 in salary for working as his campaign treasurer – $119,674 in the 2008 election cycle and $118,764 in the 2010 cycle. Each election cycle covers two years.  Patricia McKeon was the highest-paid employee on the campaign payroll according to the CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) Family Affair Report (page 40).3

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Her salary comes from his campaign, and this seems to be a circuitous route where monies from special interests, PACs and lobbyists can be then combined into the family accounts in the form of Patricia McKeon’s “paycheck.”

For the McKeon Family this isn’t the first time they have received “special consideration”.  There has been an Ethics Committee investigation because they were the beneficiaries of “Friend of Angelo” rates (rates which were not made available to the general public) on their mortgage from Countrywide, “one email written by a Countrywide staffer included this instruction on McKeon’s loan: “Per Angelo – take off 1 point, no garbage fees, approve the loan and make it a no doc.” Another notation recorded by a Countrywide employee said McKeon seemed “edgy” and “wants to close ASAP,” according to the documents.4

Finally, I find it troubling that the same defense contractors who are working diligently to court favor with Rep. Buck McKeon on defense spending are also donating to his wife’s run for California Assembly.

Patricia McKeon, wife of Rep. Buck McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, reported in her campaign finance report $19,200 in contributions from seven defense contractors or their representatives, including four of the top five recipients of U.S. military contracts.5

Republic Report looked into the claim that Patricia’s defense industry contributors are simply local businesses, and found a startling pattern. Many of her defense lobbyist benefactors are first time California donors, while others appear to be reviving their California accounts only to help Patricia.6

The lobbying firm Beau Boulter, which represents drone manufacturers, gave $1,000 (the first donation the firm has made in California)
Joseph Kimmett, a government affairs executive with defense contractor OshKosh, gave $500 (no other recorded donations in California state politics)
Cliff Madison Government Affairs, a lobbying firm in D.C., gave $1,000 (no other recorded donations in California state politics)
The Fund for American Opportunity, a 527 political group run by Mark Valente, a lobbyist with defense contractors, gave $1,000 (they have not given to any other California state politician in recent years)
Lockheed Martin gave $1,000 (The donation was the only donation from the company to a California state legislature candidate in over a decade)
It is hard to believe that all of these firms and lobbyists are concerned with a plastic bag fee in California. Looking at this article in Republic Report, it becomes pretty clear that the cash flow from those who interact with Rep. Buck McKeon to his wife’s run for California State Assembly at least presents the appearance of conflict and impropriety.

I believe that Santa Clarita deserves better than this from our elected officials and from those who are running for office.

**The Views expressed in this column are those of the writer, not necessarily those of Valley Publications.

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