10.26.2010

Eye - Paul Hagen's Word

◼ Arcata Eye - Paul Hagen: Gallegos Is No Alternative – October 26, 2010

Having already shared my experiences in running for district attorney this past spring in an open letter to the media (Arcata Eye, Oct. 6), I just read a public plea to my supporters to vote for Gallegos, headlined that he is “the only logical alternative for Hagen supporters.” (Jeff Schwartz, Arcata Eye, Oct. 20) That is absolutely not the case.

Now my opponent is calling for my supporters, and that calls to me. Those who know me know that I am “honest to a fault” (Eye endorsement, June 2), and while I completely refrained from negative campaigning and wish to keep it that way, Mr. Schwartz’s article calls for my unvarnished (albeit restrained) opinion. Here are my thoughts on the subject:

First, there are three things I wish to make perfectly clear: One, I have made it very clear to anyone who has asked that I am not endorsing anyone in this race. Two, I have unequivocally told this to Allison Jackson directly. Three, the reasons for this will not change.

Next, please know that I have never had a problem with Jeff Schwartz and I do respect him and those who agree with his statements. I learned a lot campaigning, including insights into what moves Gallegos’s supporters to believe in him. If they still do after reading this, I respect that, too.

My life’s experiences and core values, however, absolutely do not allow me to agree. To the contrary, what I know from hard years of direct experience is that the man is congenitally unqualified, and in so many ways. His defects lie at his core. This, too, will not change.

I write to comment on three areas of character–competence and ethics, with courage spanning them–and I write about the intersection of these in politics as it affects the public good. Please bear with me:

In a professional, one first looks to competence: Can the person do the job well, or learn to in a reasonable time? While many believe that Gallegos was courageous as well as competent in prosecuting Palco, or the Eureka police in the Moore case, neither was actually so. I spent 11 years as an environmental prosecutor, and it still hurts for me to read the Palco appellate court’s decision rebuking District Attorney Gallegos. Read it yourself, it is embarrassing. The police prosecutions were fully as disastrous in the damage done and their cost to the county, not to mention their national coverage for likewise being thrown out of court for failure to meet minimum standards and a crazy legal theory. There are also the Grand Jury reports still finding incompetence in Gallegos’ office. These are well-known facts. All of this he addresses by explaining away, but the facts remain.

As to courage, I would expect nothing less than the DA taking on corporations, etc. I criminally prosecuted two multinational corporations for killing a man at work in Mendocino County, winning a court ruling that corporations have no Fifth Amendment rights and receiving a quarter of a million dollars in settlement in doing so. I also prosecuted Palco twice criminally and got literally every last penny available in penalties, and once civilly receiving $80,000, $35,000 of which I sent to three grade schools in the Van Duzen River valley for violation-related science education. In all that I did as a prosecutor I never once thought about courage, but rather always about displaying high competence at every stage from investigation to settling. To me, doing “the right thing” is at best worthless when you badly screw it up.

Which brings us to ethics. Telling your staff you are going home sick while they stay at work and then going surfing during business hours is not ethical. Nor is using your taxpayer-paid office staff in political campaign announcements, whom we hear on the radio and see on TV and in the newspapers. Nor is deliberately smearing your political opponents, and it’s undeniably not ethical when you lie doing it.

Nor is it ethical to take full credit for what others have done, as in the Big Oil and Tire and the Skilled Healthcare cases, the settlements of which are now being used in ads which the Gallegos campaign is touting was “all because of Paul.” This is not ethical because it is not true. These cases were not “all” Gallegos’s, not by a long shot. Check it out yourself. The Attorney General representing the Regional Water Board did the great bulk of the Big Oil case because the Humboldt DA and the responsible county agency would not, yet Gallegos’s supporters and his ads take full credit. Three private law firms initiated the Skilled Healthcare case and again did most of the work, but in his ads Gallegos takes full credit. His ads are neither true nor ethical.

If you really want the truth about Gallegos’ professional ethics, inquire of him why the other affected DA’s and the Attorney General all refused to join in his Skilled Healthcare settlement due to their ‘ethical concerns’ over his use of secret settlement monies and more. Ask Gallegos himself to explain directly, honestly and openly the formal rebuke he has received from the California District Attorneys Association for his unprofessional use of DA authority in settling that case. Go ahead, ask him to explain honestly and directly. He won’t. That would require real courage and the capacity to tell the truth regardless. He has neither.

I realize that many in Humboldt admire his willingness to file suit against Palco, fight evil corporations, etc. I respect such admiration. And I agree not only in principle, I’ve been there and done that. But this is not what people in Humboldt are really getting.
For an office holder, these character traits take their most telling form in campaigning. While being dishonest is more than bad enough, vilification, smearing, and divisive politics are worse. This is Gallegos’ fourth campaign and in each of the others he has done these things and won. In announcing his first campaign Gallegos shamelessly copied Bobby Kennedy’s announcement speech for U.S. President as his own, without attribution (Tri-City Weekly, Feb. 26, 2002; more plagiarism followed, Eureka Reporter, Sept. 7 and Sept. 8, 2006), promising great progressivism. The recall campaign, however –which I have already publicly condemned – was used as an opportunity to drive Humboldt’s cultural wedges all the deeper; and in the 2006 election his campaign depressed the county’s voting middle and polarized its tails. This does not enhance the public good.

In 2006, opposing candidate Dikeman was made into someone to hate and fear, with the same to Jackson this time. Schwartz himself is using fear in his appeal, using PG&E’s nuclear power plant – a field strictly under federal regulation, no DA can touch it – as the basis for not having Jackson and her “nuclear-plant crowd stick together and take Humboldt County back to the dark ages.” Really? Is that what will actually happen if he loses? Either Gallegos saves us from radiation or “the Humboldt County environment and much more goes down the drain?” Really? This simple dichotomy is more senseless than taking credit for a drop in crime based on gross statistics. Any thinking person knows that simple correlation does not equal causation. And yet, appealing to fear, Gallegos tells us he has made the county safer. Really? Then explain exactly how.

If the Gallegos campaign wishes to “ask, beg and implore” “those progressive leaders who supported Paul Hagen to endorse Paul Gallegos,” it can. Again, I realize that many in Humboldt admire his willingness to file suit against Palco, fight evil corporations, etc. I respect such admiration. And I agree not only in principle, I’ve been there and done that. But this is not what people in Humboldt are really getting.

Regardless of what Gallegos has done or says, he is not my idea of “progressive.” That requires truly living to progressive ideals and delivering solid results. Based on publicly known facts, I have tried to show here why Gallegos’ so-called ‘progressiveness’ is at best just political form without professional substance. Good intentions delivering incompetent results does not equal being “progressive.” Based on my direct personal experiences, my knowledge of Paul Gallegos’ utter lack of what I consider true ethics, courage and honesty, as well as his now-proven political campaign-trash tactics, I believe these things fundamentally disqualify his being a progressive. Or a district attorney.

For all those reading who aren’t concerned about the progressive/dark ages argument, good for you. What matters is results, not talk. So just look to what Gallegos has actually done as DA and how he went about it – his actual results, not what he says they are. After two actual elections he has shown us his best, and just as the Palco appellate court unanimously wrote, he has “failed to prove, on [his] third try, a reasonable possibility that [his] defect can be cured.” And so, making new law, it threw out the case.

Ours is a participatory democracy, a great gift. Each vote matters. Vote your hearts, vote your minds, and vote for the future you want. If it looks anything like my envisioned future, Paul Gallegos is not a “logical alternative.” Like Dan Quayle, Paul Gallegos is no Bobby Kennedy. He is no alternative.

Paul Hagen served as a criminal and civil prosecutor in four North Coast district attorney’s offices, including Humboldt’s. He is currently is an attorney in Eureka and believes deeply in participatory democracy.


An honest word.

Related:

Hagen: ‘The bloom is off the rose’ for incumbent
"Hogwash, Mr. Gallegos"
Failed Gallegos lawsuit one more obstacle for community to overcome

Why DA's Palco suit was ill-advised