Running with the PAC…Squid watched in amused horror last week as some of Squid's human counterparts at the Weekly dug their way through miles of manure to find out who was behind the mysterious political sleaze group Californians for Law and Order.
No, Squid isn't referring to West Coast fans of the long-lived New York cops-crooks-and-lawyers television show.
Squid means the PAC that mysteriously formed in May and put out hit ads on incumbent Monterey County Sheriff Scott Miller.
(The ads, it turns out, were unwittingly funded by an even more unwitting group of Monterey County public defenders who clearly need remedial lessons in campaign disclosure rules before they're allowed to donate another penny ever again. In short, they thought the cash was going to help out a judicial candidate, and not smear the sheriff. Oopsies.)
Squid's colleagues started with databases and a dream—to track down the phone number the PAC used to register itself with the San Benito County Elections Department.
A little investigative magic revealed that number tracked back to a very surprised Daniel McCormick, a local democratic operative who runs phone banking for the Monterey County democrats. McCormick hunted down the number and found out it was one he registered months ago for phone banking, but that the phone had gone missing and he didn't know where it was.
Then Squid's colleagues turned to the documents filed with San Benito County elections and the California Secretary of State. There was another familiar democratic name—Omar Perez, an elected member of the Monterey County Democratic Central Committee, was listed as the PAC's principal officer.
Perez says he doesn't know much about the PAC, doesn't know anything about the hit pieces and refused to say anything when asked if he knew he was listed as principal officer.
Squid's colleagues kept digging.
Maria Cid, who's listed as PAC treasurer and who works for a Farmers Insurance office, isn't talking. (Fourteen or so emails to her, zero response.)
Chris Marohn, the political operative who was playing both sides (doing fieldwork for both judicial candidates Andrew Liu and Steven Somers without either knowing it) and got the public defenders association and Assistant Public Defender Don Landis Jr. to throw in $2,750 to seed the PAC, was on vacation on the East Coast and wasn't answering phone calls.
Amber Johnson, former executive director of the Republican Party of San Luis Obispo County and PAC spokesperson, answered about every fifth email and claims the PAC has done all its campaign filings properly—all evidence to the contrary.
Then Squid's peeps reached out to Megan Theard, who's listed on campaign docs as having received $200 for consulting. More database magic revealed only one Megan Theard listed anywhere in the country—up the road in Morgan Hill. And when Squid's colleagues started emailing Theard, she emailed back responses to dozens of questions about the PAC as if she knew what she was talking about.
Told Perez was on the paperwork, she responded, "This isn't that big of a deal. Blown out of perspective."
Told McCormick had registered one of the phones involved, she responded, "It's Daniel's phone. Politics are dirty, what can I say?"
And asked about the $200 payment, she responded "Y'all are crazy."
But when her name appeared in print, a shaken Theard called the Weekly and said she really didn't know what was going on. She thought one of her friends had concocted an elaborate prank centered around Monterey County politics—and she played along by responding to the emails.
"I'm not a political consultant. I'm not even a registered voter," she says. "I'm a nurse. I'm a mother. I'm a boring registered triage nurse. I have no involvement in politics. I don't know who any of these people are."
Theard has since reached out to the Monterey County District Attorney's office, the San Benito County District Attorney's office and the FPPC—the Fair Political Practices Commission—to find out if a crime was committed by someone using her name on that official campaign paperwork.
So what are Squid's colleagues working on now? The mystery man who delivered a PAC check to a local radio station, likely the same mystery man whom Marohn claims acted as a paid consultant to the Liu campaign but now wishes to remain anonymous—and the same mystery man who arranged for a union print shop to produce the sleazy anti-Miller literature.
In Campaignlandia, it's all one big mystery. Until it's not.