CAIN AND ABEL: I’m bored, and I’m fickle. I’m also a hypocrite and an ingrate. That’s why I’ll be taking advantage of this year’s new open primary rules to jump party ship and vote for Republican candidate Chris Mitchum — darling of the Tea Party and all the other ideological chipped china making up the Whack Job Right — for Congress. Mitchum’s claim to fame — aside from being the son of bad boy film noir star Robert Mitchum — is his leading role in countless blood-and-boob action films, Lethal Orbit, Lethal Seduction, and Lethal Cowboy, to name just three. To the disciplined purists within the Democratic Central Committee, spare me the phone calls. After all my years as a dutiful, hold-your-nose-and-vote Yellow Dog Democrat, I’m entitled.
In any quasi-rational universe, Montecito resident Mitchum would not stand a prayer in this race. He has zero experience for office, and since the last time he ran and lost — in 1998 — has made little effort to acquire any. Mitchum is hoping to take on über-incumbent Lois Capps — the liberal Democrat running for her umpteenth term who will have at her disposal all the resources the Party of Pelosi can bring to bear. To get there, however, he must first vanquish fellow Republican and former lieutenant governor Abel Maldonado in next Tuesday’s June primary — who in the same quasi-rational universe, should cakewalk over Mitchum without getting crumbs or icing on his cowboy boots.
At the start of this campaign, we were assured by all the experts that Capps — twice voted “the nicest” member of Congress and invariably dismissed as “a really nice lady” by opponents whose asses she would subsequently kick — was in for the fight of her life. The district boundaries had been radically redrawn; no longer would Lois enjoy the obscene edge in Democratic registration that was part of her “Ribbon-of-Shame” political dowry. Hence, Republican king-maker Karl Rove — known affectionately to the previous president whom he so ignobly served as “Turd Blossom” — initially blessed Maldonado as the anointed one. Having a certified Latino in the field would give lie to the damaging perception that hanging in every Republican closet is a green border patrol uniform. Plus, Maldonado had served serious time in the Sacramento statehouse, where he cultivated a reputation as a genuine moderate. When Maldonado had the entire legislature by the short hairs, the pound of flesh he exacted on behalf of the voting public was the open primary process that we will enjoy for the first time next Tuesday. In theory, this will help get more moderates elected. But in practice, it will enable people like me — and maybe you, too — to cross party lines in the spirit of political vandalism to vote for candidates like Mitchum.
According to all the polling, Maldonado is allegedly dead on arrival. To win, Mitchum reportedly need spend a paltry $200,000 needed to let people know he’s the Tea Party candidate. Apparently, it’s that simple. Republicans just don’t like Maldonado. It’s not that he giggles like the Dalai Lama, which can, at times, be disquieting. It’s that he voted to raise taxes at a time when his was the swing vote needed to get a state budget — as usual, psychotically late — passed. In exchange, Abel demanded the open primary, which the Republican leadership didn’t like. But they can’t forgive the tax increase, especially from someone with $470,000 worth of trouble with the IRS.
Maldonado has tax problems far more current and radioactive than the increase he voted for while in the state legislature or even the $470,0000 difference of interpretation with the IRS over what “business expenses” can be legitimately claimed against the Maldonados’ 6,000-acre farming operation. According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, the IRS is claiming that the Maldonado family’s mini ag empire underpaid the IRS to the tune of $3.6 million between 2006 and 2008. It should be noted that Abel is just one of many players in the family business, and he has frequently lamented how unfair it is that they get dragged through the mud every time he gets an itch to run for office. That being said, the meat of the dispute revolves around tax deductions the IRS claim Maldonado family members are improperly claiming as business expenses, when in fact, the IRS insists, they6 are personal expenses.
The Times quotes an IRS manager named Susan Braunz who stated in court documents that Maldonado himself sought to claim the $4,444 he spent re-tiling the shower stall in his personal residence as a business expense. Likewise, she objected when the Maldonados sought to claim business deductions on two horses they bought, memberships at the Santa Maria Golf Club worth $20,000, and renovations done on a private residence owned by the family in the resort town of LaQuinta. Just because the IRS says you owe don’t make it so. Where the tax man is concerned there are always more than two sides to any story. That being acknowledged, Braunz is just as frustrated with the Maldonandos as they are with her. “I asked the taxpayer to show me the places on the property that were not accessible by tractor and to show me what the horses were used for. The taxpayer refused,” she wrote. “The testimony is considered to be self serving and not supported by any documentation establishing a business purpose for the expenditures.” The moral of the story — clearly not lost on the Mitchum or Capps campaigns — is that Republicans who raise taxes should not try to duck out of paying their own.
When contemplating the candidates, consider first — and only — their relative entertainment value. Yes, Lois has stood in there during hard times. When her party leadership voted — in cowering cynicism — to give George W. Bush the blank check to wage war so deceitfully against Iraq, Capps stood firm and voted no. Where so many politicians have become glandular panderers, Capps conducts herself with dignity, warmth, and reserve. There are no scandals; she works ridiculously hard; her staff likes her. And she almost invariably votes the right way. Like I say, she’s incredibly boring. And if I have to hear how she used to be a school nurse one more time, I’ll bite my phone in two. A run-off pitting Lois — the nicest member of Congress — against Abel — the world’s only moderate Republican — threatens to be a snooze fest. That’s why I’m backing Mitchum. He’ll say almost anything. He described the 2008 election that put Barack Obama in the White House as “a bloodless coup.” No, that was when the Supreme Court stole the election from Al Gore back in 2000 and gave it to George W. Bush. (Gore was so bad back then he deserved to have the election stolen from him; we, however, did not deserve it stolen from us.) Mitchum is fond of saying the liberal elite chased him out of Hollywood back in the ’70s for the crime of acting in a few movies with John Wayne, then a sad caricature of a might-makes-right patriot. Mitchum was then forced to wander through the deserts of Spain, making splatter films with enough of a T&A quotient to justify the hard R rating that now denotes his party affiliation. Republicans have become famous for preaching a gospel of personal responsibility that they then take excruciating pains to evade. After watching Mitchum’s performance in Ricco the Mean Machine — which, according to the liner notes, contains scenes of such “grisly ultra-violence” that the film could be seen only via “censored” VHS tapes for 30 years — he might be one of them. Trying really hard to be bad, Mitchum comes across pretty-boy pouty instead. His conspicuous lack of acting chops is redeemed only by a great smile and some campy old-school karate chops that might prove handy on the campaign trail should Lois, ever so uncharacteristically, attempt to pull out a can of whup-ass on him.
We can only hope. Such a scene, if caught on film, might revive Mitchum’s cinematic career. The rest of you don’t really have to vote for Mitchum. I just don’t know how you could resist. In the meantime, I’ll see you at the polling place. Don’t forget.