They say people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. No one told Susan Skinner.
The Newport Beach no-growth activist is one of the leaders of the campaign to qualify a recall election against Councilman Scott Peotter. Earlier this month, she filed a complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) against Peotter, even though she herself is under investigation by the FPPC.
Skinner is asking the state campaign law enforcement agency to investigate what are basically her personal conspiracy theories about Peotter and his architectural and development business. This is an awkward request considering she is being investigated by the FPPC regarding her anti-development campaign activities related to the now-defunct Museum House project.
Peotter does work for Capitol Ministries, a Christian organization that evangelizes public officials, especially elected ones. Peotter, who has been a conservative political Christian activist his entire adult life, reported these direct payments as income on his Form 700 financial disclosure form.
Skinner speculates that Capitol Ministries is a cut-out through which unnamed forces with unknown agendas funnel money to Peotter, and she wants the FPPC to expend taxpayer resources investigating this theory.
Skinner’s complaint also notes that on his Form 700s filed from 2006 to 2010 (when he was a Newport Beach planning commissioner), Peotter reported no income. Peotter has explained that he reported no income during that period because he had no income during that period. He, like many other small businessmen, was hard-hit by the Great Recession. Occam’s Razor holds no brief with Ms. Skinner, who wants the FPPC to investigate.
The complaint in which Ms. Skinner is named details a complicated scheme of shenanigans involving campaign contributions of significant size. No doubt she protests her innocence and expects to be given the benefit of the doubt. It’s revealing that a person who is already on the receiving end of an FPPC investigation doesn’t think twice before siccing the same agency on someone to dig into speculative charges…even if her target is a political opponent.
Ultimately, FPPC complaints like Skinner’s are an old and purely political game that follow a familiar pattern: file the complaint against a candidate, then send out attack mailers and robocalls claiming the candidate is “under investigation for violating state law.” The claim is easy to make, and difficult and time-consuming for the targeted candidate to explain. The FPPC tosses the great majority of these complaints, but not until long after the election is over.
Meanwhile, Peotter held a campaign event last week at which he raised $30,000 he can use to fight the recall, should it qualify. Skinner and her allies try to paint Councilman Peotter as alien to Newport Beach. While he is alien to their particularly vocal clique, Peotter’s original election and the support he’s been generating in the face of the recall attempt suggest it is Skinner and her allies who are out of touch.