On the Saturday night three days before the November election, KPBS reporter Claire Trageser was at dinner with her fiancé when she got a call from Justin Harper, a former staffer for then-congressional candidate Carl DeMaio.
Harper had already detailed for her an encounter he had with DeMaio. He had described how, on July 10, as he finished up at a urinal down the hall from the campaign’s second-floor headquarters, DeMaio hovered behind him and exposed himself, grabbing his genitals. Harper quit the campaign two days later. He left on good terms, with a recommendation from DeMaio.
Harper would not let Trageser use his name, though, in that earlier interview. And so, she would not run the story.
That Saturday night, he told her he was ready to go public.
Trageser and her editors now faced some big decisions. It was only a couple of days before the election — reporters generally hold off on major exposes immediately before an election. If you get something wrong in a late report like that, there is no time to make amends before the election is over. Also, any calls she would need to make would have to be done on a Sunday.
Trageser called DeMaio’s campaign spokesman, Dave McCulloch, early the next morning.
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Whenever people actively try to discourage a reporter from covering a story, or make personal attacks like "you seem obsessed with this" you pretty much know this a topic worth continuing to pursue. There is so much to this saga, in fact, that I am not even sure what specific lie Scott is looking to get clarity on-- there are so many. Are you trying to see if Carl or Todd are lying about the specific sexual harassment incident in the campaign office? Are you trying to figure out who is lying about the campaign office break-in, as in who the hell actually cut the computer cords and poured water on laptops-- DeMaio's internal people, the former staffers, some other people? And why won't the police or DA help shed light on this for the public that funded the police response and investigation? Are you trying to find out if the second staffer, Justin, is lying about his claim of sexual harassment, hence the urinal as a key piece of evidence? Are you trying to find out (which seems a moot point by now) if Carl is lying about sending the emails about Kate Lyon, the UT op-ed, etc? Are you trying to find out if spokesperson Dave McCulloch is knowingly lying and trashing reporters and former campaign staff in the process, or has he been lied to and does not even realize what he is spinning at this point? Though I must say, that KPBS accusation at the SDSPJ event was all Dave and beyond insulting and ridiculous. I can hear myself both gasping and laughing in that clip you included-- incredible. Incredibly sad, actually.
I admire your work in trying to sort through all of this and agree that this is not a saga we can just ignore and forget as it needs to be clear that there is a line in politics and campaigning that is simply not acceptable in our community, and should not be replicated in any other community (can you imagine if DeMaio had been elected and this was the winning BS / House of Carl strategy that San Diego contributed to national politics, to the government sector and public service ethos?)
Keep at it Scott, I still advocate for a huge, evolving, interactive infographic to help keep it all straight. It is truly stunning how any of these specific instances are enough for a scandal on their own but we instead just look at the whole mess and shrug in overwhelmed and cynical exhaustion over "politics as usual." It cannot be tolerated, it has to be called out for being so offensive and unusual that a clear line is drawn for future elections.
@Gaby Dow You are right it is not an obsession as I first thought, it is voyeurism.
Scott, Your obsession with DeMaio is fascinating, however, if you ever get tired of it perhaps you will tell us what happened to the illegal campaign contributions made to Juan Vargas and the people who made them.
Let's see here if I've got this all straight. First Carl DeMaio denied he ever harassed any of his staff. Unfortunately for Carl, some, but not many people believed him. OK, what to do now?
The great minds of his campaign team got together and decided to accuse the media, in this case KPBS of not doing their due diligence in determining the actual identity of one of the staffers who spoke with a KPBS reporter. This attempted spin was announced by Carl's Director of Communications at a gathering of journalists. Unfortunately for Carl, almost nobody (even the few who had believed Carl's denials) believed Dave McCulloch. OK, what to do now?
Well now this inept group is seeking to use some kind of virtual "testimony" from a urinal to convince us that Carl is as pure as the driven snow. If the water didn't flow...the accusations must not be so? Please. By the way how do we even know they've got the right urinal? Does the fixture in question have a skype account? Unfortunately for Carl, nobody outside of CMH is going to believe this one.
So it's just been a series of unfortunate events for Carl; but throughout all this noise there was one fortunate outcome for residents of the 52nd District and thank goodness for that. Now we can only hope that for what may be one of the few times in his life Carl has told the truth and that pushed by consecutive election results, and in depth reporting in the VOSD, he's really finished with running for office.
There is one other rabbit hole that the DeMaio campaign opened up that wasn't explored in this piece. The DeMaio campaign indicated that Ms. Rentschler was a suspect in the alleged break-in at the DeMaio campaign office. Did the campaign ever provide any support for this assertion?
What struck me so clearly at the SPJ forum which I attended was that Dave McCulloch had done two things exceptionally well: proving that DeMaio enjoyed painting himself as a victim while wallowing in victimhood and demonstrating that both he and DeMaio are clearly delusional.
San Diego really dodged a bullet in this election. Does anyone still think that DeMaio is fit for elective office?
My thoughts about the urinal thing are if someone as anal retentive as DeMaio had a broken urinal on the floor where he rented his offices, there's no way it would have been broken for 6+ months without it being a big deal to a tenant there, especially a tenant with many males working for him. My thinking says that even if the landlord was having problems with it, at the very least it would have been in and out of service during that time. And that opens up the possibility of truth to this.
My friends and I agree on one thing though, DeMaio lost our votes when he bitched about Peters taking a car allowance, which while a pretty good perk, is one that anyone else would have loved to get. Why did DeMaio think it was a big deal that a guy with money owned a BMW? Or that a large municipal government wouldn't have perks? Instead of attacking Peters for taking a perk that all council members got, he ought to have said he refused his and returned it to the taxpayers. Would he have been returning all the perks a Congressman receives? Somehow I doubt it. Returned the per diem meal money Congressmen get? Pay for his own stamps even?
He just seemed really petty and vindictive to us and there's already enough of that in Washington.
If it had been a burden on someone's shoulder - now THAT would be a story.
No, its "Much Ado About NOTHING! Even if all the charges are true - the election is over and who cares? You are a good journalist Scott, there has to be more important, and current, issues on which you can spend your time. Oh, maybe you can investigate whether John Hartley really did stuff in his car alone, or Uvaldo Martinez did really wag his tongue at attractive women.
Story line: Dedicated journalist hangs out in men's bathrooms to determine whether a pervert is really a pervert or is just being crucified by staff he alienated in the campaign. Not sure where this story is going.
I never thought I'd see the day that Mr. DeMaio would conduct himself in a manner about which both Democrats (or at least one Democrat) and Republicans could agree. Nice exit.
Mr. Lewis: A correction. Johnny Cochran was a lot of things, but he was certainly articulate. He said in a couple of different instances, about the stocking cap and the case itself, "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit." He said about the gloves (plural), "If the gloves don't fit, you must acquit." You've inadvertently implied he spoke in a dialect. Small issue, but bears fixing.
Given that no one disputes that Justin Harper worked in the office, and presumably used and was familiar with the bathroom(s), and that there were multiple bathrooms that had urinals on different floors that were used by the campaign staff, if hardly seems like one urinal being out of service at one point in time really shoots a hole in Mr. Harper's story.
So the urinal was ALWAYS broken, but the guy who's supposedly lying put it into a story that he *knows* will be carefully scrutinized? That makes a ton of sense.