On August 28, 2003 San Diego City Council members Ralph Inzunza Jr., Charles Lewis and Michael Zucchet were charged with wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and extortion. In layman’s terms these council members were charged with selling their votes/influence to the owners of a nude entertainment business.
This situation that these three councilpersons now find themselves in, we wouldn’t want to wish on anyone. They are now trapped in a nightmarish situation that is going to drain them financially, emotionally and in all likelyhood, even if acquitted, this will ruin their political careers. In this regard we have a sense of sadness for these men and their families, and this is only the beginning, it will get much worse before it gets better.
While ultimately Inzunza, Lewis, and Zucchet are responsible for their actions, we can’t help but look at the political reality for today’s politicians and the outrageous amounts of monies that it now takes to run for office. It wasn’t so long ago that a grassroots person could run for a seat on a school board, water board, or any one of the many other second tier offices and not spend more than a few thousand dollars. But in today’s reality, to run for these offices it now takes hundreds of thousands of dollars, and in the case of city council races it takes millions! And the price tag keeps rising.
The cost of running for office weeds out all except a very few, and for those who forge ahead with the intent of not selling their vote, of not possessing the knack of asking complete strangers for money, of taking the moral, ethical high road, means they have no chance of winning. To win it means you have to raise a lot of money, and to raise a lot of money you have to skirt that fine line between doing what is right and what is wrong, and too often that line is crossed and re-crossed.
Our political system is now in the hands of the very rich, just take a look at the recall election of today, if it wasn’t for the financial backing by a Republican millionaire, Darrell Issa, this recall would have never happened. Money, now more than ever, dictates political reality and policy.
In regards to Hispanic councilman Ralph Inzunza, Jr., he has walked that fine line for a long time now. Inzunza is a professional politician through-and-through. He has been in politics since childhood. He knows little else. He knows where the line is and when he is crossing it. But the development of Inzunza, Jr., did not happen in a vacuum. He had the advice and a role model around which he followed. His father Ralph Inzunza, Sr.,
It was when Inzunza, Jr., was still in college, that Inzunza, Sr., showed him that winning was all that mattered. Back then Inzunza Sr., ran for National City council and despite years of relationships, collaboration, activism and friendships with the Chicano community, Inzunza, Sr., turned his back on this community, in particular the Committee on Chicano Rights where he was considered the right hand man of Herman Baca and what were considered his ideals all for the sake of winning. Back then you weren’t considered electable if you were associated with the Chicano movement.
Parents are our primary role models and Inzunza, Sr., laid out the framework for winning do whatever it takes. This is the model that Inzunza, Jr., has been following his whole political career, he has been doing whatever it took to win. The question now is, did he go too far over that line for the sake of winning?