A question of character

Assemblyman Jim Nielsen is a scofflaw. Will that matter to voters?

Charlie Schaupp is a former Marine. Honor and integrity are important to him. That’s why he thinks Republicans should vote for him for the 2nd Assembly District primary, not the incumbent, Jim Nielsen.

Schaupp, who came in a distant second to Nielsen in the 2006 primary, is a Yolo County farmer whose political values are similar to Nielsen’s but who says their moral values are worlds apart. That’s because Nielsen’s tenure in the Legislature is built on lies, he insists. Nielsen lied when he registered to vote in Tehama County, and he’s been lying about it ever since.

Schaupp’s right about that. Nielsen doesn’t live in that infamous double-wide in Gerber he claims as his official residence—never has, never will. As he has acknowledged, he and his wife actually live in a gated community in Woodland.

Schaupp also points to the $55,619 Nielsen has taken in per-diem payments, even though his primary residence is less than 30 miles from the Capitol. It’s “absolute fraud,” Schaupp told the Redding Record Searchlight’s Ryan Sabalow, for Nielsen to take the money.

Not so, Nielsen responded. He told Sabalow he “uses the cash to offset the cost of paying for two homes, one inside the district and one close to Sacramento.”

With Gerber two hours from Sacramento, the money is an absolute necessity, Nielsen said. “My wife and I literally burn up I-5. We’re usually waving at each other going in the opposite direction.” Try not to laugh. The man will say anything.

Nielsen’s right about one thing: It’s legal for him to get the per-diem on top of his $95,291 salary. All the legislators can get it, even those living within walking distance of the Capitol. The only difference is that those whose primary residences are more than 50 miles from the Capitol aren’t required to pay taxes on it.

My question for Nielsen: Did you claim residence in Gerber and thereby avoid paying taxes? If so, you lied again—and, I would suggest, defrauded the government.

In most respects Nielsen, a former state senator, has it all over Charlie Schaupp. He’s smart, experienced and well connected, especially among the Republican elite. Republican voters in the 2nd District have a tough choice. They can go with either a professional politician of dubious moral character or an inexperienced gentleman who treasures his integrity.

Follow that story: Remember Natalie Huberman, the Chico woman I wrote about last year (“Roofs over their heads,” Jan. 29, 2009) who was trying to come up with the money to build a schoolhouse in a West African village? Well, she’s building it, having raised more than $30,000.

She recently returned from Dédékè, the Togolese village in question, after laying the cornerstone of the new school building. Plans have been drawn up and a contractor hired. She’s also working with villagers to develop new income producers (making soap is one possibility) and install a new well.

You can read about the project’s progress at www.leapingstone.org/blog. Chico is full of people like Natalie Huberman who practice profound generosity. We’ll continue to tell their stories.