Crossing the line

Supervisor Larry Wahl is allowing Measure A campaign work to be done out of his county office

The woman pictured on the cover of this week’s issue is Stephanie Taber, who is not only spearheading the Yes on Measure A campaign, but also seems to be just about the only person actively involved in managing it. She’s a 74-year-old grandmother, widow and political neophyte, and she’s heading the first campaign of her life in a town where politics can be rough and tumble at times.

Now she finds herself as the focus of a controversy involving apparent campaign violations.

It started with a letter to the Chico Enterprise-Record, published on Monday (May 23), from Seth Derish, a former Chicoan who recently moved back to town. Rather slyly, I think, he describes dropping by Supervisor Larry Wahl’s county office, where Taber works as Wahl’s assistant, seeing a sign advertising Measure A campaign materials, and asking her for some literature, which she provided from a stash she stores there.

He also points out that she used the county e-mail system to do Measure A business, and that Robert Ramay, who owns the building and collects $550 a month in rent from the county, donated $1,000 to Wahl’s campaign.

Tom Gascoyne, in his CN&R cover story this week about Measure A, goes over much of the same material. I’ve seen the e-mails and a photo of the sign. There’s no doubt that Measure A campaign work is being done out of Wahl’s office.

Taber may not be aware of the dangers inherent in mixing public work and politics, but her boss should be. After all, in 2004 the state Fair Political Practices Commission fined him $12,000 for seven violations of the state’s political-reform act.

As Taber’s boss, he certainly bears some responsibility for allowing her to do Measure A work out of his county office.

Follow that item: My column last week about Assemblyman Jim Nielsen has become grist for the mill of Aaron Park, who’s active in Placer County Republican politics and writes a blog called

Here’s the deal, as Park explains it: Local Republican politicians are jockeying for position under the assumption that long-time Rep. Wally Herger is about to retire. Herger’s anointed successor is state Sen. Doug LaMalfa. If LaMalfa goes to Congress, Nielsen and Assemblyman Dan Logue will duke it out for his Senate seat.

Park favors LaMalfa. He sees Nielsen as a “liberal”—his word—who sometimes votes in a way that true-blue conservatives find loathsome. So, in a piece titled “What Does the Chico News & Review Know About Jim Nielsen That Local Tea Party Members Don’t?” he trots out my list of Nielsen’s shady dealings in the 1980s, when he was a state senator, as further evidence of Nielsen’s inferiority to Logue.

Park is right about one thing: On rare occasions, Nielsen puts pragmatism before ideology and votes for commonsensical bills that serve the public’s interest. So that’s the choice voters will have if LaMalfa goes to Congress—between a hidebound right-wing ideologue (Logue) and his occasionally flexible but morally challenged opponent (Nielsen). Whoopee.