Congressman Doug LaMalfa duped city of Chico into giving him a free campaign stop venue

My invitation to Congressman Doug LaMalfa’s recent “community coffee” at Chico’s Fire Station 5 must have gotten lost in the mail. I mean, his staffers know how to get hold of me.

Like two years ago, when LaMalfa’s legislative director called me up and charged that it was incorrect to say the Richvale native had increased subsidies for wealthy farmers while simultaneously voting to cut federal food stamps. Evidently, his camp didn’t think crop insurance—“the largest subsidy for agribusiness,” according to the nonpartisan Taxpayers for Common Sense—qualifies as a subsidy.

LaMalfa was running for a second term at the time. His challenger was whip-smart Democrat Heidi Hall, who got trounced in the election despite owning LaMalfa during their showdown in Chico at a Butte County League of Women Voters forum.

But enough about the past. It’s election season again and LaMalfa is looking to beat opponent Jim Reed, another Democrat, this November. And thanks to the city of Chico, LaMalfa is getting a leg up. On Tuesday morning, city management rolled out the proverbial red carpet for our local congressman at the fire station near the base of Upper Bidwell Park.

I asked City Manager Mark Orme about the event, and here’s what I learned: Fire Chief Bill Hack was contacted by LaMalfa’s district representative. According to the chief, she’d inquired about holding a “community event” at the station. Hack thought it would be an opportunity to show off the fire department and to highlight its “challenges/opportunities,” as he put it in an email. He mentioned the department’s SAFER grant, federal largesse he hopes will be extended to fund the 15 firefighters it’s paying for. His department set up for the event. He’d been assured that it would not be political in nature. LaMalfa’s camp paid nothing to use the facility. Zilch.

Hack and Orme got hoodwinked. Of course the event was political! CN&R Managing Editor Meredith Cooper showed up after hearing about it last-minute. Some of the topics included aid to veterans, his legislative bill regarding the proposed Sites Reservoir, Planned Parenthood—“I don’t think Planned Parenthood reflects the values of America by making body parts available [on the black market],” he said. Yes, our congressman is still spreading that debunked propaganda.

Orme didn’t throw Hack under the bus. I asked if department heads have carte blanche over the use of city facilities. The answer is no; Orme gave the final approval. “The buck stops with me,” he wrote in an email.

Hardly anyone was at LaMalfa’s event, so what was the purpose? It’s simple: He’s out glad-handing specific constituencies. In the case of the fire station, LaMalfa targeted local firefighters. That’s not an insignificant voting bloc. It’s not surprising that LaMalfa would go for the low-hanging fruit. What’s disconcerting is that he had a helping hand from the city of Chico.

Thing is, city leaders should know better. They fell for a classic LaMalfa move. Let’s be honest, the guy is known for deception. Just ask Joe Montes, the Chico Republican whose reputation he torched last spring in a series of mailed hit pieces. Despite what was implied in LaMalfa’s political mailers, Montes’ only crime was daring to challenge the ruthless incumbent.

Note to city staff: Any time a politician asks for something during campaign season, it’s for political purposes.