What LaMalfa knew

Why did he reward a man who put his campaign in jeopardy?

Remember Mark Spannagel? Back in May 2012, when the primary race to replace Wally Herger in Congress was heating up, he was state Sen. Doug LaMalfa’s chief of staff and campaign manager. Then he was busted for putting together a phony and illegal website saying false things, some potentially libelous, about one of LaMalfa’s Republican opponents, former state Sen. Sam Aanestad, and attributing the dirty tricks to another Republican candidate, Redding attorney Michael Dacquisto.

At the time LaMalfa professed innocence, saying he knew nothing about the website. “This means either he’s lying or he has no idea what his chief of staff is doing, and I don’t know which is worse,” Dacquisto told the CN&R. LaMalfa should fire “anyone who was involved in this in any way, shape or form,” he added.

Aanestad’s judgment was just as fierce: “If they’re going to be deceitful and dishonest now, you wait until [LaMalfa’s] entrenched as a congressman, when no one can touch him.”

Last month Spannagel finally fell on his sword, fessed up and apologized to all concerned. And last week LaMalfa, now well entrenched as a congressman, visited the Chico Enterprise-Record, where he told reporter Larry Mitchell that he’d hired Spannagel as his chief of staff, the most important—and highest paid—position in his office.

What to make of all this? Well, if Spannagel acted independently in posting the website, he put his boss, LaMalfa, at great risk of embarrassment and legal action. As Dacquisto said, he should have been fired. And LaMalfa should have apologized for not knowing what his chief of staff was doing—something he’s never done.

So why has LaMalfa rehired Spannagel? Well, either he’s one of the most forgiving bosses ever, or he knew all along about the website and the new job is Spannagel’s reward for taking the blame. Readers can decide.