Is Larry Elder about to be sabotaged?

Headlines are erupting around California, spotlighting leading gubernatorial challenger Larry Elder in an unflattering light.  One charge in particular seems tailor-made for California-style dirty trickery as the recall campaign targeting Governor Gavin Newsom barrels through its final three weeks.

Amid a barrage of potshots ranging from a former fiancée's newfound recriminations to baffling accusations of White supremacy (Elder is Black), the Los Angeles Times claims that Elder "failed to disclose income sources" on an official form required of all candidates.  Identical reporting burst synchronously across the Golden State, putting the candidate commentator's juggernaut on defense.  "[T]he California Democratic Party filed a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission alleging that Elder failed to properly disclose the business and its sources of income," intoned the Times.

The omission in question regards an entity named Laurence A. Elder and Associates Inc.  So Elder overlooked his self-named corporation on his campaign's financial filing.  Perhaps it is the sort of liability-limiting shell public personalities routinely wrap around themselves; perhaps it is something more.  Apparently, no journalist has seen fit to ask about the purpose and activities of Larry Inc.  Meanwhile, the Elder campaign swiftly amended the form to value the entity at an unimpressive $100K–1 million, so whatever Larry Inc. is, it's of minor import to the prominent conservative pundit's finances.

But the complaint has been filed.  The die has been cast for further action.

And here is where the past just might be prologue.  The story so far is in a grand Golden State tradition, seen vividly in the challenge mounted by GOP upstart and political novice Bill Simon against incumbent Governor Gray Davis in 2002.  Simon, a venture capitalist, was a former lieutenant to then–U.S. attorney Rudy Giuliani and scion of former Treasury secretary William E. Simon, Sr.  Despite his blueblood pedigree, Simon's successful primary run was something of an insurgency, and he toppled GOP establishment favorite Richard Riordan, former Los Angeles mayor.  Running as a fair approximation of a Jeffersonian libertarian, the photogenic Simon had taken Silicon Valley and broad swaths of the state's deep red agricultural regions, and his inroads into Riordan's home base of Southern California deeply shocked the political order.

Then Simon quickly committed a classic rookie mistake by taking a tropical holiday right after his triumph, and he returned to find the street fighters who'd powered him to victory purged and replaced with vengeful establishment insiders.

But that was not what directly doomed his campaign against Davis:

Just weeks before the general election — basically the same calendar we see unfolding for Elder — the state awoke to wall-to-wall headlines and frowny-faced tee-vee reporters breathlessly announcing, out of the blue, a suspiciously precipitate conviction of Simon for "fraud," as seen here and here.

What had happened: Several years prior, Simon's V.C. firm had ejected entrepreneur Ed Hindelang from his own venture when his prior drug issues had come to light as the company struggled financially.  It appeared that, somehow, Democrat operatives had joined forces with Hindelang and pursued his revenge in a cooperative venue.  The resulting maelstrom rapidly enveloped Simon's campaign.

The judgment was quickly reversed, as seen here and here, but the damage was done, and Davis squeaked out a victory...only to be recalled a year later, ushering in the dreary era of the rudderless Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and all that has followed.

A coda: This was eminently preventable.  This author, writing here under anonymity for obvious reasons, had been advised about Hindelang within days of Simon's primary triumph.  An 18-page dossier about Hindelang had been slipped to me by a connected insider with a warning that it meant trouble.  But all the campaign troops who truly cared to see an accomplished non-politician win had been purged during Simon's holiday absence, and none of their replacements wanted to hear about it.

In the end, Bill Simon's tale lends a memorable name to this sort of 11th-hour dirty trick: he showed how an upstart, outsider candidate steaming with breakout momentum can ultimately get Simonized by the Uniparty Establishment in California.

Is it Larry Elder's turn?

Photo credit: Jew Info, CC BY 3.0 license.

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