ProPublica Blew Orange County Redistricting Story Targeting Loretta Sanchez


Earlier this month, ProPublica–a respected, investigatory news agency based in New York City–issued a report that blasted Democrats for an unethical campaign to corrupt the California Citizens Redistricting Commission that was charged with designing new boundaries for federal and state elections.

Though high-ranking Democrats are deriding the article, ProPublica's report is in many ways a valuable contribution to the public's understanding of the behind the scenes machinations that control government entities.
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The two journalists who wrote the story obtained fascinating emails from
Democratic insiders planning to manipulate redistricting, detailed
misinformation campaigns and exposed the liberal interests that funded
related efforts to convince the commission to protect
Democratic Party-held districts.

But this week, Chris Prevatt at TheLiberalOC.com blog slammed the article's Orange County section that left readers with the hilariously false impression that a dastardly Loretta Sanchez
cheated in the redistricting process over wide-eyed, innocent OC
Republicans, who–if you believe the report's caricature–were simply
interested in creating fair districts for minorities, especially the
Vietnamese in Little Saigon.

(Those of you familiar with
OC's political history and the local GOP's shameful, regular efforts to
dilute Latino political influence or intimidate Latino citizens from
voting can stop laughing now.)

How could two veteran journalists leave such a false impression?

Prevatt believes that ProPublica's reporters were “duped and manipulated” by Republican sources.

He's
probably right. The reporters quoted one Republican who claimed that
GOP interests were “essentially non-entities in the redistricting
process” and continued on with their story as if that absurd lie was the
truth. Yet, anyone who watched the process in Orange County saw that
both Republicans and Democrats (everyone from right-wing religious nuts
to hardcore labor activists) here worked feverishly behind the scenes to
manipulate district boundaries. In fact, most of the secret,
self-serving redistricting pressure in OC came from Dana Rohrabacher, John Campbell, Ed Royce and Gary Miller–all incumbent Republicans who were frantic about manipulating the redistricting commission.

(Indeed,
if the reporters weren't present for the 2011 redistricting battle,
they would have gained serious doubts about their premise if only they'd
looked at how Rohrabacher avoided voter accountability in the previous redistricting process by essentially leaping over heavily Democratic Belmont Shore in Long Beach to grab Republican-loaded Rancho Palos Verdes.)

But the article's
biggest weakness is its opinionated assertion that Little Saigon residents “lost”
in the redistricting battle. To arrive at that stance, the reporters
must have accepted several false assumptions: The Vietnamese Republican
politicians who lobbied the commission were motivated by loyalty to the
Vietnamese community, not the GOP and their own careers; the Vietnamese
community is a monolith of Republicanism; and, though the area is home
to some of OC's most needy residents, who rely on government assistance
programs, there is little backing for Sanchez–the county's lone
Democrat.

(Again, anyone with local knowledge of the political
scene understands that Sanchez enjoys substantial, passionate support in
Little Saigon even when facing a well-funded, Vietnamese Republican challenger backed by national Republican Party interests in Washington, D.C.)   

As Prevatt accurately observed, Republicans were just as “heavily involved” as Sanchez in redistricting efforts. Underscoring his point, he exposed how one Republican member of the redistricting panel may have sabotaged the commission in a way to aide future GOP efforts to sue over certain boundaries.

Prevatt wrote, “The specific [Republican/Vietnamese] goal was to set up
congressional, senate and assembly seats that favored
Republican/Vietnamese elected representation disproportionate to their
demographic.”

Too bad ProPublica ignored that half of the story.

–R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly

R. Scott Moxley’s award-winning investigative journalism has touched nerves for two decades. An angry congressman threatened to break Moxley’s knee caps. A dirty sheriff promised his critical reporting was irrelevant and then landed in prison. The U.S. House of Representatives debated his work. Federal prosecutors credited his stories for the arrest of a doctor who sold fake medicine to dying patients. Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; and hailed by two New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing Southern California law enforcement corruption.

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