L.A. D.A. declines to prosecute…

L.A. D.A. declines to prosecute Mike Feinstein

Several months back I filed a criminal complaint with the Santa Monica police against Mike Feinstein, founding member of the California Green Party and current member of the Santa Monica City Council, concerning his disposition of a check for $10,000 made out to Green Party of LA County and deposited by him into his private bank account.

Lt. Mike Beautz, the investigating officer, spent “hundreds of hours” on the case. They got a warrant and pulled the bank records, then turned the case over to the D.A. The case went to the top, and yesterday LA DA Steve Cooley declined to prosecute primarily because the office in question had been, and still is, used for Green Party (GP) business and, crucially I think, because the GP knew about the check for 2 1/2 years and did nothing about it.

Oh, there had been countless rancorous meetings, endless email flames, and much factional warfare within the GP at the county, state, and national levels, but little action was taken until I forced people’s hand by filing.

DA’s wants easy kills. This case was not an easy kill, based both on what Cooley said, and also on the maddening vagueness of political contribution law which, by a bizarre coincidence, is written by the very same politicians who could get indicted under these laws. Beautz told me the laws on commingling political funds do not even specify whether it is a civil or criminal offense. Talk about loopholes…

Pondering all this some things become clear. First, the GP has serious structural problems that prevent it from taking action fast and decisively. The Reps or Dems would have dealt with this quickly, they would not have allowed it to drag on for years, causing serious, probably irreparable, problems, at the state and national level, as has happened in the GP. The problem, as I’ve discussed here before, is the GP insistence on consensus and decentralization, which, while noble in purpose, doesn’t translate much beyond the neighborhood meeting level. In practice, it means that controversial measures seldom get passed and major decisions take way too long to make. It also means, contrary to the intent, that the few can always block the many from acting.

I mostly volunteer with ANSWER now, where meetings are purposeful, free of rancor and internal factional battles. Let me repeat that – ANSWER, a hard left sectarian organization, has had no internal wars, or even serious squabbles, in the 14 months I’ve been volunteering – and I’ve been at steering committee meetings and helped organize multiple demos and dozens of smaller events. Given the fractiousness of the left, this is an almost bizarre rarity.

Why this is, I don’t specifically know. Many of the lead ANSWER organizers have been at it for decades, and their experience is invaluable. Also, ANSWER, as policy, will never publicly criticize an ally or coalition partner – even when attacked by one, and this ‘let’s focus on organizing, show solidarity, and avoid conflict between us’ viewpoint is reflected in the internal politics too. Also, we are generally doing several events at once and this emphasis on action means less time for squabbling. There’s something in the group dynamics of ANSWER that precludes internal bickering, and when I figure out exactly what it is, I’ll share it with you all!

This whole Feinstein affair has been quite an education. I made some enemies, found out who my real friends are and who will stand and who will run, learned that those who yell the loudest for action often are incapable taking action themselves – and much more.

Would I do it again? Absolutely.

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