The Union wakes up to political bullying in Grass Valley — but runs a nasty ad to fuel it

1924997_10202422536156534_1260821165_nThe unwanted magazine subscriptions are piling up at our house this election season. There’s a big stack of magazines (and the bills that go with them) sitting on my desk that my wife and I will have to sort through and methodically cancel when we have time. (You call a toll-free number and wait forever on hold to speak with a representative). For now, we can’t do that, because we’re too busy with work deadlines and our son’s last two weeks of school before summer break.

It is anonymous political bullying of our family — signing me up for subscriptions to Seventeen and Men’s Fitness — because of my blog. (I have never run for political office, mind you). I have been bullied and ridiculed on the hard-right political blogs — “Rebane’s Ruminations” and Juvinall’s “Sierra Dragon’s Breathe (sic),” among them — by anonymous posters. It includes comments joking about my personal appearance, name-calling, ridiculing my work and so on. The posts aren’t monitored.

I guess they are bullying me in hopes that I’ll stop writing about our dysfunctional local politics and their role in sustaining it. A novelist such as Tom Wolfe would have a field day with our local politics. You can’t make this stuff up.

Political bullying has become a way of life in our western county — largely from the hard right and “good old boys”  — and it is quietly tolerated by people who should know better. This is a regular theme on this blog. It is an ugly side of our community and a real eye opener for some newcomers.

1979659_490096684430298_1668970563_nThis year’s District 3 race, where Dan Miller is trying to unseat Terry Lamphier, has been fraught with political bullying. Nowhere was this more apparent than the  “It’s Miller Time” campaign signs hanging over the “nonpartisan” Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce building. It upset a lot of “nonpartisan” people who do business there and have volunteered there.

It also didn’t go unnoticed that one of Miller’s best friends since high school was appointed to be the Chamber CEO. His wife, the Chamber’s co-CEO, contributed to Miller’s campaign, and the Chamber hired Miller’s campaign manager during the election season. It’s a tight-knit group, to be sure.

“Sleazy” political ad

Now The Union decided to run an ad in its newspaper attacking Lamphier that an editorial board member called “the sleaziest ad I’ve seen in ages.” Yet The Union still ran the ad — though it didn’t have to.

Today it wrote a news story about the ad, which was paid for by the Nevada County Contractors Association PAC. Miller received money from the Contractors PAC and personally knows all the players, but he claims: “It’s not my ad, so I can’t comment.”

In reality, Miller’s campaign also could have stopped the ad if he wanted to — but it didn’t. This is similar to the response to the “It’s Miller Time” campaign signs hanging over the Chamber office. The campaign just chose to look the other way.

The political ad takes mostly off-hand phrases out of context, such as “What? You lost me,” trying to make incumbent Lamphier look stupid.

As a supervisor, Lamphier has been a good listener, carefully weighed the issues and not lived up to his stereotype as a “no growther.” In fact, he voted for the Rincon del Rio senior housing project. He is respectful of people, even ones that aren’t like-minded. Is he perfect? No, but he has shown real integrity — often in short supply around here.

As it turns out, some of the the same people who support bashing Lamphier in this ad and using other bullying tactics have personal contempt for him. One striking example: A recent “Other Voices” by Patti Ingram where she insults Lamphier’s commentary on economic development, calling it a “personal puff piece,” and uses high-pitched political rhetoric such as “reprehensible” to describe his views.

It is personal for Patti because her husband, John Spencer, lost to Lamphier in the District 3 supervisor race last time.

It is personal for some of the other people who are supporting Miller as well. Some longtimers point to this year’s District 3 supervisor race as the “revenge” campaign by staunch conservatives who lost out to progressives over the years. They cite Fran Freedle losing to Bruce Conklin when she ran for re-election, for example.

photo-1125The nasty campaigning also came to my neighborhood two years ago, when the hard right supported Sue McGuire against Nate Beason in District 1. Signs popped up reading “So Nate, aren’t 2 terms enough???”

The nasty campaigning also surfaced in the clerk-recorder’s race, when Barry Pruett challenged Greg Diaz.

Once again I’m reminded of the saying, “The politics are so nasty because the stakes are so small.”


Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for years, was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News, and was Editor of The Union, a 145-year-old newspaper in Grass Valley. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing and trout fishing.

22 thoughts on “The Union wakes up to political bullying in Grass Valley — but runs a nasty ad to fuel it”

  1. Hi Jeff. Thanks for all the reporting you do. I’m new to NC, and very much appreciate all the insight you provide into this beautiful area we now call home. Appalled to hear of the bullying that you are getting.


    1. The Admiral gave a great speech. I have a relative that graduated Seal training a year ago – he is the top of my “respect” list. I especially liked the Admiral’s words: “SEAL training was a great equalizer. Nothing mattered but your will to succeed. Not your color, not your ethnic background, not your education and not your social status. If you want to change the world, measure people by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers.”

  2. Well, I do know I’m teaching our son to make a bed that you can flip a quarter off of — and also for this reason.
    To quote the Admiral: “If you did it right, the corners would be square, the covers pulled tight, the pillow centered just under the headboard and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack—that’s Navy talk for bed. It was a simple task, mundane at best. But every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection.

    “If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.”

    This is my favorite commencement speech:

  3. Todd responded to The Union article and this blog post writing in a belittling tone: “Dirty Local Politics? Naw, toughen up! No wimps allowed!” Then perhaps Todd can “toughen up” and explain why a person with the same name as his is listed on the public document “Owners of Real Property with Prior Year Delinquent Taxes as of 05-05-14” at the County, but that same person can still afford to happily contribute to local candidates’ campaigns. Todd epitomizes what’s wrong with our local politics.

  4. Now Barry Pruett, who doesn’t vote in District 3 but is supporting Miller with money and laudatory blog posts, along with attacks on any criticism of Dan’s campaign, weighs in on Todd’s blog: “Barry Pruett May 29, 2014 at 12:15 PM
    “The local extreme left (aided and abetted by Pelline) are in a tizzy, because Dan Miller and Hank Weston are going to beat their challengers by double digits. Pay the unwarranted criticism no mind…just put your head down and keep moving “forward.” BTW…Jeff’s article is libelous in that he accuses Miller of coordination by stating that he could have stopped the independent expenditure. A retraction is likely in order.”

    First of all, I have voted for Republicans and Democrats over the years. I am as moderate as you can get. Just disgusted by the political bullying of the hard right in our community — like many people. Anybody who knows me knows my politics are moderate. In fact, I put a campaign sign for Nate Beason (a GOPer) in my side yard (for one day) when he ran against Sue McGuire. Unlike Pruett, I have endorsed no candidates in this race or given money. I don’t live in that District.

    Second of all, I am not accusing Dan of “coordination.” I am stating that Dan’s campaign could have easily spread the word to the Contractors PAC not to run a nasty ad like that. It sets the tone for the campaign. It is exactly the same as the issue with the “It’s Miller Time” campaign signs hanging over the “nonpartisan” Chamber office. If it wanted to, Dan’s campaign could have asked them to take it down.

    And why is Pruett so involved in Miller’s campaign? He sure ran an ugly campaign against Greg Diaz. It’s why I donated $500 to Diaz’ campaign — the first and last campaign donation I ever made.

    People need to stand up the political bullying by the hard right in our community.

    BTW, here’s another example of that kind of bullying:

  5. Miller’s comment about the hit piece on Lamphier put out by his PAC and the contractors association of Grass Valley (shame on you ) , was canned sound bite number 1 on the Right wing Talking Points Memo ” It’s not my ad so I can’t comment”.

  6. Er…um…he can comment, he could have said publicly that he would not appreciate negative advertising from people supporting his campaign, he can say he doesn’t like it, he can publicly state that he would like it taken down, but he cannot coordinate with a PAC in advance of an ad. Them’s the rules.

    1. You bet he can comment. “I do not condone that kind of ad,” for example.

      “But he can’t coordinate with a PAC in advance of an ad. Them’s the rules.”
      It’s interesting how Pruett (who claimed here the other day “politics in my life is not that important”) immediately honed in on that issue. Hmmm.

  7. Now Greg Goodknight, who has strong opinions about Marching Presidents, Common Core standards, and global warming, has weighed in on Todd’s blog with the same set of lies and personal attacks that he likes to dredge up to support his like-minded pals “when the going gets tough.” That is the MO of this group. It never is persuasive but that doesn’t stop them: Prop. 23 was summarily rejected locally (to “global-warming Greg’s” disappointment), Barry lost the election to Diaz for clerk-recorder in every precinct, and Todd had a short-lived return as CABPRO’s founder. The political “purpleness” of our County infuriates these people. But it has arrived.

  8. Now our small-town political operative Pruett is dredging up his own personal attacks, linking to an article that doesn’t exist to score political points on Todd’s blog: He should be more careful too, because republishing false, libelous statements exposes him to libel. Any lawyer could tell him that. LOL.

    And as for casting stones about “honesty,” I’ll never forget this episode from Pruett’s campaign:

    The whirlwind of activity by the hard right over this issue reminds me of Shakespeare’s saying “The Lady doth protest too much.” I think The Union’s article really got to them — or they wouldn’t have reacted this way. They hate it when they can’t control The Union. Then they resort to personal attacks when all else fails.

  9. This cracks me up: I have a 30-year career as a journalist, having worked at The Chronicle for more than a decade, helped launch CNET (that was sold to CBS for $2 billion), having won a prestigious National Magazine Award, started a successful new venture up here, won work in competitive RFP process, and this guy Pruett (whose own resume included this ugly episode is now passing judgement on my career and accomplishments. Small towns are a hoot! You have to figure out a way to interact with people who aren’t in your professional league — and never will be. Pruett is one of them.

    1. For those unwanted magazines, my friendly letter carrier says-

      File a USPS form 1500 alleging the junk mail is obscene.

      “Pursuant to federal law (Title 39 USC § 3008), a postal addressee who receives an unsolicited (or solicited) advertisement offering for sale matter that, in the addressee’s sole discretion, is “erotically arousing or sexually provocative,” may, by completing PS Form 1500, obtain a Prohibitory Order from the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) directing the mailer to refrain from making further mailings to that addressee.

      While the law, the form and the USPS instructions for using the form were originally intended for sexually explicit and provocative mail, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a decision – Rowan vs. U.S. Post Office Department, 397 U.S. 728 (1970) – ruled that the law under Title 39 USC § 4009 (now 39 USC § 3008) includes all unwanted commercial mail. Thus, PS Form 1500 is no longer used just for sexually explicit or provocative mail – although it still reads as such.”

  10. Does anybody know how to turn off the Pruett spigot? LOL.
    His political history is well documented, and he has brought it to our community. Lucky us:

    •Democrats sweep Portage Township Board Race

    •Political sniping heats up

    •Pruett: “The only way I can fight back is to never vote for a Democrat”

    1. Maybe Keoni ‘The Truth’ Allen would like to tell us why Martin Harmon made such a large donation that will likely end up in someone’s Nevada County campaign fund.

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