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Former Aide to Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez is being investigated — Funds in question may have paid for a vacation!

May 29th, 2008 · 19 Comments

Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez represents an area close to where I was raised. When she won her seat against former Congressman Bob Dornan in 1996, I remember feeling so proud and hopeful for her. A Latina was going to represent the Garden Grove/Santa Ana area, a big patch of diversity behind the conservative Orange Curtain.

In the 12 years that she has been in congress, Congresswoman Sanchez has not accomplished much. She raised eyebrows for scheduling a fundraiser at the Playboy Mansion back in 2000, she also has developed a reputation as a flirt and a ham, and she’s known for her “cheeky” holiday cards. Last year, she generated some press for getting in a spat with Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Joe Baca after he called her a “whore.” She has since resigned as a member of the caucus.

One of my political science professors at UC Irvine, Mark Petracca, has even said this about Congresswoman Sanchez, “Show me three important national pieces of legislation that have come out of her office. If I were her, I’d be scared. You had an excuse all these years (being in the minority party), and you could play frivolous. Not anymore.”

So when I found this article in the Washington Post a few days about about Sanchez’s former aide Caroline Valdez, who is being investigated for misappropriating thousands of dollars, I became even more troubled. Ms. Valdez, who served as the congresswoman’s executive assistant, made payments of nearly $10,000 back to Sanchez’s office at about the time she was dismissed from her position. I realize that staffers get reimbursed often for travel, events, and other functions, but for an aide to have to pay back nearly $10,000 makes me wonder what she was doing with it in the first place.

Congresswoman Sanchez declined to comment, saying that this is a personnel issue. There is a similar case in the House, where a bookkeeper, Laura I. Flores, just pleaded guilty to embezzling $170,000 through false expense reports. The Washington Post said that Flores worked for four different house offices, but it isn’t clear whether or not she worked for Loretta Sanchez.

This greedy public servant mentality turns people off to politics, and when Latinos engage in this behavior, it raises the level of scrutiny that they already face. When will the gente learn to cut this behavior? Caroline Valdez was already earning more than $40,000 as an executive assistant to Congresswoman Sanchez, which is probably more than most people in 47th Congressional District earn in a year. Travel and other office related expenses are routinely reimbursed, but using funds to pay for a vacation? Inexcusable! Congresswoman Sanchez needs to do a better job of managing her staff and focusing more on legislation instead of cultivating her party girl persona.

Photo Credit: Washington Post

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Tags: Congressional Hispanic Caucus · Congressman Joe Baca · Rep. Loretta Sanchez

19 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Barrio Abogado // May 29, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    I take offense and am disappointed with your characterization of Congresswoman Sanchez as a party girl. As her former legislative director and district director, I believe I can speak with direct knowledge about her character and dedication to her constituents.

    First, you should make it clear that the Congresswoman has not been involved in any malfeasance. Her aide abused a position of trust to steal money from the congressional budget account. As soon as the malfeasance was uncovered, the individual was dismissed and made to repay the money. The person may still be prosecuted for the theft.

    Second, you of all people know that passing a bill in Congress is an extremely complicated process. The process is made more complicated when you are the minority party. Do really believe that the GOP was going to let a bill pass the House with the Sanchez name on it? The truth is that Congresswoman Sanchez has passed many amendments to major pieces of legislation. Most recently, she authored an amendment to protect women by reducing and prosecuting incidences of sexual assault in the armed forces and military academies. She has returned millions of dollars to taxpayers in her congressional district to repair roads, schools, provide ground water treatment, and to assist veterans. She was one of the few democrats to vote against going to war in Iraq. She has privately sponsored scholarships for students to attend college. She has also been a champion on human rights against the governments of China, Myanmar and Vietnam. She has fought for pro-choice for women and she returns to her congressional district every week to meet with constituents. She has assisted hundreds of people to resolve their problems with the Veterans Administration, Social Security Administration, the IRS and ICE. No one in Congress works harder than Congresswoman Sanchez.

    Third, the fundraiser at the Playboy Mansion was not an issue until one week before the event. That’s when the DNC demanded that she cancel the event after encouraging her to hold the fundraiser and giving her prior approval to host the event. Previous elected officials hosting events at the Mansion included former Gov. Jerry Brown and former LA mayor Tom Bradley. No one demanded that they cancel their events!

    Lastly, I find it appalling that you classify her as a party girl. Coming from another woman is distressing. If she were a man people would admire her for her sense of humor and playfulness. Instead, she is classified as flirt and a ham. She may not fit into everyone’s view of congressional behavior but the truth is she is a strong and independent woman. Ms. Sanchez had every right to defend herself when another member of congress called her a “whore.” No woman should have to take that kind of abuse from a colleague. I applaud Ms. Sanchez for standing up for herself against sexism.

  • 2 webmaster // May 29, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    Barrio Abogado,

    I agree w/ a lot of what you write. I am very proud that Loretta Sanchez voted against the war and that she has stood up for women’s rights. Those accomplishments should be noted, and I’m also proud that she shows up to work. She has voted on 95+ % of the bills that go before the house.

    That being said, I think that she has a bit of an image issue. Sure, it might come from being a woman, and yes, it was wrong for “Working Joe” Baca to call her a whore in public, but Congresswoman Sanchez could do so much more. Frankly, I’m not very happy with a lot of the Latino and Latina politicians representing us in Washington.

    In blogsphere, there is even a blog, titled the Coconut Caucus, ranting about the ineffectiveness of our leaders.

    I hope that Loretta Sanchez can rise up and become an effective legislator. She could learn from Waxman, Wexler, Charlie Rangel, and so many more. During this session of Congress, Loretta Sanchez has sponsored 14 pieces of legislation. Why can’t she do more? The more pieces she introduces and co-sponsors, the increased likelihood that something will pass. (Again, look at Charlie Rangel, that guy is a legislating machine! Or even Congresswoman Lowey from NY.)

    So much of politics is perception, and unfortunately, little incidents like this w/ her former staffer don’t do anything to enhance her image. If she were Congressman Laurence Smith, then maybe she would get a pass, but she doesn’t have the privilege of being a WASP man politician.

    Maybe, you could write a blog post about all of the wonderful things Loretta Sanchez has done or plans to do. I would welcome it and even cheer her on!

    Come on Loretta! Kick it up a notch!

  • 3 Michaelr // May 29, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    All the more reason Loretta should not conduct herself in the manner she has publicly conducted herself in the past. You’d think by this time she would’ve learned from her mistakes, and figured out a way to be more productive in Congress and refine that public image that has her constantly playing in the gutter. Didn’t your mother tell you that for you to be recognized for your achievements you were going to have to work three times harder, be three times smarter, and be three times squeakier clean in your behavior with the opposite sex. There will never be any racial equality practiced within the Halls of Power. And Loretta has to work with the double whammy to boot. That means no more photo opportunities with Hugh Hefner and his silicone bitches, no more undressing in front of reporters trying to conduct interviews, no more inebriated public displays at parties with strangers, no more making promises you never intend to keep, and no more missing votes in the House, and no more using public monies for personal adventures. I don’t hear Joe Baca calling Gloria Molina and Gloria Romero whores. That doesn’t say much for Joe Baca, but still, that is the perception Loretta Sanchez conveys to the public, the printed media, and her critics in the House. As her so-called friend, you should be advising her to walk a different path instead of making excuses for her. She feeds off the public trough, and that makes her behavior that much more disgusting.

  • 4 Barrio Abogado // May 29, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    Rangel and Waxman are Chairmen of two of the most powerful committees in the House and therefore should be expected to sponsor numerous bills. They have many highly paid professional committee staff to carry their legislative priorities forward. It worthless to introduce a bill just for show. Any bill that a member introduces should have a purpose and a realistic chance of passage otherwise why waste the time. Most of Loretta’s bills have ended up being attached to other bills as amendments. No one writes about those success stories. Instead some people in own community choose to believe the worst about her.

    It is very easy to sit back and be critical and pass judgment. It is a very different thing to try to step up and provide the leadership needed in our community. Before people cast stones, they need to ask what they are doing to empower the community? If people really feel our leadership has failed them, then they should look in the mirror and try running for elected office. Every two years, Ms. Sanchez has to run in a marginally Democratic district. She makes no complaint and has been re-elected by overwhelming percentages each election. There are many other members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus who have safe seats and could take stronger stands on behalf of Latinos and they don’t. How come no one attacks those members for their lack of effort. Loretta has never been afraid to step up and do the right thing. Loretta has taken on the GOP and others over women’s rights, immigration and the war in Iraq. Instead of attacking her on superficial matters, everyone should take the time to get their facts about her congressional record straight. Much of the sensationalism written about Cong. Sanchez is manufactured and helps sells newspapers and magazines. People ignore that those stories aren’t true. What I tried to do was provide the blog with some facts about her alleged behavior. What people decide to believe is entirely their choice.

  • 5 Publius // May 29, 2008 at 4:34 pm

    Different members bring different talents to the table. When is the last time Henry Waxman spent a Saturday in his district going door to door with volunteers, registering voters, and engaging people in the political process?
    Tell me when you last heard about Charlie Rangel setting up a table outside of a supermarket to bring constituent services to people who work during typical office hours? Many people are too intimidated to find their representatives district office and ask for help.
    Loretta is the MASTER of retail politics. Her work helps Democrats and Latinos up and down the ticket.
    Unlike many of the elected officials known for their legislative efforts, she isn’t afraid to interact with the people she represents.
    And I’d venture a guess that DOZENS of CongressMEN would have reputations much worse than a “ham” or a “flirt” if you honestly applied the same standards to them that you apply to a younger, attractive, single woman.

  • 6 Wendy Carrillo // May 29, 2008 at 6:14 pm

    holly molly! i was going to comment on where in the world did you get that horrible picture of her! surely there are more flattering ones! ahhh… the beauty of the press and their intentional photos of character.
    i have to say that i too, am a bit distressed at her being called a party girl… there is a double standard of that… men get to party and they are admired… women… not so much. maybe we should all be barefoot and pregnant making tortillas! and being called a whore?! o.m.g.! uncalled for! was he repremanded for that?!!!
    but the bottom line is this: always hire Asians to do the booking. we have known this since 10th grade algebra gente! come on!

  • 7 Art Pedroza // May 29, 2008 at 8:06 pm

    If Congresswoman Sanchez doesn’t want to be called a party girl, then she should not act like one. The last time I saw her in public was at the Azteca Restaurant in Garden Grove a few months back. She was drunk off her gourd and hanging out of her dress. She was there with some old white guy. I was embarrassed for her.

  • 8 Bearguez // May 29, 2008 at 8:09 pm

    It’s amazing what passes for approved political performances when that person happens to be of the same ethnic group. Ted Kennedy alone has done more for Latino political objectives than every single Latino Congressional representative who has ever gone to DC. That should bring shame to every member of the U.S. Hispanic Caucus. But there are people out in 47th Congressional District who are actually content to pay Loretta Sanchez the same salary as Ted Kennedy, and applaud her performance. Are your political expectations so low that you’re willing to part with your hard earned wages so Loretta can waste that money doing her same song and dance? Where are all those government jobs that are supposed put more food on your table? Where are those vouchers that are supposed to generate financial aid for higher education? Doesn’t look like Loretta has made much difference in the quality of life for her constituents? Oh, but she flirts so well, and looks so sexy in her Christmas cards. I guess those are great qualities for a U.S. congressional representative. Maybe someone should call Hugh Hefner, and tell him to ban her from the Playboy mansion so she can do some actual work.

  • 9 the Kaiser // May 29, 2008 at 8:34 pm

    I am shocked that there are Bloggers extolling the political virtues of Loretta the fish. Aren’t bloggers supposed to be more informed than the rest of the media hounds? Why do you think this woman is so loathed by her contemporaries? It certainly isn’t because she’s Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and Hillary Clinton rolled into one. Every time I see Loretta she’s drunk and humiliating herself. I guess we should all be proud of that!

  • 10 webmaster // May 29, 2008 at 10:58 pm

    Wendy, I found this pic off of the Washington Post article about the aide who is being investigated.

    As for being compared to committee chairs and more senior legislators, I can realize that these aren’t the best comparisons, but I would love to see her become more of a leader and mentor. When I think of great congress members, Senators, assembly people, etc., I want to remember them more for what they accomplished in terms of laws to better our society than for how they behaved at a certain party or what kind of Christmas card they sent out. I just think that Loretta, as a middle aged congresswoman, who has been in office for six terms should have a few legislative accomplishments that she can rattle off. If she does, she needs to do a better job of highlighting those accomplishments. I would be more than happy to hear from any of her staffers, former staffers, etc. and post that info on this blog.

    Loretta has some substantive bills in various committees that could be great, especially H.R. 2572 and H.R. 2543, but she also has some fluff such as the one about honoring the life of Luciano Pavorotti, H. Res. 708. Seriously, how many people in her district even listen to Pavorotti?

  • 11 Latino Consultant // May 29, 2008 at 11:18 pm

    I believe it is unfair to evaluate Loretta on the basis of legislation passed. Not only unfair but a little off considering virtually the whole time she has been in the minority nearly the whole time.

    What has she done? First, she is a powerful advocate for her District and continues to acquire significant discretionary allocations for the area. Second, she has been a powerful advocate on immigration and has taken on conservative Democrats quite effectively. Third, I am very pleased that she has gotten into a strong position on Armed Services.

    She has made some mistakes – I wasn’t real happy about the Playboy Mansion business – but then the Goritas really overreacted and it got ugly. I thought it interesting that it became an issue when LATINOS were headed there. What about all the rest of the guys and gals who had already been there.

    I don’t think her Christmas Cards are much of an issue either. Anyone around her knows she works incredibly hard at her job – something most members don’t do.

    I congratulate her taking on Baca – come on folks – we all know what he can be like. I am quite sure he said what Loretta reported. I think he should be taken on.

    Lastly, I have never been that impressed with Mark Petracca. He certainly, however, is impressed with himself.

    Loretta is what she is – aren’t we all. She is honest, hardworking, unconventional, strong, effective and understand her job is to help her District. I very much admire the work she has done. Maybe I have been closer to it because of my engagement in the community. I have seen a lot of evidence or hard work and effective advocacy.

    If Loretta wants to have a little fun, I think she is entitled to it.

  • 12 Michaelr // May 30, 2008 at 1:29 am

    Working hard doesn’t seem to get her anywhere. Maybe she should change her staffers and try working smart. Nevertheless, Loretta’s problems with staffers are a reflection of Loretta and her limited abilities to work towards goals, complete them and set an example. Congratulating civil servants who don’t accomplish very much seems self defeating, especially since they’re being paid at executive levels. But I guess she gets a pass because she’s trying, she’s a woman, and she’s brown. I wonder if Cesar Chavez would see her in the same light as you do. I see this says something about Latino political values, and the limitations we put on our dreams and accomplishments. Since we are at the bottom of the food chain, I guess we have to get used to constantly looking up. I don’t see Gloria Molina and Gloria Romero hanging out with Hugh Hefner, taking their clothes off in front of reporters, and getting drunk at the Azteca Restaurant in Garden Grove with old white guys. She is what she is. And the people who back her, and continue to vote for her get what they deserve.

  • 13 DoctorH // Jun 1, 2008 at 11:17 pm

    From our think tank in Santa Monica, we have studied the political progression of Loretta Brixey the floozy, Republican candidate for the Anaheim City Council to Loretta Sanchez the lush, Democratic Congressperson representing the 47th District of California. By the comments on this posting, we are seeing that a Spanish surname attached to a political candidate’s name is no guarantee that one’s fleecing of the U.S. taxpayer will no longer go unnoticed by the Latino voter. I am thrilled to see that higher education has brought to bear serious enlightenment amongst these bloggers who are fully aware of this Congressperson’s abuse of her office and lackluster achievements. Her House Res; 708: Honoring the life and accomplishments of Luciano Pavarotti represents the wayward obligations of her office and her total lack of stewardship for the poverty-stricken citizens of Santa Ana, California who need her help the most. Keep up the good work bloggers, and hopefully you can open the eyes of that generation of Latino voters who follow anyone with a Spanish surname.

  • 14 Bearguez // Jun 6, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    Her sister isn’t much better. Looks like products of similar viewpoints and habits.

  • 15 mikey1ab // Jun 19, 2008 at 5:03 am

    Pedroza is full of @#$% as usual–Loretta doesn’t even drink. Her “party girl”/”lush” rep is the product of spiteful enemies and the popular interest in the behavior of political animals. Our congresswoman is actually quite respected in Congress and is a powerful member of the Defense and Homeland Security committees. She even serves as the chairwoman of the Border, Infrastructure and Counterterrorism Subcommittee. The personal story everyone is missing, however, is Loretta’s secret love affair that’s been going on for years with a man in Washington. It has been a rumor forever in Washington circles. Personally, I don’t care about what consenting adults do, but why is this man such a secret? Rumor is that he is some kind of military or intel officer, who could face discipline over the affair. Maybe his identity is protected, like Valerie Plame’s (was)? Sounds very intriguing. C’mon, Loretta, ‘fess up! Your fans are dying of curiosity.

  • 16 dogger7 // Jun 22, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    Sorry, Mikey, Loretta’s boyfriend is not much of a secret anymore and there is no scandal. She has been with a guy named Jack Einwachter for years. He is a retired Army officer currently working for a law firm in or near D.C. We should respect their privacy and limit our comments about Loretta to her performance of her public duties. If you don’t like her politics, then offer principled criticisms, instead of demeaning yourselves with slander and mudslinging. People resort to ad hominem argument because they either don’t like the truth or they are too stupid or frivolous to make rational arguments. Say what you want about Loretta, but she is a smart and respected member of Congress. Attempts to portray her as superficial or a lightweight are motivated by sexist or racist ideology. So, let’s please end the innuendo campaign and elevate this debate to a policy level where it belongs.

  • 17 Ex-aide to Rep. Loretta Sanchez expected to plead guilty to theft // Apr 29, 2009 at 10:49 am

    [...] May, we blogged about an investigation with one of Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez’s former staffers, Caroline [...]

  • 18 Jason Brock // Apr 9, 2011 at 9:15 am

    Funny watching the Democrat operatives come in here and run to Ms. Sanchez’s rescue. She is an incompetent drunk. Lets stop this charade that we need to stick to her failed record and not look at her character as a drunken incompetent leftist elected by illegals.

  • 19 "mystere" // Sep 5, 2011 at 8:18 am

    I am curious about what you’re thinking now, since 3 years have passed since you posted this blog post. I am an Asian American Republican. I remember Bob Dornan, and the way he treated the constituents…he set himself up to lose by his stubborn and arrogant ways. When Sanchez ran against him, he was already on the last straw, doomed, and blinded by his bloated ego.

    I see the same thing coming for Sanchez; she lit the slow burning fuse with her baseless race card attack against Van Trash in the 2010 Race. The voters won’t forget; it’s only a matter of time before she pays the price. With the new development of campaign treasurer Kinde Durkee being jailed in a Federal Pokey, things may not be great for her. I wonder if she will use the campaign treasurer jail excuse next? I saw some of these political plagues coming from a distance.

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