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