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What's This About Juan Vargas At "The Corporate Pig Trough?" You Thought Only Republicans Did That?

San Diego Reader politics columnist Matt Porter quoted some Blue America material in his latest slash'n'bash: Juan Vargas challenged for his seat at corporate pig trough. I hope a lot of voters see it but it would have been much better had Porter found some of the original DWT posts on Vargas from one decade ago. I'll share some material from a couple of them below. Meanwhile, Porter wrote, accurately, that "After years of coasting through easy re-election battles, House Democrat Juan Vargas-- running in California’s newly redrawn 52nd District and facing a challenger from his party’s left-- is unlikely to find much different this campaign season. 'Establishment politicians and the rich have reigned over our democracy for too long,' declares Joaquin Vazquez, a fellow Democrat, on his campaign website. Adds a dispatch from Blue America, which runs a liberal political action committee backing Vazquez: 'Bernie won the district both times he ran for president. The incumbent, Juan Vargas, is a corrupt New Dem with a long, self-serving careerist history, first in the legislature and then in Congress. You might call him business-friendly, but a more accurate term is Vargas-friendly.'"

I included the 2022 Bluer California thermometer on the left because I'd like to give everyone an opportunity to contribute to Vazquez's grassroots campaign to replace Vargas. (Just click on it; it's a live link.) Back to Porter's piece in The Reader: "Vazquez has promised not to accept corporate contributions for his effort to dislodge Vargas. 'Not taking corporate money may put me at a disadvantage in fundraising, but this is how we will ensure we are only beholden to the people’s actual priorities, not to big business,' says the candidate in a statement cited by Blue America. 'It is how we will ensure that families are no longer separated at the border and within our neighborhoods, and get closer to abolishing ICE.' Unlike incumbent Democrat Sara Jacobs in the 53rd District to the North, who made a similar pledge and then relied on millions of dollars of her Qualcomm-generated family fortune to get into office, Vazquez is from humble roots, and likely won’t be self-funding. Federal disclosure records show Vargas came up with a total of $622,989 between the first day of 2021 and the end of March, with ending cash on hand of $250,400. Donors included Verizon, AT&T, State Farm Insurance, and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters. Spending has included $7050 on January 29 of last year for a “vehicle lease signing payment” to San Diego Dodge, Jeep, Ram, and $115,605.35 in January to his longtime friend and political guru Larry Remer’s Primacy Group for his annual holiday card. The vehicle might not incur as much mileage in the new district as the old, which saw its labored stretch to the Imperial Valley lopped off by redistricting, while creating a super-wide 36-point voter registration lean to Democrats, per FiveThirtyEight."

When I first started following Vargas corrupt career, he was still in the state legislature. I was somewhat shocked by an assessment of Vargas in an interview with San Diego's then-congressman, progressive champion Bob Filner:

"While Juan has not yet been convicted of a crime, virtually everyone closest to him has been found guilty of something. Juan's former Chief-of Staff and handpicked successor on the San Diego City Council is now a convicted felon. Another of Juan's political cronies made millions off the poorest people in National City as a slumlord and recently, Juan's chief campaign consultant was convicted of a felony for misusing public money... If Juan truly didn't have any knowledge of the crimes his close associates have committed then he may well be the most clueless man in America."

Filner is referring to “StripperGate” where Vargas’s former Chief of Staff was convicted of taking bribes from a Strip club owner. San Diego was preparing to send California's worst DINO to Congress. Let’s take a quick look at how this Vargasauras Rex was hatched and nurtured on the teat of Insurance companies.

In the state Assembly, Vargas bought the chair of the Insurance Committee, where he ran up a record of steadfast friendliness with the industry-- as Republican as any actual Republican could ever be. As he was finishing his Assembly term, he swore he would not seek an insurance position. "In April, Vargas was asked whether he would take an insurance job if he lost the election. 'I'm not going into insurance or finance,' he told the San Diego Union-Tribune. 'I'm just not interested.' He was lying, of course. Following his tenure, Vargas immediately accepted a position as an insurance lobbyist-- Vice-President of California External Affairs for Safeco. During his first unsuccessful campaign for Congress, Vargas was harshly criticized for accepting $335,000 in campaign contributions from insurers and frequently taking their side while chairman of the Assembly Insurance Committee.

Juan’s response? "I'm really excited about the job. It's a great opportunity for me and the community." Yeah, especially the community.

In three campaigns for the Assembly and an unsuccessful run this year for Congress, Vargas received more than $354,000 in donations from various insurance companies and industry groups, including $9,700 from Safeco, according to campaign finance reports. In a press release posted on its Web site, Safeco said Vargas would lead the company’s public policy strategy in California and serve as a liaison with California state officials, community leaders and other businesses and associations.

In a spin that would make most vomit in their mouth, Vargas' Wikipedia page (obviously written by a staff member) describes his job like this: "After serving in the State Assembly until 2006, Juan took a job with a home, auto and small business insurance company and was tasked with creating jobs and outreach in diverse San Diego Communities as part of the company's diversity initiative."

When he ran for the state Senate against progressive Mary Salas the insurance industry played an outsized role in getting their lobbyist into office, spending freely in his race. But they weren't alone in funding the attacks on Salas. CJAC is playing a starring role in this race. They set up two campaign committees-- “Californians for Balance and Fairness” and “California Back to Work”-- which poured in $257,000 and $721,000 respectively on behalf of Vargas. Who is CJAC? Donations (often in six figures) to these campaign committees included:

  • Jobs-PAC, which is the California Chamber of Commerce’s political arm

  • Farm-PAC, which represents agribusiness interests

  • Mercury Auto Insurance

  • Californians for Jobs and a Strong Economy, who represents Safeway, Blue Cross and a who’s who of the largest corporations in America.

Wanna know how much love California landlords showed Vargas in that race? The California Apartment Association spent six figures in independent expenditures on his behalf.

Vargas had been as horrible in office as the unions feared (and as the insurance companies hoped) so what did the unions do in the congressional campaign? They backed him for a seat in the U.S. Congress-- because they wanted to get him out of Sacramento. All those unions that vigorously opposed Vargas two years earlier endorsed him against two more progressive opponents and his bid was backed, shamefully, by the California Democratic Party, the San Diego and Imperial Counties' Labor Council, the United Food and Commercial Workers, the International Association of Firefighters, International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, the United Association: Union of Plumbers, Fitters, Welders, and HVAC Service Techs, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees-AFL-CIO, the Sheet Metal Workers International Association, the SD International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 569, the Laborers' International Union of North America, the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association, the National Association of Letter Carriers, the American Federation of Teachers, the California Teachers Association, the California Federation of Teachers, and, in case you missed the point, the California Labor Federation. And almost all the Sacramento political leaders who opposed him when he ran for the state Senate seat. If Californians were wondering why our state failed to enact single payer health care legislation with such big Democratic majorities in both houses of the state legislature, they might want to ask the unions who are backing Juan Vargas, who refused to vote for it.

Swallowed up by history! And today, alas, Juan Vargas is an entrenched New Dem fighting for just one thing: his own career. His progressive opponent, Joaquín Vázquez, has a very different approach... he's fighting-- issue by issue-- to make his district healthier, more vibrant and safer. Take a look at Vazquez's stands by clicking on the image below... and, once again, if you're impressed, consider contributing to his campaign here.

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