Karen Ocamb

Yes on 8 Attorney Andy Pugno Trying to Mislead Voters

Filed By Karen Ocamb | October 19, 2010 3:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Andrew Pugno, Andy Pugno, California, state assembly race, Yes on 8

Every political season, some candidates fashion their biography to win the primary, and then scrub or eschew their more extreme positions to court moderates and independents in the general election. This is especially true in California, which is far more conservative/independent than it is perceived to be. Pugno at podium msThis weekend, for instance, Republican former HP CEO Carly Fiorina who's gunning for Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer's seat with an off-the-rails John McCain - was unavailable when Tea Party darling Sarah Palin stumped for GOP candidates in Orange County - even though Palin's endorsement helped Fiorina win the primary.

But Republican candidate Andy Pugno (pictured here at a post-Prop 8 trial news conference) – who is running for an Assembly seat in District 5 (eastern Sacramento County, Arden Arcade and Folsom) – appears to be so hungry for a win that he's scrubbed from his official candidate biography of any reference to his life's work fighting against same sex marriage and abortion rights for women, even in the case of rape or incest. Instead he trips over himself trying to use as many GOP catch phrases as possible:

"Small business owner Andy Pugno has a passion for his community, real world experience, and wants to see California thrive again. Since opening his own law practice, Andy has built a successful business in the greater Sacramento area as an effective taxpayer advocate -- helping hundreds of local families to reduce their federal, state and local taxes."

So law practice is a "small business" that focuses on effective tax policies. But, as a story in the Sacramento News & Review published last Thursday (Oct. 14) points out:

"According to state campaign-finance records, the Law Offices of Andrew P. Pugno received $200,473.79 from ProtectMarriage.com, the major proponent of Prop. 8, for consulting, petition processing, office support, professional legal and accounting services and travel in 2008."

In 2009, Pugno was busy fighting against the federal challenge to the constitutionality of Prop 8 in the Perry vs Pugno at Prop 8 ncSchwarzenegger trial. He also lead every news conference and seemed to be continue to be the key spokesperson for defendant-intervenors Protect Marriage. In those days - last year - Pugno was proud of his antigay marriage history, as he explained in an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times. Pugno was 22 when he worked for antigay state Sen. Pete Knight of Prop 22 fame – whose widow Gail spearheaded Prop 8.

"A significant factor in the campaign was the possibility of voter sympathy for same-sex couples taking advantage of the new [marriage equality] law. However, I think that the images most voters saw brought into focus that same-sex marriage is not marriage at all, that it is something else, and actually helped the campaign.

I think that if Pete Knight were alive today, he would see that all of his hard work has not been in vain."

As Jeremy Hooper at Good As You and Geoff Kors at Equality California point out, Pugno is letting his old Prop 8 companion – the National Organization for Marriage – promote is antigay marriage values with a $100,000-plus ad buy in Sacramento.

Kors says:

"In this latest ad, NOM is once again taking advantage of children to spread their message of hate. Just like their Prop. 8 ads, they show a school-age girl reading a book called “King and King” that talks about a committed same-sex couple. They are saying that learning about LGBT people is bad for children. NOM’s ad sends a horrible message to our youth and all Californians. It is unconscionable that they are using children as a campaign tool — especially at a time of increased reports of LGBT youth suicides and bullying."

Kors says that EQCA has "field staff on the ground working to defeat him and elect [Pugno's opponent] Dr. Pan, we are doing live calls to our members from offices throughout the state and we are mailing our endorsement to our members in the district. We have also fundraising events for him in several cities in California."

Pugno at podium2Last January, the Courage Campaign’s Rick Jacobs filed a complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission against Pugno. Robert Cruickshank, Public Policy Director for the Courage Campaign, wrote on Calitics that the complaint alleged that

"Pugno misused public funds while on the staff of State Senator Pete Knight in the late 1990s to help the campaign to pass the so-called 'Knight Initiative' – a California version of the Defense of Marriage Act banning same-sex marriage. This went to voters in November 2000 as Proposition 22 and was approved with 61% of the vote."

Jacobs based his complaint on information in an investigative report by Robert Salladay on Pugno’s involvement in the Prop 22 campaign while on the payroll of the California State Senate.

"Specifically, it was alleged that Pugno used public resources of the State Senate – phones, faxes, stationery – to vet the proposed initiative with Mormon leaders. Salladay included a letter Pugno wrote on February 26, 1998 to BYU law professor Lynn Wardle. The letter was on California State Senate letterhead and asked Wardle to review proposed ballot language with an eye toward ensuring it could pass at the ballot box. It was also reported that Pugno may have used public funds to travel to Arizona for a “strategic consultation” meeting with LDS leaders that same year. That appears to be in violation of the Political Reform Act, which governs issues such as this."

Jacobs filed the official complaint against Pugno with the FPPC and wrote to California Attorney General Jerry Brown (now the Democratic candidate for governor) seeking an investigation (see that letter here) and, Cruickshank wrote, "to the Secretary of the Senate, Greg Schmidt, seeking public disclosure of various documents related to Pugno’s campaign work while on the staff of Senator Knight (see that letter here)."

The FPPC wrote back Feb. 4, 2010, saying they reviewed the complaint but the conduct described "is not prohibited or regulated by the Political Reform Act," and therefore is not in their jurisdiction. They suggest sending the complaint to AG Brown. Jacobs said Monday: "We never heard back from them."

Another point that has escaped public scrutiny is that Pugno knowingly associates with an organization that Pugno with Austin Nimocks, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund - photo by Mark Hefflingerexplicitly excludes Jews and Mormons from employment.

In a diary cross-posted to Calitics on Friday, Sept. 19, 2008, Pam's House Blend blogger Autumn Sandeen wrote:

"On September 8th, a Jewish, conservative Republican — David Benkof — wrote a piece entitled Right-wing nonsense, where he questioned the Yes On 8 – Protect Marriage Campaign’s use of the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) as their legal defense team:

'I believe marriage is between a man and a woman, so I supported the man-woman marriage Proposition 8 in California – until I discovered the Proposition 8 campaign tolerates discrimination against Jews. ProtectMarriage.com’s legal counsel, the Alliance Defense Fund, has in effect a “No Jews Need Apply” policy for legal and even secretarial positions. They say they’re not a law firm, they’re a “ministry” and thus have a right to discriminate against Jews and other non-Christians. But even if that’s true, Proposition 8 had hundreds of law firms to choose from. The fact they chose one that refuses to hire a Jew like me is very disturbing.'"

Sandeen checked the ADF's employment policies and found "he’s correct on the facts, in that the ADF doesn’t hire anyone but those who ascribe to the ADF’s vision of Christianity," which means ADF does not hire Jews or - ironically given the Prop 8 association - Mormons.

Neither NOM nor ADF are listed among Pugno's endorsements - which seems mostly "mainstream" Republicans. But ADF feels close to Pugno - calling him an "ally" with whom they look forward to working.

So far it appears no Sacramento political reporter has challenged Pugno on whether his belief in religious liberty includes agreeing with ADF's policy against hiring Jews and Mormons.

For more on Pugno, see Sacramento Stonewall Democrats' website – www.stopandrewpugno.com.

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Thanks for pointing this out, Karen. I"m glad to know you're working hard to get the information out there so people don't forget just how anti-gay Pugno is.