“As someone who has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from the Lin family for giving them special zoning privileges–if I we’re a lawyer–I would call that bribery, but I’m not a lawyer, so I’ll let Mr. Swalwell define what he thinks taking all this money from people he gave special zoning privileges is. Maybe, this is how he sees his role in government.” –Pete Stark
Pete Stark’s now infamous screed accusing Eric Swalwell of bribery last April is not the year’s most memorable quote in East Bay politics because it is particularly clever or well-delivered, but because it represents a very rare moment when history, or in this case, the end of Stark’s 40-year reign in Congress, can be precisely located in both time and place.
Hindsight now tells us his utterance that April night in Hayward was his downfall. Not roughly criticizing President George W. Bush or bullying those dirty Republicans in Congress, but an ill-timed assertion, that eventually rang with some truth, of scandal against his opponent whose only fault was that the allegation was not yet fully cooked.
You couldn’t rightfully place the tag of graft on Swalwell or the Lin family in April. The whiff of impropriety, though, was certainly there and, c’mon, name a Tri Valley politician who doesn’t have their hands in the pockets of rich developers. The Lin’s, however, were good at evasion, but when I started investigation a similar occurrence with Amador Valley Industries, a garbage company in Dublin, starting in July, the missing parts of Swalwell’s dirty DNA became clear.
When the story came out in October basically vindicating for Stark what the local corporate media deemed his mad-ravings, it was way too late. The ugly cast of a blowhard, out-of-touch, four-decade incumbent had long hardened. For Swalwell, all he had to do is show up and run out the clock while the San Francisco Chronicle handed him the keys to the East Bay’s coveted congressional seat without ever pondering whether he knew how to drive.
2011 – Ken Pratt. “I nominate her [Jean Quan] the queen of residential blight.”
2010 – Bill Lockyer. “I’m just a volunteer.”
2009 – Pete Stark. “Well, I wouldn’t dignify you by peeing on your leg. It wouldn’t be worth wasting the urine.”