Cracking Open a Miller
Congressman Gary Miller (R-Diamond Bar) has jack-assed his way back into the news. Seems he owns $20,000 in toll road bonds. What's the big deal? Miller is a big-time toll-road supporter, putting his signature on letters of support to the project as well as garnering earmark after earmark of pork-barrel tax-payer dollars for the project, the completion of which is necessary for the return of Miller's money.
The Register tried out a new tactic this week and actually did some reporting for a change:
"Financial disclosures for Rep. Gary Miller, a land developer who represents Orange, San Bernardino and Los Angeles Counties, show he purchased $20,000 in Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency bonds in 2000. The bonds pay investors a fixed rate and are repaid by drivers' tolls."
Though Miller has repeatedly signed financial disclosure forms listing the bonds, he expressed surprise when asked about that investment. Miller said his wife must have purchased the bonds and added that she is largely responsible for the family's investment decisions.
The whole kerfluffle is reminiscent of a 2006 Weekly piece, "Ken Ryan and Friends," regarding then-mayor of Yorba Linda (and chair of the Foothill/Eastern Board) Ken Ryan:
As a principal for EDAW (Eckbo, Dean, Austin and Williams), Ryan is working on the Carrari Ranch Project in San Bernardino County, on land belonging to G. Miller Development Co., owned by Congressman Gary Miller (R-Diamond Bar). Miller is the same congressman whom Congressman Ken Calvert (R-Corona) thanked for his work on the 2006 Transportation Equity Act, which diverts $8 million in federal funds to the 241 project—despite the fact the toll road is supposed to be a private venture. It was classic pork: The act also included $2 million for sound walls in Yorba Linda and Anaheim. Ryan, Miller and Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle gathered on Feb. 17, 2004, in an Anaheim mobile-home park to commemorate the occasion.
In a 2002 Riverside Press-Enterprise article, Ryan is listed as a spokesman for Lytle Development. In the 2004 election, Lytle Development was Miller's top donor.
In 2003, Congressman Miller requested more than $3 million to build a pedestrian bridge over the Imperial Highway in Yorba Linda, where his friend Ryan was known as "Mayor Ryan." Miller was also one of five signatories to a Feb. 17 letter to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in support of the 241. The other four? Calvert, Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach), Darrell Issa (R-Vista) and John Campbell (R-Irvine). Miller, Calvert and Rohrabacher all list real-estate firms as their top campaign contributors in 2004.
Congressman Miller phoned up the Weekly when that article was published, sounding mighty pissed off—butt-hurt, as the kids would say. He claimed we were manufacturing information, alleging impropriety where none was to be found. In short, he was dancing around accusations of libel. We said we had no idea what he was talking about. He said how there was nothing wrong with getting money for the toll road, declaring, "I wish it had been TEN million!" Of course he did. The more federal money he earmarked for the project, the faster it might get built and the sooner he'd get back his twenty stacks.
"Rep. Gary Miller says he will sell his investment in the Foothill/Eastern tollway if the Transportation Corridor Agency is ever successful in building the southern extension to the road…. Miller's congressional spokesman, Scott Toussaint, said in an e-mailed statement that Miller wants to 'make clear that he is committed to upholding the ethical responsibilities of his office.'
"'If TCA ever completes Foothill-South, I will sell my bonds before completion of the project to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest,' Miller said in the statement."
Is there anything illegal about Ken Ryan, Yorba Linda City Councilman and sometimes-mayor, working for a company which then became top donor to a Congressman who earmarked money for projects to benefit Ken Ryan's town and toll road? Probably not. Does it sound bad when phrased that way? Hell yes.
What's odd is that Miller staunchly defended his relationship with Ryan in 2006; what could have changed to make him so sensitive? So tender? So raw? Could it be that, in terms of appearances of impropriety, Congressman Miller's toll road bond investment is Strike Two?
In fact, we're being generous by limiting the strikes to toll-road-related impropriety. Why is Gary Miller a vertex on the California Democratic Party's Triangle of Corruption? Look it up here but I'll give you a quick summary: garnering earmarks to support the projects of his top donors, not to mention pursuing public funds for the purchase of land he owned. No wonder Miller assumed I was alleging impropriety when I made the Ryan-Lytle-Miller connection; it seems to be something with which he's overly familiar.