Q&A with Congressional candidate Diane Harkey
Voters in the 49th Congressional District, which includes part of North County, Camp Pendleton and south Orange County, will choose a replacement for Darrell Issa, who decided not to seek re-election. Democrat Mike Levin and Republican Diane Harkey are running. The Union-Tribune Editorial Board recently interviewed Harkey and Levin. Here is the transcript for the Harkey interview.
Union-Tribune: So thank you for joining us today. Tell us, why run for Congress this year?
HARKEY: Well as you all know, Congressman Issa decided to… not to run. I was perfectly happy where I was on the board, and he called me in January and I started thinking about where I might be able to contribute more. The State of California… it’s obvious that, you know, it’s not Republican turf on the Constitutional level and I was the first Republican chair in 15 years of that board, but when I started thinking about what I wanted to do next or what… where I could really be helpful next, especially in Southern California, it was, you know, probably from Congress.
I thought that I could really do some of the same processes that I had in the Legislature, as well as the… as the board where I was able to actually transition across party lines. I always understood when the Legislature… I was a minority, and so I would work on the issues I could and where I couldn’t, you know… you try to make your case, but in the end, you know, the majority has the votes and so I was able to earn respect, be on the committees I wanted and make some real impacts in the Legislature on many issues and I’m sure we’ll go into those later.
On the Board of Equalization, it was a five-member board… Fiona Ma, Controller Betty Yee, as well as Jerome Horton in Los Angeles and we had George Runner. So we were a five-member board. It was, you know, a really remarkable experience being able to get 5-0 votes up there most of the time, the less politics in the Legislature and so anyway, I was the first… like I said, first chair in 15 years.
That may have led to the reason why they split it up, but that being said, I did enjoy it. We did regulatory reform. We adjudicated cases. We actually resolved a lot of constituent issues in the district, which is where we spent the majority of our time, and I had a seat on the Franchise Tax Board as well and was able to get involved in a lot of tax issues at that level. So it was very interesting, it was collegial and a very good experience. So when I got called, I decided that probably Congress would be a good spot for me because I know the district, I know the people, I know Southern California extremely well and I understand Sacramento and I function in the legislative process and so it really is just a larger Legislature, a little more… a few more lobbyist, but that being said, it’s, you know… I’ll be able to hit the ground running on many of the issues that are coming up now in Congress.
Union-Tribune: Do you [have] a singular accomplishment that you’re most proud of either as mayor of Dana Point, in the Assembly or on the boards you mentioned?
HARKEY: Well mayor of Dana Point was really pretty interesting. I enjoyed rewriting some of the zoning codes so that we could actually allow for, in a proper manner without issuing variances, hillside lot construction because it was a big issue in the city. We redid a lot of the city planning and we finally got a little town center. So there was a lot of development going on and a lot of contention for variances being issues instead of following the statutes. So when we came in, we actually held a big public hearing, got everybody’s input, passed an… an ordinance and it kinda ended the quibbling.
Union-Tribune: The Board of Equalization was gutted of much of its powers after audits criticized members of the board for their attempts to place people on the payroll. You were the second most criticized after Jerome Horton in those audits, including an event in Escondido that the audit said shouldn’t have been held because it involved use of regular employees for political purchases to boost your brand.
You criticized the audit. In retrospect, do you think the Board of Equalization did anything wrong that merited the death penalty that the governor and the Legislature essentially visited on it?
HARKEY: Absolutely not and I feel like… I… I mean I know… I know there was a lot of political friction or infighting on the… on the Democrat side of the aisle, which controls the House, which has access… more access to the governor and the issues there. I think that it was a bit politically motivated and it just kind of served to target instead… we had a… we had an audit actually on the agency, which was not the board members.
That kinda started, I think, the first three months I was there… 2015 got sworn in, and the agency had a lot of issues. Those could have been remediated through proper supervision and whatnot, but then there was a fuss among some of the board members and I’ll just leave it at that and it got a bit political and, quite honestly, I think that the easiest process for the governor was just to separate it and shut it down.
I don’t think that any staff was misused or misappropriated. I think there were misunderstandings as to who was responsible for whom, but it wasn’t from my office and I do think that some of the board members, probably previously, had pressured certain groups and so it was kind of an expectation that when a board member wanted something they were to be bound to we never required that. I had a very experienced staff of board employees, quite honestly, that came over and worked on the side of the… of the board member. I had 30-year auditors. I had attorneys, tax attorneys and a lot of people on my staff that actually came from the board, so they knew how to deal with the people.
So I think there were… there were some issues and, you know, I… there were reports issued. Department of Finance did a review, which is basically a questionnaire of 70 people or so at random, that then led to the board issues. Because I think once you start poking at a bureaucracy everybody looks for cover, and I think that’s really what happened and I’m not so sure they’re better off now, but I know that I feel very comfortable that there was no wrongdoing and there were some areas some areas, I think, that were, but I was not privy to other members at all. We did not know about what other members were accused of or what the problems were.
All we knew about was the… the publicized audits, and it did make a lot of press. It made everybody feel good that they corrected a problem, but I don’t think that’s really in the end what happened. I… but I do think that now with the board on property… just property tax and back to a constitutional level they’ll probably be a lot less misunderstanding.
I felt the taxpayers really lost advocates. There were a lot of really… I mean we resolved 400 or 500 tax disputes before they had… had achieved any level of notoriety. I mean people have problems, you know, getting lien releases, you know, trying to rent an apartment, they’re… they’re trying to get on with their life. You… I mean 2008 was a huge crash and people lost a lot and… and so they were still recovering and some of them didn’t have homes. They had apartments, but they were trying to buy a home.
They were trying to sell a home and they had a lien. So there were things that just, in a normal course of living, that we resolved rather quickly for them and also like audits… restaurants get audited quite a time… quite a few and they don’t really understand tax law. Sales tax law is very complex. It’s not natural knowing and so you try to help them through because a lot of it’s subjective.
You try to help them through and basically if people weren’t lying or cheating, we would try to make it easier on them, keep them in business and let them continue employing and keep their doors open and I think that’s the view of an elected person more than of just a member of a… of an agency that just is, you know, going from case to case to case. I think we’re seeing a lot of that in the DMV right now. You know, I mean it’s different when you have an elected member and you’re reporting and… they’ve got their eyes on their… they’re trying to help their people, but I think we had… overall, I had a good rapport with the agency. I had a good rapport with the constituents we served. It was just an unfortunate situation, but it’s done.
HARKEY: And so I had to move on.
Union-Tribune: But when you say the audit is politicized, if you mean it in a partisan sense, the audit was harshly critical of a Democrat and somewhat critical of you, a Republican and the same auditor beloved by Republicans for her harsh comments about the Department of Transportation, about the bullet train, about the Twin Tunnels. So…
HARKEY: Who me? I was the one that was… that was very harsh on all of those topics, so you may…
Union-Tribune: Well but I’m just saying the auditor…
HARKEY: You may be confusing issues.
Union-Tribune: The auditor who you were suggesting had a politicized point of view is someone who is revered by Republicans on a lot of issues.
HARKEY: No, no, there was only one audit. The audit… the audit was on the agency. The… the audit was on the agency. The other part which was the Finance Department review was not an audit. That was not an audit. That was an accumulation of comments and suggestions and maybe some complaints and pointed the finger at a couple people. I had a forum in Escondido, I believe it was, and there were 1,500 people there.
We tweeted it out. We did things like that. Now, staff showed up, but they… staff was not under my direction and it wasn’t under any member of my staff’s direction. These are civil servants. They’re civil servants. It’s not like you can just order them around. They’re civil servants and they had union protections, and we got along real famously until this thing blew up and then everybody got a little frightened for their job.
So you know, who did what to whom I’m not going to go into. I’m just going to say I had a… I had a good relationship. I worked with some great people. We were doing good things with the agency and we were doing good things with our staff, and that’s where I’m going to leave it and I do believe it was a political… it was a political choice to end the board.
Union-Tribune: One audit… or I’m sorry. One Sacramento Bee report said 17.5 percent of the employees in the entire agency were related to others suggesting a kind of mass nepotism that I have never heard of on a…
HARKEY: That was not under the board member’s purview. That was… quite honestly that’s the agency. Those things were agency issues. Now, should the previous board have done something to oversee this? Probably had they known… I’m not sure. I mean the board makes decisions. We… we really did tax policy, not actual personnel. They… they have separate personnel. They’re civil servants.
Board members were not civil servants and some of our staff were not civil servants, but we were able to hire civil servants which were… and… and put them on our staff, but they had return rights. So… and we took the experience that we needed to do our jobs, but we did not have any say over civil servants. They reported through the administration and the executive director. There was a chain of command.
The board, prior to me, did appoint a lot of… of the executive committee or the executive officers and we did appoint a few executive offers, but that was the extent. We did not or we could not reach in, and if any member did reach in that may have been the reason for the complaints and I do think there were some people that reached in. I mean you know, previous board, existing board. I think there were… each board member had their own district. Some board members actually, you know, sat with auditors, which is prohibited, and I do know that that happened. We did not do that. We… we used the chain of command. If we had a problem we went to an executive member and let them handle it because they’re civil servants. I mean… I’m not about to get into that.
Union-Tribune: The Orange County Register has raised questions for years about the idea that your political career was launched based on money that your husband allegedly and improperly obtained through various scandals involving investors and the Register’s reporting said that you were a part of the company’s chain of command during some of these scandals. You have fought back vigorously and say it’s all unfair, but based on what’s happened in the court system, it seems to be that the courts have found evidence that there was wrongdoing.
HARKEY: No, not with me, sir. I beg to differ with you. That dog’s not going to hunt. I was dismissed with prejudice by the plaintiffs, and I’ve got the documents here for you. I’m happy to share them with you and I actually got endorsed by the Register for Congress, and I’ve got a copy of that for you, too, from 2018. I was a… I was an elected person. 2008 happened. Huge crash. There was a civil trial. This was not criminal.
After five years it went to jury trial. There were multiple investors in a real estate pool. I did not work for the company. I’ve had my own career. We actually had a prenuptial agreement from 1984, which I know is strange but we had one. So I had no rights, no interest, no involvement in the company. I was a self-made person. I worked my way through community college. I put myself through UCI as an adult. I did not start back to college ‘til I was 23. I began working when I was 17. I did not have a fluff life and there… it’s fully documented.
This was an SCC registered offering documented with operational documents. I was an investor. I did lose some money. There was no fraud, no SCC violations. There were civil violations that earned a judgment on my husband and the company. They were never related to me. I was dismissed, and I was dismissed in anything that followed forward either… either adjudicated in my favor or dismissed by the courts. It was all litigated, and so I don’t understand why we can keep talking about something that is of public record. I was dismissed. I have releases on anything that came forward.
It was a very long and nasty litigation. It was a civil litigation, but in the end I was cleared and I’m happy to give these to you so once and for all we can put that to bed because it’s not true. I’m clear. I don’t know anyone else that could have gone through, as an elected official, a jury trial with a lender and a politician and come out clear. I did, and it wasn’t easy and I was investigated forensically financially by multiple… multiple attorney groups and courts, I was deposed multiple times, and I testified once in the jury trial and it was right after my testimony that the plaintiffs decided to dismiss me with prejudice, so it was done for me.
Now, that didn’t stop follow-on litigation because the problem in California is it’s not loser pays, so anybody can sue and they can keep suing and you have to defend and I did have to constantly defend, but it was done then and everything else went in my favor in the court system.
Union-Tribune: So why do you think you’re still having to defend yourself?
HARKEY: Because I’m… I’m…
Union-Tribune: Your opponent (overtalking)…
HARKEY: I’m in politics.
HARKEY: I’m in politics. Yeah, he made a great documentary. I mean if you… if that’s what you take as a news source then, you know… I mean but I don’t think you do. I think that you… you do have to research documents. I’ll be happy to provide you with anything. I have reams of documents and I… it’s all been… it’s all public. It’s all out in the court system. Everything I have is in the court system. I’m the most clear political person you will ever meet because everything I’ve had has been investigated.
Union-Tribune: But when he ran against you, Mark Wyland’s point wasn’t that you were part of these schemes, it was that your political career was built on the proceeds from these things?
HARKEY: That is absolutely… that went… that was part of the litigation, and it was dismissed. There… it was a kitchen sink litigation, and so it just was what it was. There were a lot of things in the initial litigation that just weren’t true and… and it doesn’t… doesn’t even matter what was in it. I was dismissed with prejudice.
The plaintiffs themselves dismissed me, so I don’t know what more I can talk about. I’m… you know, it was a sad situation, but truly I have been investigated. If you’ve ever been through any of this you’ll know. I was investigated in every way, so I’m… it’s all public.
Union-Tribune: Why did you sue Mark Wyland? And do you regret that? You dropped that suit shortly thereafter.
HARKEY: Oh, well actually, that was just… Mark and I are good friends. He is very much a supporter now. I think it was just a little bit misled on his part. I don’t think he understood. I think he was told things that he believed true and I think that, you know, it… it got that way and so it ended up I won in… in the Court of Appeals on that. So you know, it was just… it was a sad situation, a sorry situation.
Union-Tribune: But you filed the suit and then you dropped it, right?
HARKEY: I filed a suit. He filed the SLAPP [suit]. I won on the SLAPP in the Court of Appeals and then I just dropped everything.
Union-Tribune: So why did you file it in the first place, I guess, if you just dropped it immediately?
HARKEY: Because it wasn’t worth continuing, you know. It just…
Union-Tribune: Does that speak to how you might govern? I mean that… that’s a confrontation style to do that and then drop it.
HARKEY: I’ve got… I have a track record of governing. I have voting record and track record of governing, and I’ve done very, very well. I… you know, I do what I can do as long as I can do it, but I don’t keep anything nasty floating around. Why would I want to pursue it? You know, if… if it just… if everybody was calm in a litigation I think that’s the best time to let it drop, and everybody was calm in the litigation.
Union-Tribune: Do you want to answer conclusively where your money came from that built your career?
HARKEY: My money came from my income, okay? Check the court records. I don’t really think we have to go into where my money came from. I don’t… I don’t ask you where your money came from. I think it’s more important to people to know that I was cleared and I don’t expect the U-T to ever report anything kindly about me, but you know, I have a long record of serving the community.
I have won elections through this litigation and I won elections after, and the reason being is because the people who know me and the people that have worked with me and the reason I get endorsed all the time is because they know the truth. I know the truth and I know who I am and I think that’s very important because in politics you never know what’s coming at you, but if you’re clear in your conscience and you know the truth and you know who you are it… it says a lot. I never got really terribly depressed because I knew that somehow this would… this would end, but it was… it was a very long situation.
I was dealing with a mentally ill sister who I had to get… or, you know, conservatorship of at the time. My mother was dying of cancer. My… my daughter had her issues. She was getting out of college and things were going on. I was flying back and forth to Sacramento to be in the Legislature and, in fact, I was getting subpoenaed for documents and trying to fill these things out, do everything I need, get all my records from 19… gosh… 1990 whatever, you know. That’s bank statements. That’s checks. That’s copies. I did that 3 in the morning and everything was fine. Litigation dropped. So I think that… that out of be the answer. I don’t want to go through court again here with you. I did it. I’ve been out of it since 2013.
Union-Tribune: I understand your point that you weren’t involved in all these decisions and that the courts have said that you weren’t involved, but in 2014 the state treasurer, John Chiang, approved the garnishment of your wages to replay a settlement that was ordered against your husband. So that seems to be someone looking at this and saying…
Union-Tribune: Hey, she benefited from this.
HARKEY: How much of this do you understand about community property? The only thing that was… could potentially be community property was my salary, and that was not about to pay the judgment. It was… it was a political ploy and it got removed by the plaintiffs again. They dismissed all of that.
Union-Tribune: So your wages weren’t garnished or were garnished?
HARKEY: They were garnished for three months, of course they were. That’s public record. I’m not going to lie to you guys and if you’re just going to go over the litigation here then we probably don’t have a lot to say. I’m running for Congress, and I have a good track record and I’ve been elected time and time again because I’m honest. I don’t cheat people. I do my job. I get it done and you can keep going on about the litigation, you know. That’s your right, but I don’t think I really have to sit through… I went through a jury trial. I went through it all, so you know, I don’t know what… what qualifies… I mean I’m just not… I’m not going to be litigated against in here either.
Union-Tribune: Well it was happening in the campaign. Your opponent on the typical start of a campaign…
HARKEY: Well my opponent…
Union-Tribune: …on the first day after Labor Day…
HARKEY: My opponent has done absolutely nothing with his life, okay? He’s had a few litigations. He, you know, was involved in taking homes from the Countrywide folks. I mean you know, come on. I was being sued and he was suing. He was foreclosing on people. So I’ll just tell you, I came out clear. I’m not sure… I think he made money on it. So you know, 2008 was a very bad time.
The world crashed, banks crashed, banks called loans, vulture funds came in and took over properties, and Countrywide foreclosed and so did a lot of the banks and they needed attorneys to help them do that, and my opponent was one of those attorneys that helped them do that. I never put anybody out of their house, so…
Union-Tribune: The stories that were written about your husband’s finances and its relationship…
HARKEY: I can’t continue to talk about this.
Union-Tribune: I’m not going to you ask about that.
HARKEY: You know, I’m…
Union-Tribune: I just want to…
HARKEY: I would like to… I would like to move onto the campaign. If we can’t move onto the campaign then we’re probably going to have to say adios.
Union-Tribune: I just have one general question. You have depicted the coverage of you as being sexist. The reporter who led the coverage at the Orange County Register is someone I’ve known for 20 years, and he’s written about 100 people. So…
HARKEY: I don’t… I don’t recall ever saying that and I don’t…
Union-Tribune: The Sacramento Bee says that you’ve described the criticism (overtalking).
HARKEY: If you listened to the Sacramento Bee all the time, I feel sorry for you. I think… I think we probably need to move on. The Sacramento Bee is the Sacramento Bee. It’s, you know… it reports on the kinda stuff it chooses, so I thought… I expect a little more from the U-T, but if this is what we do then this is what we do. I’m not here to re-litigate a case.
Union-Tribune: So did you… just because you’re (unintelligible) did you… at the time that that was reported, did you complain to the media that they had gotten it wrong?
HARKEY: Did I complain? I… I don’t think I mentioned it. I think I got called a lot, but I didn’t mention it. Do you want any of this documentation or are we just going to continue? If this is just going to…
Union-Tribune: No, no, for sure you can leave that. Yeah, of course we’ll (overtalking).
HARKEY: If this is just going to… if this is just going to keep going back and forth… I mean why didn’t you research any of this? This is a done case. Is this all you called me in here for?
Union-Tribune: No, we have plenty to talk to you about, but again…
HARKEY: Well then let’s get on…
Union-Tribune: Mike Levin has made this an issue.
HARKEY: So what? Do you… you don’t expect it to be. Of course…
Union-Tribune: We’re asking him about Countrywide, too.
HARKEY: Of course it’s…
Union-Tribune: Right? You know how we do this, right?
HARKEY: Of course it’s an issue. Of course it’s an issue. I know, but that’s not the whole interview. I mean I went through a court system. Do you understand what that means? Do you understand when all those attorneys send deposition? And do you understand when you have to go back years and get every bank statement and every check and prove up in a column as to who… who did what?
Do you understand what it’s like to prove up everything you ever made or earned? I was able to do that. I keep good records. You know, I was a banker and it took a lot out of me, but I knew I was innocent and I was very surprised when I got dismissed with prejudice, but I think they knew I was innocent, too and it was, you know… the litigation was against my ex-husband and his company, not against me and I just… I made good press, let’s just put it that way. I was a legislator and it made good press.
Union-Tribune: Switching gears. You mentioned endorsements. There’s obviously a problem in endorsement in this race. The president has endorsed you. Are you using that endorsement? Are you proud of that endorsement? How will that play out in the campaign?
HARKEY: I think anybody would be proud to have a presidential endorsement, and I am. I don’t know that I’m using it, but I would say that there is… are a certain core group of Trump supporters that were very, very happy to have that and I do think that in a lot of instances there’s a lot of people that aren’t just supporters that, you know, it is what it is. I take endorsements.
I feel like, you know, he’s our president and, you know, Mike took Hillary’s. She didn’t win. I took Trump and he did. So he supported me. I don’t know what to say here, you know. I mean Trump has his mannerisms and they’re not attractive to a lot of people. I think some of the policies have been absolutely excellent here in San Diego and in a lot of communities, so you know, the… the writing’s still out there. I wish he’d tweet less. I don’t think that necessarily every thought needs to be uttered nor tweeted, but that’s what he does. So I think, you know, we’ll see.
Union-Tribune: Which policies of his do you think… you called some of them excellent. Which ones do you think are excellent?
HARKEY: Well quite honestly, the tax reform is amazingly… is surprisingly well received. I’m up and down the state quite a bit, and the policy… we… you know, I was very upset with the SALT… getting rid of the [state and local tax] deductions. I was back in D.C. with Sebastian Ridley-Thomas who was a chair of rev and tax in the Assembly, and we went back together to lobby to get that changed.
We were able to do some things like to get the… the House bill to be $750,000 for the mortgage, you know, interest deduction that you could use. We got… the… a little more stratus in the marginal tax increases. We got… went from four to seven, which was very helpful. We also got the SALT treatment to be able to flip both ways so young professionals as well as those established at least could use it for either their income tax or their property tax.
I am wishing we could have gotten that a little higher, but what I’m finding when I’m out in the community it… the tax reform did not help me, quite honestly. It hurt me, but when I’m out in the community and I’m talking, the business community seems to really like it very, very much and those are the employers in this district that I’m talking to, you know, which are a lot of the biotech, biomed, life sciences and… and, you know. The military contractors, obviously, like the budget.
The just general public… I think the 20… for a couple because we have a lot of young couples with children in the 49th. You know, getting a $24,000 automatic deduction, plus child care, which is another deduction, I… I’m thinking they’re going to be pretty happy. They don’t have to itemize. Those with high property taxes or higher property taxes will probably not be happy about it, but I think the overall effect where, you know… I know the biggest problem that I’m talking to employers right now is they can’t find help… you know, the help and they just can’t find them. That’s why they want reforms on the H1-B visas.
They want, you know, other visas reformed, things that they can do so they can bring in help that they can’t get. The unemployment levels in San Diego and in my district here are, you know, really low. What? 3.5. You know, there’s help wanted signs out. So I think, generally speaking, people feel good about it.
Now, you know, like I said, I still… I still would like to see a property tax deduction because my personal feeling is that when people are encouraged to buy property… providing they qualify, which is not what happened when we had our crash. We had a lot of people… 125 percent of equity withdrawn and things like that. That doesn’t work, but when people actually qualify they can build something for the future.
Even when… if you retire and you don’t own a home… I mean what have you got? At least you have something there and I think that was, you know… I would like to see that come back and I’ll probably try to work on some budget trailer language at some point to try to get more of the property tax deducted or get the property tax deduction in the bill, but I think all told, being that we had 51 senators, none of which were from California at the table, and they had to give Marco Rubio everything they wanted to get his vote and then… and we just… you know, we… had our two senators and had some of the large state senators been more willing to negotiate a little bit instead of resist, I think we could have done a lot better in the tax reform and I do think that as a whole people in this community have done very, very well.
That’s not all the high net worth professionals, but… or high income professionals, but I think most people… couples earning under 150 or earning thereabouts… individuals earning under 100 are probably going to do really, really well.
Union-Tribune: In 2011, after Republicans took the House, they succeeded in forcing through a sequester bill that forced containment on spending of the like that we really hadn’t seen. It was a simple Republican resolve to try to bring down the deficit.
Now we have Republican control of the White House and we have or are on track to have $900 billion spent on interest on the debt in 2028, over $300 billion in interest on the debt this year. So it’s tough to look at this and say Republicans are remotely like their self-image of being frugal and tightwads. What do you feel about the emergence of the Republicans as big spenders, as Democrats in their own way?
HARKEY: Well, that’s why I mentioned you probably have to give Marco Rubio everything he wants. Marco Rubio is not exactly a right-wing guy and I think there’s a lot of programs that he would like to implement and institute and there’s others, too. It’s not just… not just Marco, but they would like to implement an institute that, quite honestly, are not where I would be, but I do think the Obama administration… didn’t they add… how much did they add? 16… is it trillion? What did they add to the…
Union-Tribune: It doubled. It doubled from about 10 to about 20.
HARKEY: Yeah. So that’s… that’s a huge chunk and I think health care is going to be a huge issue because that’s what, in California, we’re seeing is making our… our budget escalate. We came out of the 2008 recession. We had a, you know, $103 billion budget in our state that went to 89 after working down and taking a lot of government, you know, maintenance of interest or maintenance of service agreements.
That was… that was very, very difficult, but now, I think, we’re up like 130, 140. I… I’ve lost track of where the state government is, but we… we have a lot of funds. There’s a lot of funds, a lot of taxes being collected and the… and the budget is ever increasing, but the health care costs are going exorbitantly off the roof. The state has chosen, of course, to take a lot of the… they were the first to really jump onto the Obamacare and to really to make it work, and I don’t think it’s been real successful.
I think there’s been a lot of… a lot of problems. There were a lot of problems just implementing the computer system, as you recall and I think just… you know, I think that’s going to be a huge issue. I think that from the federal level and from our district level what’s really nice is that we’re doing so many things in the biotech, biomed, genomics. All of those things are going to help save money as well as save lives and… and not let diseases… not allow diseases to become, you know, so life threatening and also there’s going to be some implementation of, you know, trying… lifestyle changes and encouraging children. I think, you know, trying to get them outside again, get them to work, get them to play it’s, you know… there’s a lot of things that I think we will be doing from the federal level.
Not necessarily from the federal level, but I think the NIH funding for the biotech, biomed is going to be huge, and that’s going to stimulate the economy in San Diego, which will, in turn, save us money and save lives. I think that’s huge. That’s a huge part of our economy here and so it kind of does all things that we need it to do and, you know, I’m… I’m very hopeful that we will have changes and I’m not a… I’m not a Medicare for All person.
I think Medicare is… you know, it’s something that was promised to people who retire, and there’s a lot of people waiting for it and counting on it and if you start doing Medicare for All you’re going to… you’re going to… I mean Medicare is already underwater, so I don’t like that approach at all. I think that’s wrong… wrong-headed, and I think the seniors, as well as anybody coming into a single payer health care is going to… going to have problems. They run out of money. I do think there’s a lot of changes that we can do with insurance, but insurance does not provide… does not allow for providers.
You have to take care of the doctors and I think in California what I’m hearing is the doctors that are Medicaid providers… it’s Medicaid? Yeah, Medicaid providers are getting shorted all the time so doctors are dropping out and if you don’t have doctors and you don’t have practitioners… I mean maybe you do have a practitioner, but you’re not going to have a doctor, which I think is the… is the bigger part of a problem that we’ve got here. We have to be sure that the docs are taken care of and they should be incorporated.
Not only insurance companies because insurance doesn’t provide care, but you have to have the doctors involved and they know what… what they can do and what they need to do and right now we’re losing doctors. You know, they’re retiring and other… other people are choosing not to go in the field because they have huge bills for college and they can’t make any money. They basically become employees of a hospital or something and, you know, that doesn’t pay their bills. So I think there’s ways of dealing with it, but you know, that’s kind of… that’s out there.
I’m… my concerns are going to be with the funding for NIH so that we can take care of mental illness… mental illness. The brain is a… is an organ. It can be cured. Right now there’s treatments, but… you know, that don’t cure, but actually can keep… maintain, but there’s going to be cures. I was down at UCSD talking to the… the CEO there, and they’re very interested in this and they’re… they’re running into things all the time and that takes care of… I mean that’s… that’s PTSD, that’s, you know, homeless situations, that’s… I mean that takes care of a lot. We really have to get back to treating and finding cures for mental illness. I have a sister that… that was paranoid schizophrenic at a very late age, which I was dealing with during litigation.
She was going in and out, and she probably would have been homeless. I kept granting her back into my house, but it was very touch and go and she didn’t have to stay nor have to take meds and luckily she never had drugs or didn’t drink, but you know, the ups and downs and the problems from somebody that was perfectly normal at one point, had… had a, you know, SCC registered license or whatever it was… a securities license and dealt with real issues to have her totally go over the edge was very difficult for us and I was kinda the stopping point and I was able to get conservatorship of her, thank god, and was able to hold her in… in the hospital long enough that I could get through the court system, but I had prepared a dossier for years waiting for the chance… one chance I would get to make my case as to why she needed help and I think that’s a part that’s wrong.
You need to… families… if they’re wanting to help have to be able to help and the mentally ill don’t want the help because they… they’re afraid. They’re afraid the world’s after them if they’re paranoid. If they’re schizophrenic they’re hearing voices, and you have to figure out how to get through the voices that are coming at them and they’re frightened and once they’re frightened they’re not going to listen to anybody because somebody else is telling them how evil you are and… you know. So I really think that, you know, there’s ways of allowing families a little bit more access and ability. I mean it was very difficult for me, but luckily I was so well-documented. I went into the hospital.
I got a great doc that actually listened to me and a great social service person and they realized I was advocating for her, and I was able to get, like I say, conservatorship. After seven months I released her, and she’s fine and she does what she’s supposed to do and she helps me out and she volunteers, and people love her and she thanks me every day that I saved her life because that’s what you can do, but she’s only treated. I do believe that there’s ways that they will be able to cure this.
Union-Tribune: Let me ask you a follow-up question to Michael’s because I think you said policies plural of the president’s are excellent, and then you talked about tax reform. What are others you think you’d put in that excellent category?
HARKEY: Well I know that it’s in flux right now, but I do believe that the trade pacts will probably be improved. I know it’s very scary. I’m a free trader as well… very much a free trader and so it’s very frightening, but I do think that things will be resolved. I do think the trade was unfair with China and I… they were, I think, categorized as a developing nation so they were allowed to attach more tariffs, but I think definitely they’re a player now and that probably had to change.
I think the NAFTA situation will resolve itself. I do believe that, you know, there’s been some resolution there. I think we’ll see it. I’m not so sure it’s going to be hugely beneficial, but if it just sets the deck a little bit, I think on the wage levels, I think that’s going to be very important. I think Canada… we definitely, you know, love our northern neighbor, and so I think that that will eventually work out. I do think if we could have maybe a little less bravado and more negotiation that might not have blown up as much as it did, but I think that… I think that’s going to… that’s going to end up working in our favor and what else?
Oh, you know, I know everybody’s concerned with the EPA. I am too concerned with these policies, but I do believe a little bit more in states’ rights. I would rather see states rather than federal government controlling things and immigration…
Union-Tribune: Could I just ask a question on that. Now that the Trump administration has moved to restrict California’s air quality and greenhouse gas emissions with automobiles, is that something you would push back against the administration on if you believe in states’ rights?
HARKEY: Not the… not the CAFE standards. I think we’ve kind of jumped too far too fast. I think it’s very difficult… it’d be very difficult to get the rest of the nation to get up with California and here’s the thing about California. Our market is so huge that if the auto dealers have to change for California that will change across the nation and that’s always California’s goal, but I don’t think you can put people out of work, employment and just say well they’ll get another job and we see a lot of that in California. It was John Kenneth Galbraith that was supporting FDR’s New Deal, you know, way back when.
He said in the long run we’re all dead. Well in the long run people have to pay their bills, feed their families. I think if California could just kinda go a little slower on things it would… you know, people could adjust, but when you take away their industry, you… you know, regulate them out of business, when you cut the water to the Central Valley so that all these areas go fallow… I mean I don’t know how many of you have been up there, but I have and… and so you’re taking away the ag industry and you’re really decimating an area for whatever reason. I think that you have to look at the economic benefits of things.
You know, we can have a… we’ve always had a strong environmental policy. I mean for years I remember moving here and you couldn’t see across the street for smog. That’s cleaned up, and so we’ve done some great things. The ocean water quality has cleaned up, except for (unintelligible). It’s cleaned up. I go in the ocean now, and I don’t feel dirty like I used to feel. I mean it’s… you know, it’s kind a… it’s not Hawaii quality, but we… we’ve got a nice ocean water quality, at least up in the beaches that I go to.
I mean I can actually go in and come out and not feel like I need a shower. So I think we’ve done a lot of really good things. There are a lot of good things, but I think to take really draconian steps. I think one of the biggest problems we have is that there’s no… there’s no elected oversight of a lot of the regulatory agencies. I mean … they do the policy, and then it’s up to the administration of the agency to enforce the rules to implement the policy, and I think that’s where we get into trouble.
They need to have a look back and, you know, what… what are the economic benefits, what are… what are the risks? Legislators and elected people need to have more… take more control and more blame. More reward, whatever you want to do, but you need to be responsible. You can’t just do a law… a bill and let somebody else implement everything and never look back at it, and I think we’ve run into a lot of that and I fear that happening at the national level, too, because the agencies are good, but they will follow a lead.
They’re good employees, they know what they’re doing, but they will follow a lead. They’re not… they’re not political. They’re… if you give them a job they’ve got their mission, and they’re going to do it the best way they see fit. It’s up to the elected person to represent their constituents and ensure that the policies or the regulatory format is… is, quite honestly, you know, something that you can live with and that the economy can continue to grow and that your people are not out of work or out of jobs.
Union-Tribune: You talked about a balancing act, but also used the term draconian. What’s your view on climate change generally? Do you believe it’s caused by human (overtalking)?
HARKEY: I am not a scientist. I can’t… I can’t read all of that stuff and make a decision. It’s not where I was educated. I’m an economist person. I’ve always done things in the financial world and the economy, and so what I look to is the… I look to the numbers, the benefit and when I see countries like China and India that are truly spewing out more greenhouse gases than probably the United States and Europe combined, I have to wonder why we’re crippling our Western economies and why we aren’t just, you know, going a little slower. How much can we save?
Everybody likes to save the planet, but I’m not so sure we’re not just destroying ourselves. So you know, yes, I’m sure it’s happening. How far are we regulated and how much control we really have over it is where I question.
I have not met the man. I really don’t know. I didn’t know him before. He is our elected president and I’m sure there’s a method to his madness.
Union-Tribune: Many Republicans raise questions about Trump’s twitter and say they wished he wouldn’t twitter so much, but a handful of Republicans say it’s not just what he twitters, it what he says. On Monday Trump twittered basically saying… criticizing the Justice Department for pursuing corruption scandals against two Republican Congressmen and Ben Sasse the Nebraska Republican senator said that the Trump administration or the president doesn’t understand that’s not how it works.
The Justice Department’s supposed to be impartial. We’re… we’re not a banana republic. So this is a Republican saying this. This isn’t a partisan. This isn’t…
Union-Tribune: You know, this isn’t CBS or CNN or all the media that he doesn’t like. So what do you say to the view that the problem isn’t just that Trump is impulsive, but that he reveals things about him that are kinda scary when he is impulsive?
HARKEY: I can’t… I cannot respond or explain the president. I have not met the man. I really don’t know. I didn’t know him before. He is our elected president and I’m sure there’s a method to his madness, but… it wouldn’t be my style, but you know, I just have to deal with what I can deal with and I’m sure that if all those people around him can’t control those twitters and tweets, I’m not going to be able to do it either.
Union-Tribune: What do you think… because I know when we sent you email questions in the primary some of your answers mentioned the term of rule of law and how important do you consider that?
HARKEY: Very important.
Union-Tribune: It doesn’t seem so important to him. As the anecdote that Chris just had mentioned, he’s stepping into two ongoing federal investigations. Do you think that’s a problem?
HARKEY: Well a tweet is not stepping in. That’s not an official action.
Union-Tribune: But isn’t a tweet a comment? I mean this is how the president chooses to comment with the American public.
HARKEY: Right. It’s a comment. I don’t know why it’s there. I… I don’t, but it’s not an executive order. It’s not an action. He’s not instructing an agency. It might be a communication point.
Union-Tribune: So you don’t see that as a problem? Do you support Trump’s view of the rule of law?
HARKEY: I don’t know Trump’s view of the rule of law.
Union-Tribune: Well apparently it involves talking about…
HARKEY: I know mine.
Union-Tribune: …ongoing investigations and saying…
HARKEY: I know… I know mine. I know mine, but there…
Union-Tribune: (Overtalking) on both sides of that, right? Like the enforcement at the border is a rule of law issue where they’ve taken a very strict rule of law.
Union-Tribune: Yeah and that’s how… in fairness, that’s how you brought it up in your (overtalking).
HARKEY: Yeah. Rule of law… rule of law at the border is… is why we need an immigration reform. I was thinking several… a couple months back as to why we’re having all this rickrack. You know, we’ve got a statute and then we have court, court, court and everything getting overruled and it’s… I’ll go back again to a zoning code in a city. You have a zoning code.
Everybody knows what’s supposed to be built where… where you have retail, where you’re going to have commercial, where you can have residential, how high, how wide, whatever. That’s your code and then somebody comes in and they want to go a little higher in this neighborhood, so they get a variance. Somebody else comes in. They want to go wider or they want to put a storefront out in their house. They get a variance.
Somebody else comes in and does something else and pretty soon you try to stop something you have no code, you can be sued and that you violated your code so many times that, you know, you no longer have a code. So what we have now is we have statutes in immigration, which are the law. They’re statutory, but the courts have intervened case law all along the way and so the statutes are no longer there.
I mean they’re no longer enforceable, I think, is one of the problems and now you can court shop, you can jurisdiction shop. So it’s… it’s a problem, but that’s when you allow the judiciary to do the legislative function. The legislature, which is the Congress, needs to get together and write something that will pass. Then we have a new statute. We have a place to start, which would take care of the DACA, take care of visas, take care of… you know, the… the children, take care of all of these issues in one statute.
Now, the Republicans put out two bills, one of which I was very much in favor of. It did not pass, but it also had no Democrat support. I think there’s ways to do this. I think it needs to get out of the political realm and everybody needs to kinda cooperate and get our statutes right. You’re going to have to compromise. You’ve got… what… 435 people in the House, then you got to get 60 votes in the Senate.
This is not an easy lift, but I think after 20 years of hassling over this and recently so much… I think that’s what… that’s what the administration is doing, that’s what Sessions is doing. He is trying to enforce the law to force the Congress to act, and Congress does need to act and… but we’re going to need both sides of the table. You know, this is not something… you’ve got the, you know, open borders crowd on the left. You’ve got the make them all go home crowd on the right. Neither one is… is going to work, so…
Union-Tribune: Oh, I’m sorry.
HARKEY: Go on.
Union-Tribune: I just wanted to ask a question about that. So when you’re talking about… and I’m following what you’re saying. So your view, which I guess makes sense, is that what Sessions is doing is enforcing the law, which is his obligation, but that also you’re saying he… he’s undertaking this unpalatable campaign in order to create political pressure that would create a better solution. So I guess my question is…
HARKEY: I don’t… I don’t necessarily think…
Union-Tribune: Is that what you’re saying?
HARKEY: I don’t necessarily think it started out that way, but I think when you’re seeing all the court cases and summary versed and the big… I think one of the biggest problems we have in California is the resist. They’re resisting everything. It’s costing us all a lot of time, money and human quality, I think. I think that, you know, if California got together and figured out what they wanted to see besides just open borders… if Trump wants a wall let him have his wall. Get your other things you want. Get the visas reformed. Get the DACA stuff. Get… get the children taken care of.
All of these things can happen, but you may have to build a wall. So what? We have 15 miles of wall. You’ll have a little more wall. The Border Patrol wants reinforcement and some walls. They don’t want all wall. You know, I think it’s… it’s just, you know, to draw the line in the sand knowing that you’ve got to get everybody on board and knowing that you also have to get the president onboard. You know, let’s just get it done.
Union-Tribune: Yeah. So the question I… and that’s helpful actually. The question I wanted to get at was… so it sounds like you’re looking for some compromise on both sides, and maybe you could put a little more color on that. How do you feel about what’s happening now with the zero tolerance out of the Justice Department and the separation of children? What… what’s your take? What’s your stance on that?
HARKEY: I think there are a lot of sad stories and I think there’s a lot of political stories. I think that it’s… it’s pretty sad that people were encouraged to cross when they may not have. I think it’s pretty sad that it’s being used as a political tool, and I see it every two years.
Every two years there’s some immigration big debate and nothing gets resolved, but it seems to be the political point. I think these are people’s lives, and I don’t think we can open the door to everybody. I… that’s why I think we need a new visa and a… and a system. There are some people that want to come to work that we surely can allow have a working visa and there are some people that want to stay, they go through the regular process. There are some people that have been here for 20 years.
I think that if they go through all the checks and they’re not, you know, violent and they’re employed then of course, you know, you give them a residency visa. If they want to apply for citizenship that’s another level, that’s a process, but I think there’s a lot of things that can be done that reasonable people will agree to, but you just can’t seem to get that… with California being the largest contingent on the floor and being so loud and so rowdy they’re ruining it for these people.
These people need a life and they don’t need to be used as political pawns, and I don’t see them as political pawns. I see them, you know, as… it’s a little bit of a tragedy because I think there are a lot of people that are actually politically motivated to do this and there are a lot of people that, quite honestly, are honestly looking for a better life and I think that we can bridge that without encouraging, you know, open borders. I just… you know, I think it’s sad.
Union-Tribune: So it sounds like you support zero tolerance as a mechanism to get to the reforms that you’re talking about? Is that…
HARKEY: I don’t know if I would have done that, but I sure… I guess maybe it’s the way to because it’s really not zero tolerance because it’s being litigated. So this is what I’m saying. Nothing’s really done, and we need to get something… we need to get a process, we need to get statute done, need a law written. I’ve got a law in here that I supported I thought was really good, and I’m happy to share that with you, but I got criticized because… I got criticized by one side saying it’s amnesty. I got criticized because it wasn’t open borders and, you know, that’s… that’s probably a real good law.
Union-Tribune: Well let me ask you, is it… is this measure? I read recently that you co-chaired and helped fund a signature gathering effort to create a California state border police agency that would have established…
HARKEY: No, I… I may…
Union-Tribune: …200 sworn officers to stop and detain unauthorized (overtalking).
HARKEY: No. When… when was that? When was that? I don’t…
HARKEY: Yeah, 2006, okay.
Union-Tribune: Is that accurate that…
HARKEY: Yeah. I was…
Union-Tribune: And do you still think that’s a good idea?
HARKEY: I think I was running for Senate, and I actually did have a campaign.
Union-Tribune: Do you support that concept having the state have a border police agency?
HARKEY: Having all… and not understanding all that I understand now probably not, and I don’t think the Border Patrol would want that either. So… nor ICE. I… I do think part of the reason we’re having workplace inspections… I do know why we’re having work… workforce… workplace inspections and other things is because ICE can’t pick them up at the… at the jails like they used to.
We used to have a… an office for ICE in Orange County and I think San Diego had one, and now they don’t have that anymore and it’s… you know, they’re going out in the community and they’re doing what they’re supposed to do. So I think we need to enforce our laws, we need to respect those that are enforcing the laws, and when we change the laws I’m sure they’ll go along with those, too. I’m very strong on law enforcement. I mean I think you can tell by my endorsements. I’ve got almost every law enforcement group, you know, lined up because I support these people.
They’re out in the… I mean it’s almost like a military now to be in law enforcement. You have to protect yourself. We rely on them. We are a country and a state… supposed to be… of laws, not emotion and if you have a law, if you don’t like it then you change the law, but when you hire people to enforce the law you have to give them the tools they need.
Union-Tribune: What gives you confidence that the law can be changed? I mean Congress, as you said, has been trying this for decades without success. What would you do specifically to incentivize Democrats to work with Republicans?
HARKEY: Well, let’s just say I know a lot of them from California. I served in the Legislature with many of them.
Union-Tribune: I have to step out. Thank you.
HARKEY: Sure. Served in the Legislature with many of them and I think it would be… we could do something rational. I’m not saying they’d go along because right now Californians still resist, but I do think as elections go forward… I mean I think the people that are involved need to speak up, too. I mean they need… they need protection.
They can’t be just used in political campaigns, and I think, you know, the more focus on this the better. We almost had a bill… we almost had a bill passed. I would not let it die and I, quite honestly, would go out to any of my constituents at any time and explain my positions. I think that’s what’s so missing these days.
Everybody tries to give a talking point and go away and hide. I never do that. I explain my positions. I try to understand the policies. As I said, you know… I mean I kinda figured out why we’ve got a problem… is because it was a lot of thought on it and I think… I think that if you explain and you can get public support, which is what needs to happen, you can get the legislators to… to vote for something, but they need to feel like they’re not going to be torpedoed for casting a vote and I think that was the case this time.
Union-Tribune: Another issue that seems to be hopelessly divided is school safety and issue of gun control. Where are you on solutions for violence… gun violence at schools?
HARKEY: Well I am a very strong supporter of solutions. I’m not necessarily a gun… I mean I am not gun control supporter. I do believe in the Second Amendment, and I really don’t understand why kids in school would want to… wouldn’t give up their cell phones or their car keys, but would give up their Second Amendment. So I think we’ve confused the issues there. We have mental health issues.
We have children that are hurting, you know. I mean let’s face, if everything you did at 11 or 12 or 13 went on the Internet forever and ever and… think of how… how internally focused you were in those years and I think a lot of people have mental illness, and we have different policies in schools as to how we work with the mentally ill children. Can we even acknowledge that they’re mentally ill? And I think that’s called… there’s a policy… oh, I’ll think of it, but anyway… is it restorative justice or something justice.
Anyway, there’s a policy now where you can’t let the authorities know you’ve got a mentally ill child, a minor, you know. You have to keep that… keep that quiet, and schools are given funding for that, you know, by complying with something that came in under the Obama Administration and I’m sure it was for privacy reasons and other things, but I do think that law enforcement… everybody needs to know when there’s a problem and I think we’ve learned a lot, I think there’s a lot left to be learned, but you’re not going to solve the problem by taking away a gun.
If you’ve got somebody who’s mentally ill, somebody who has somehow got some real issue, you know, you’ve got… you’ve got to be able to address the source. That’s why I go back to mental illness. I think it’s a really important topic. I just, you know… and I also think that a lot of the game and the cell phone in the schools, things like that… France just outlawed cell phones for kids under 15 in school. That’s a good idea, you know. I mean you’re there to learn, check them at the door, pick them up afterwards.
Taking pictures, texting and sending things in your young years when people are formative and they’re so internally focused… everything that happens to them happens to them personally, you know. It’s just… it’s a developmental stage where they think the world is looking at them, and I just think that there’s too much social media and I do think there’s too much gaming.
I think the kids need to get out and work and they need to social… they need to connect with each other and I’m not so sure you can fix it those ways, but I do think that more supervision… if you need to lock down schools lock them down. You know, teachers need to have the authority to protect their children. I think in Orange County we’ve got a lot of programs, and one of the things they’re teaching is don’t… if you’ve got a friend that’s got a problem don’t hide it, as so many kids will do. They think they… they shouldn’t tell. You know, drugs are also an issue. Drugs are a huge issue. So it’s a lot of these things. I don’t think there’s one clear solution, but I don’t think gun control is the answer because the bad guys will always have guns.
Union-Tribune:: Is arming…
HARKEY: They’ll always get guns.
Union-Tribune: Is arming teachers a potential solution?
HARKEY: It depends on where you are. If teachers are comfortable with that… if you’re out in the rural area probably teachers carry guns anyway. They probably have CCWs. You know, I think it just depends. You can’t do a nationwide… you can’t… you can’t rule for Massachusetts and Montana the same way. It’s just… it’s a different world. So I do think that each community… I think San Diego’s got their things in… their things in place… their laws in place where they’re trying to protect the schools to be sure they’re safeguarded. I know that Orange County has a whole program. A lot of it is reporting. A lot of it is security.
There’s just… there’s a lot of… lot of things that are going on, I think, in the schools because we recognize it’s a problem and you want your children to go to school and feel safe, but you don’t want somebody to be able to walk in there with a gun and start blowing people away who happens to be mentally ill or have tweeted out 10 times that this is what they were going to do. You want that information to be shared throughout the community and people know, kids know, neighbors know.
All of these shootings people around them knew, you know. I mean it’s… it’s just really sad. It’s really sad that we had to wait ‘til people got killed… ‘til children got killed and I think there just needs to be more cooperation… more cooperation in the authorities, more cooperation in the school district. Can’t get caught up in a bureaucratic mess, people need to be human beings, report out what they see, not worry about, you know, is there a manual for it. Let’s, you know, use some common sense.
Union-Tribune: Thank you for coming in. Any last questions? Give us your 30-second elevator pitch why you should be in Congress.
HARKEY: I know what I’m doing. I’ve done this before. I’ve been 30 years in banking and corporate finance. I had a successful career. I’ve been at every level of government and I will be able to hit the ground running and I love the district, I love the people, the industry’s great, you know, and I know how to work across the aisle.
Union-Tribune: Thanks for coming in.
HARKEY: Sure. Thank you.