The Ethics & Public Life of Congresswoman Lois Capps

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By Peter Lance. News-Press © Nov. 2nd. On July 12, Rep. Lois Capps stood on the podium of the Pacific Pride Festival looming over two images that continue to haunt her. The first was a poster from the memorial service for Mallory Rae Dies, the 27-year-old UCSB graduate who was killed Dec. 6 in a horrific hit-and-run DUI manslaughter crash by Mrs. Capps’ then district representative, Raymond Victor Morua III. The second was a banner from Vow4Mal.org, the nonprofit set up in Mallory’s honor to stop drunk driving. 

That was six weeks into an FBI-Department of Justice investigation of my five-part investigative series that ran on this website and in the News-Press (April 13-17). Among my findings: that Mrs. Capps’ district director, Mollie Culver, may have broken federal law in a scheme to get Mr. Morua out of jail and into a VA-funded alcohol treatment facility in the days immediately after the crash while Mallory clung to life.

Then, as soon as she was taken off life support Ms. Culver did a 180-degree turn, falsely claiming that Mr. Morua wasn’t working for Mrs. Capps the night of the accident when he drank six vodkas at a party sponsored by The Santa Barbara Independent, then got into his Dodge Caliber with a blood-alcohol content more than twice the legal limit and ran Mallory down outside EOS Lounge in Santa Barbara. Police estimated that he was traveling at 60 mph at the time.

There aren’t many incumbents who could sustain a scandal of that magnitude, with the feds investigating her principal handler on the Central Coast, but so far, the widow of Walter Capps, namesake of UCSB’s Center For The Study of Ethics, Religion and Public Life, has escaped any serious scrutiny.

Other than releasing a statement to The Independent that my series was “full of inaccuracies,” then retreating behind “no comment,” Mrs. Capps has spent most of this campaign leading in polls. That is, until Oct. 8, when the local Tea Party chapter staged a rally outside her local office demanding Ms. Culver’s ouster. As to the accuracy of my series, “Death On the American Riviera” was heavily vetted by outside counsel for the News-Press and so far no one has effectively disputed a single fact I reported.

While the FBI investigation appears to have stalled, Mrs. Capps is now being defended by Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Zatz from the very Central District prosecutor’s office in Los Angeles that initially referred my findings to the DOJ’s Public Integrity Section in Washington. After breaking the story of the FBI probe on my website, it was picked up by The Associated Press and The Los Angeles Times.

So far the only person to take responsibility for Mallory’s death is Mr. Morua himself, who pled guilty and is now serving 20 years to life at Wasco State Prison.

But after denouncing him following Mallory’s death, the last official position from Mrs. Capps is that her district representative, Mr. Morua, attended the Indy’s Holiday Bash “in his personal capacity,” thus thwarting any hope by Mallory’s parents, Matt and Raeona Dies, of recovering for hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills and their daughter’s loss.

In August, I reported on my website that Ms. Culver was one of 55 California delegates to The Electoral College who voted for President Obama in 2012. She’s the former political director of the California Democratic Party and was instrumental in helping Eric Garcetti get elected mayor of Los Angeles last year. In short, she’s a seasoned political operative.

Yet according to Mr. Morua’s wife, Teresa Montoya, Ms. Culver forged Mr. Morua’s name on two VA forms designed to release his medical records and get him into a Los Angeles treatment facility. One of the forms warns of potential “fines and/or imprisonment for up to 5 years, for concealing a material fact or making a material misstatement of fact.”

Despite my repeated attempts to get comments from Ms. Culver, Mrs. Capps or her press secretary, Chris Meagher (a former reporter for The Independent), they all refused to respond. The only hint of a reaction came on Oct. 24, when KEYT reporter Tracy Lehr cited the Morua/Dies scandal in a profile of Mrs. Capps.

“Elections come around for my job every two years,” said the 76-year-old, eight-term incumbent, “and people can register their concern at the ballot box.” Indeed. As a lifelong Democrat who voted for Mrs. Capps multiple times, this story has never been about politics for me. It’s been about a search for truth. If you’re still undecided on who to vote for in the 24th District race, I urge you to read my series linked to this News-Press online page: www.newspress.com/morua-capps or via my website: 

At a time when integrity in our public officials is at a premium, you can decide whether Lois Capps deserves a ninth term.

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