Photo by David Middlecamp (The Tribune)
Back in September, radio show host Dave Congalton compared me to self-styled activist Kevin P. Rice on his show. Congalton said I pale in comparison to Rice, a person who believes “activism” includes harassing political adversaries for sport.
Congalton is right. There can only be one Kevin P. Rice.
Congalton, who supports Rice, was outraged that San Luis Obispo mayor Jan Marx cited SLO Truth as a source that documented many of Rice’s exploits. Marx revealed in her campaign newsletter that Rice donated $300 to Marx’s opponent, Heidi Harmon. When she was made aware of Rice’s donation, Harmon vowed to return the donation, which she ultimately did. After The Tribune and the New Times ran stories about his donation, Rice complained on CalCoastNews and said Marx “debased herself” by “intentionally propagating manufactured and unquestionable lies which are readily controverted by documented facts and/or completely without substance.”
Rice lost momentum he accumulated from opposing the controversial rental inspection ordinance, which Marx initially supported. Harmon’s treasurer, Kathie Walker, also opposes the ordinance and has worked closely with Rice, according to a number of sources involved in that movement. According to Walker, she accepted the donation from Rice but took responsibility for failing to disclose the donation to Harmon.
Rice made headlines last month for a series of robocalls he was involved in. Each robocall was made in opposition to District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill.
The first robocall was from Grover Beach city council candidate Debbie Peterson, who claimed that Hill once locked her in “county hall” when no one else was in the building and claimed he had a permit to carry a concealed gun. On the “Dave Congalton Show,” Peterson claimed Hill mentioned that he needed to have a concealed carry permit because he was harassed by Rice, who she originally described as a “political opponent” in an editorial published on CalCoastNews. The Tribune looked into Peterson’s accusations and could not confirm its veracity. The New Times’ Shredder described Peterson’s accusations as being discredited.
The second robocall featured local businesswoman Julie Tizzano, who claimed that Hill threatened to cut county funding to the Food Bank Coalition if she continued doing business with the organization. Tizzano, co-owner of SLOCO Data & Printing, previously printed materials for the Food Bank Coalition. In the robocall, Tizzano claimed Hill was “willing to hurt senior citizens, the poor and the homeless,” and encouraged people to not vote for him. In March, Tizzano’s business hosted a meet-and-greet for Hill’s opponent Dan Carpenter. When I spoke to her last year, Tizzano mentioned that Rice is one of her business clients.
After The Tribune’s Cynthia Lambert looked into the second robocall, Rice lashed out against the newspaper in a string of rants.
“IntegritySLO regrets that Cynthia Lambert has been forced to attach her good name to these echelon-ordered Adam Hill campaign pieces,” wrote Rice on The Tribune website. “Cynthia is a good journalist who otherwise produces high quality work, unlike her employer.”
Rice elaborated on his remarks in an “open letter” to The Tribune, which was published on CalCoastNews.
“It is newly disappointing that the Tribune is now openly providing cover for an abusive public official,” wrote Rice. “I am shocked the Tribune is also abusing reporter Cynthia Lambert in this sham. She is a good journalist and you are sullying her fine reputation and name by forcing her to write false and shoddy stories on behalf of Supervisor Adam Hill. I know Cynthia’s work, and this is not hers.”
Tribune executive editor Sandra Duerr responded to Rice’s baseless allegation.
“We take exception to your assumption that we are ‘abusing’ reporter Cynthia Lambert,” wrote Duerr. “We agree that she is an excellent journalist — and in fact, she is the one who suggested fact-checking the robocall.”
Then Congalton distanced himself from Rice.
“I agree with the basic analysis behind Kevin’a argument, though I would be more comfortable if he had chosen another phrase other than the Tribune ‘abusing Cynthia Lambert,'” wrote Congalton on CalCoastNews. “That’s a pretty harsh statement and far from the truth–I don’t think a verb like ‘abusing’ should be tossed around so lightly.”
On Nov. 8, District 3 residents voted to re-elect Hill by 13 points, effectively rejecting Rice-style politics that plagued the contentious race.
There are many words to describe Rice, but “activist” is not one of them. When one of his critics called him a “sociopath,” Rice hand-delivered legal threats to the critic’s residence and added his Social Security number on the documents. Personally, I find “alt-right troll” to be a more appropriate label. Rice’s methods are similar to ones deployed by the alt-right movement.
Voters know better. When they look at Kevin P. Rice’s handiwork, they know something isn’t quite right. They get the feeling they’re being duped. I’m just here to confirm the obvious.