November 14, 2001 - LA Times: Senate Panel Begins Vasquez Hearing Today

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2001: 11 November 2001 Peace Corps Headlines: November 14, 2001 - LA Times: Senate Panel Begins Vasquez Hearing Today

By Admin1 (admin) on Saturday, November 17, 2001 - 5:33 pm: Edit Post

The following article appeared in the LA Times the day before the Confirmation Hearings and provide background for the hearings:

ORANGE COUNTY Senate Panel Begins Vasquez Hearing Today

ORANGE COUNTY Senate Panel Begins Vasquez Hearing Today

Politics: Nominee for Peace Corps director has wide support, but some question his role in O.C. bankruptcy.


Despite growing bipartisan support, former county Supervisor Gaddi H. Vasquez is expected to be questioned about Orange County's historic bankruptcy and his lack of foreign expertise when a U.S. Senate committee considers his nomination as Peace Corps director today.

A group of former Peace Corps volunteers is urging the committee to reject President Bush's nominee, saying Vasquez lacks the international experience and deft management skills required to run an agency with 7,000 volunteers working in 78 countries.

However, Vasquez's supporters say the Orange County Republican is a seasoned leader and, during his past jobs as politician and police officer, has shown his commitment to public safety and helping those in need. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) is among his backers, and will introduce Vasquez during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this afternoon. Boxer is a member of the committee, which is not expected to vote on the nomination until later this month.

"Those qualifications, in the senator's estimation, stand him in good stead to be the next director of the Peace Corps," Boxer's spokesman David Sandretti said Tuesday.

Vasquez first gained prominence in 1988, when he was elected to the county Board of Supervisors and became the highest-ranking Latino Republican politician in California. He is the latest Latino to be named to a prominent post by a president eager to court the nation's growing Latino vote.

Critics call the nomination a blatant political move, and fear placing a novice in charge of the Peace Corps after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks will squander an opportunity for the nation to show the world that it is as much an advocate for peace as it is for justice.

"The president has surrounded himself with a quality team of experts," said former Peace Corps volunteer John Coyne of New Rochelle, N.Y., who is helping lead a campaign against Vasquez. "The Peace Corps deserves someone on the same level, someone with at least some international experience. Just look at [Vasquez's] resume and questionable background."

Coyne noted that Vasquez was an Orange County supervisor from 1987-95, resigning just after the bankruptcy and ahead of a recall campaign and a 1996 grand jury investigation.

A scathing 1996 U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission report accused the Board of Supervisors and other Orange County officials of misleading and defrauding buyers of more than $2.1 billion in municipal securities.

Vasquez resigned about a year after the financial collapse and was never charged with a crime. Two of his fellow supervisors, however, faced civil charges of failing to prevent the bankruptcy. Their cases were later thrown out.

After resigning, Vasquez joined Southern California Edison, where he is now division vice president of public affairs.

The Lesbian, Gay & Bisexual Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, an organization based in Washington, also is "vigorously opposed" to Vasquez's appointment, saying his years in Orange County proved he is "unfit to administer a federal agency with an annual budget of $275 million."

The group also criticized Vasquez for a 1989 vote against approving housing rights and job protection to people with HIV/AIDS. Vasquez and two other supervisors who voted against the ordinances said they did so because existing state and federal laws already protected people with HIV and AIDS from discrimination.

Those votes negate "his ability to effectively administer the Peace Corps' numerous HIV/AIDS prevention, education and health programs, and to act as a leader in the world fight against AIDS," the group said.

An online petition opposing Vasquez's nomination also was being circulated on a general Web site for former Peace Corps volunteers. It had generated more than 750 names as of late Tuesday.

Vasquez, reached Tuesday in Washington, said he couldn't comment on the hearing or his appointment until the Senate votes.

"I'm honored and if confirmed, I'll look forward to serving," he said.

His wife, Elaine, and son, Jason, were expected to attend the hearing.

Vasquez has remained active in GOP politics and served on the California steering committee for Bush's presidential campaign. He also contributed $100,000 to the GOP National Committee, money left over from his campaigns.

Assemblyman Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) organized a letter supporting Vasquez's nomination signed by every Latino member of the California Assembly. The National Assn. of Latino Elected Officials also has backed Vasquez.

"I've known Gaddi to do some good things for the community and he never asked if you were Democrat or Republican," Correa said. "I think he deserves this. I think the Peace Corps gains from his involvement."

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