Let me begin by saying I'm not into spanking. If I suggested to my wife that we give it a try, I'm confident she would spank the side of my head with a frying pan.
So maybe I'm not the best person to judge Mike "Spanky" Duvall, the family values crusader from Yorba Linda. He's the unfortunate chap who resigned from the state Assembly last week after he was caught on camera boasting of his sexual conquests and peccadilloes, which include a mistress who wears panties the size of an eye patch.
"So I am getting into spanking her," Duvall told his colleague, Jeff Miller of Corona, while the two sat on the dais during a break at a hearing in Sacramento. They did not know the microphone was on. "Yeah, I like it. . . . She goes, 'I know you like spanking me.' I said, 'Yeah, that's 'cause you're such a bad girl.' "
Not that I don't have my own fetishes. I like to fantasize, for instance, that while two legislators kibitz at an Appropriations Committee hearing in a state with crippling budget problems and a ridiculous load of unfinished business, the knuckleheads are talking about something other than spanking and underpants.
On the other hand, this does put California back on the map when it comes to political sex scandals. We'd kind of lost our way for a while after championship performances by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Of course, it was hard to compete with South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, whose long absences were explained by a sudden interest in the tango, and now he's telling us God wants him to stay in office. But if there's a reigning champ in the Dog House for Life competition, I say it's former North Carolina senator and White House hopeful John Edwards, who canoodled with his videographer while his wife battled breast cancer.
Duvall is a gamer, though. Boasting about sextracurricular activities at a government hearing is brazenly bad form, but doing so with a camera in the room puts you in the Stupid Human Hall of Fame. And to make matters worse, one of Duvall's concubines may be a lobbyist with Sempra Energy.
Sempra has spent $800,000 on lobbying the first half of this year, $2,800 of it on Duvall, who was vice chairman of an energy committee and took Sempra's side in four votes this year. So this isn't just a sex scandal. It's a window on Sacramento's notorious pay-to-play culture, and now we're left to wonder if a G-string can buy as much influence as a campaign check.
On the upside, California Common Cause President Kathay Feng said Duvall has brought a new kind of sexiness to the dull topic of political reform. She intends to call for legislation requiring that every contact between a lobbyist and politician be recorded as to who, when, where and why. And she said the scandal is one more reason to re-draw gerrymandered districts, in which candidates are anointed by party extremists rather than truly elected by voters, giving them a sense of invincibility.
Caught with his pants down, so to speak, Duvall resigned Wednesday.
On Thursday, he said his resignation wasn't an admission of an affair.
The guy gets dumber every day.
I expected a Friday news conference in which he said God had asked him to fight for his job and open a halfway house for recovering spankers.
"Nobody here is defending him," one of the employees at Chili's in Yorba Linda told me Thursday night. Chili's, one of Duvall's hangouts, is near the Richard Nixon library, and I wondered if Duvall had considered a televised speech in which he insists, "I am not a spanker."
The Chili's employee, who asked that I not use her name because she knows the family and feels sorry for Duvall's wife, said she found Duvall's Thursday backpedaling preposterous, given the assemblyman's recorded boasts.
"So I was 54 on June 14th, so for a month she was 19 years younger than me," Duvall said on the tape. "I said, 'Now you're getting old. I am going to have to trade you in,' and she goes, she is 36, she is 18 years younger than me. And so I keep teasing her, and she goes, 'I know you French men, you divide your age by 2 and add 7, and if you're older than that, you dump us. . . .' "
He's such a bon vivant, maybe Frenchy Duvall works better than Spanky Duvall.
At the nearby Main Street Restaurant, owner Lynn Ruocco was in tears, wondering if Duvall had ruined her career along with his own. She said that before she knew the full extent of the fix Duvall was in, she had made complimentary remarks about him to The Times, arguing that he should not have resigned. Now she was being roasted by critics.
"Shame on you," said an e-mail Ruocco showed me on her computer.
"I will never eat at Main Street Restaurant again," said another.
"I'm not the devil," Ruocco protested, calling herself a pillar of the community.
One of her customers backed that up and put the heat back on Duvall, where it belonged.
"The biggest problem I had was that he was bragging about it," said the customer.
"Absolutely stupid," Ruocco agreed. "He's stupid."