Reflecting on the early 1990s, former Human Relations Commissioner Shinnick remembers that one particular document ignited the whole Kreep controversy. Activists had obtained a fundraising letter that Kreep sent out in the early 1980s that seemed antithetical to the commission's goals.
"He was basically raising money from people for these fringe ideas and earning a living that way," says Shinnick, who now represents homeowner associations as a private attorney. "That, at the time, struck me as not an honorable way to earn your living, to stir up trouble among people and use it to collect money."
The letter itself is lost to the void of history, but the Los Angeles Times and the U-T reported that it decried "a homosexual assault on traditional American morality," particularly the appointment of gay judges.
"What troubled me in particular was there was not even a hint of regret that he had been involved in that kind of divisive fundraising, not a hint of apology, no sense of 'I've thought about this, and my positions were immature,' or anything," Shinnick says. "No, he was just in total denial that divisive actions for fundraising purposes was wrong."
Kreep still doesn't see anything wrong with the practice. Recent USJF email solicitations have contained titles like, "Militant Homosexual Lobby Targeting Mississippi" and "Stop Internet takeover by UN fascists."
"[M]embers of the Muslim Brotherhood, who love Barack Hussein Obama's soft on terrorism policies, Saudi oil sheiks who are getting even richer because of the Administration's domestic oil drilling moratorium, and America-hating despots around the world are able to dump money into the Obama campaign," Kreep wrote in an Oct. 16 fundraising email for USJF. "Barack Obama is stealing this election by accepting millions of dollars in illegal campaign contributions, and we have to stop it."
According to documents on file with the IRS, the bulk of USJF's money goes back into direct-mail and email marketing, a total of $4.5 million in 2009 and 2010. More than half of that went to Response Unlimited, a Virginia-based direct-mail firm that specializes in compiling right-wing mailing lists. The lists have titles such as "Pro-life without exception donors," "Homosexuality is sin donors," "Drill Baby Drill donors" "Christian Zionist donors" and "Obama's not eligible donors." Kreep's organizations routinely rent and share lists.
Some of Kreep's solicitations are more problematic.
In February, Kreep attached his name to RMCPAC emails requesting funds to support Rep. Allen West, a Florida Republican, in his reelection bid. The emails, which bore Kreep's digital signature, plagiarized eight paragraphs from an article about West written by Politico writer Alex Isenstadt. Remarks critical of West were deleted and a new ending was tacked on.
Kreep denies responsibility.
"Another person wrote the solicitation for me," Kreep says. "I was unaware of any problems with the letters."
CityBeat also found another fundraising letter online attributed to Kreep as the USJF's "executive director emeritus." The solicitation asked supporters to help the 501(c)(3) organization in its transition as Kreep leaves to become a judge, but a closer reading of the text indicates all donations would go toward retiring Kreep's campaign debt. The mail-in contribution slip attached to the mailer instructs donors to write checks to Kreep personally as opposed to his campaign committee.
Kreep says he was unaware of the solicitation's existence. He acknowledges it would be inappropriate if it had, in fact, been sent to supporters.
"This was, apparently, a draft for me to use, set up by a supporter, that was never approved or used by me," Kreep says. "It is on a website that I have no control over and no legal relationship to. Upon my inquiring, I was told that no money was donated through it. I have asked that it be taken down forthwith."
The site, Grassroots.cc, is owned and managed by Grassroots Campaign Creations, one of the top vendors providing campaign services to RMCPAC and Beat Obama. Kreep has used the company to fundraise for USJF and returned the favor by using USJFís name to fundraise for Pray for US, a nonprofit founded by Grassroots' owner, Charles Benninghoff III.
As the Washington Times reported in an in-depth investigation into Draft Herman Cain and RMCPAC in November 2011, disbarred attorney Benninghoff has a long, troubled history with the law.
In 1997, a three-judge, appellate-court panel hammered Benninghoff for "beyond the pale" conduct in a case involving a legal client who invested $607,000 with him on the side. The court characterized Benninghoff's dealings as "suspect" and "unscrupulous." Two years later, Charles and Nancy Benninghoff pleaded guilty to defrauding federal banks and lying to the IRS to obtain a $600,000 loan. Charles spent a year in prison, while Nancy received five years' probation. In the mid-2000s, Benninghoff was caught practicing law without a license in administrative hearings and prisoner-transfer matters.
Benninghoff did not respond to interview requests.
"Individuals that make mistakes can turn their lives around and be productive citizens," Kreep writes, regarding Benninghoff. "Over the years, I have helped several people that have done so."
In recent years, Benninghoff has reinvented himself as a conservative activist and an online marketing guru. Among other services, he provides credit-card processing to Kreep's PACs and organizations. Benninghoff's latest endeavor is the "FaxGram."
Many advocacy organizations encourage supporters to send letters and emails to their Congress members. Through Benninghoff's service, USJF asks its supporters to send mass faxes to Congress—for a fee. In one email that alleged that Obama was suppressing the military vote, Kreep urged people to spend $29.99 to email all 242 Republican members of the House of Representatives or $39.99 to fax all 435 members. Discounts were offered for seniors.
What the solicitation didn't say is that Congress no longer uses traditional fax machines. Instead, faxes arrive digitally through a system not unlike email. At CityBeat's request, staff for Rep. Brian Bilbray dug up four faxes received through Grassroots; all were from citizens outside his district. Due to the large amount of form letters sent, members typically only read letters from actual constituents.
“Judges are entitled to entertain their personal views on political questions," the California Code of Judicial Ethics states. "They are not required to surrender their rights or opinions as citizens. They shall, however, avoid political activity that may create the appearance of political bias or impropriety. Judicial independence and impartiality should dictate the conduct of judges and candidates for judicial office."
On Jan. 7, 2013, Gary George Kreep will be sworn in as a judge of the Superior Court of San Diego County. Presiding Judge Robert Trentacosta will assign Kreep to a specific department, such as the civil or small-claims division, for one year, or for three years if he decides to send Kreep to juvenile or family court. The latter is Kreep's preference. He will earn a $178,789 salary, with an annual car allowance of $6,864.
Kreep's election in June served as a wake-up call for the legal community, with the county bar association, top prosecutors and retired judges coming out en masse to oppose another conservative candidate in the November election. Before Kreep was elected, Jim Miller Jr. was the front runner, but on Election Day he was crushed by his opponent, Deputy District Attorney Robert Amador, in an 18-percent landslide.
"I'm quite confident that at least 95 percent or more of the bar leaders and retired justices that opposed Miller in favor of Amador would've supported Peed and not Kreep," says Len Simon, who helped coordinate the effort. "It just wasn't a public issue at the time."
The question now is what to do about Judge Kreep. Lawyers whose cases come before Kreep can file a peremptory challenge, called "papering," to have their cases transferred to another judge. Kreep can be voted out in six years. A recall would require opponents to collect a prohibitively high, 81,729 signatures, the equivalent of 20 percent of the voters in the countywide election. The Legislature may remove a judge through impeachment for misconduct in office. The California Commission on Judicial Performance also has the power to discipline officers of the court, including suspension and removal.
There's also a question for Kreep. Why would he give up the $221,000 in wages and benefits he receives from USJF and the thousands in fees he receives from PACs? Why give up his passionate legal crusades and political assaults?
"The answer is simple, for reasons which you could ascertain with some real research," he writes to CityBeat. "I have a heart to help people, and all God's creatures."
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @DaveMaass. Writer's note: I'd like to express massive respect (and link) to all the other media who've been covering Kreep and his associates recently and over the years, especially TPM Muckraker, Politico, Maddow Blog, FactCheck.org, OC Weekly and KPBS.