This week, I had the distinct privilege of speaking with Konstantinos Roditis, a candidate for California State Controller. He also happens to be a personal friend whom I have come to know quite well over time.
Below is a transcript of our exchange:
JF: Tell me about your background, how you became conservative. What got you into politics and public office?
Konstantinos: That’s actually an interesting question because my road to become a conservative evolved as I got older, through life experiences and an evolving worldview. I’ve always had a love for politics but got involved in politics when I attended the University of California, San Diego. It’s there that I got involved with the College Republicans. I grew up Republican but not necessarily conservative. Back then I thought they were synonyms, which isn’t the case. I would say I had beliefs but didn’t have a firm grasp on why I believed what I believed.
In a sense, I was developing my worldview, because I neglected to take into account human nature and how the world truly works.
I essentially believed that people were inherently good and would do what is overall best not just for themselves but society as a whole. So my belief that because you have an “R” next to your name you, for the most part, will do what the party platform actually stands for, because if not, why would you be a Republican?
Obviously, this was naive and I found plenty of examples of terrible Republicans from my time at UCSD to even politicians in my own city of Anaheim that were mostly Republicans that didn’t believe in free markets, were corrupt and prevented my parents from operating a taxicab company in the city. One senior staff member even told my father to go back to Greece and that they will never get a license in Anaheim.
So even though my parents won their court case and my parents were granted 117 permit licenses from the court, the city immediately changed from a permit system to a franchise system with the sole purpose of removing my parents. Even though the city spent over a million dollars of taxpayer money and lost the first case, they decided it was more important to protect the incumbent company over the letting my parents operate.
Due to a legal procedure my parents didn’t do correctly, the city won their action to remove my parents’ company, due to their failure to apply for the franchise which was done prior to the court granting them a license, but didn’t go into effect but held over for months until my parents won, and then the city immediately put the franchise in place.
So, due to a technicality, my parents lost that part of their case which resulted in them going bankrupt and shutting down. Even though the city accidentally submitted an internal document showing that it wasn’t worried if we won the case because it would be short-lived, since they would put the franchise in place to remove my parents. Unfortunately, the courts wouldn’t allow the document because it was stamped “Attorney-client privilege” and thus hurt our case to show the bias, discrimination, and conspiracy to keep us out and protect the incumbent firm.
It was so obvious that they wanted to protect the incumbent over the taxpayer that when we were negotiating damages the city acknowledged they had to pay us for their wrongdoing that when we offered them to take zero money but to operate they preferred to go to court and thus ultimately costing the taxpayer over a million dollars in damages and costs.
Overall, why should they care? It’s not money out of their pockets. They would rather waste taxpayer money then lose their campaign contributions.
So during this time I became disenfranchised with Republicans because of the corruption I saw from these Republicans. There were Democrats involved as well, but the politicians that really screwed over my parents were Republicans. So I decided to give the Democratic Party a try.
I thought maybe I was wrong; the Democrats always seem to be for the little guys so even though I am a fiscal conservative maybe I could find a home in the Democratic Party as a “blue-dog Democrat,” a JFK type Democrat. I even ended up becoming a delegate to the California Democratic Party.
During this time I found out that “they are for the little guy” is just a scam. It was all about power and money.
For instance, when I graduated from UCSD and moving back to Orange County, I, having grown up in the taxicab industry, decided to open up a company as well. I grew up in the industry so it would be a good fit for me since I wanted to own my own company.
So just like my parents’ situation I quickly saw corruption up front. One of my first experiences in corruption was for a train station contract I wanted in Democrat-controlled Santa Ana, CA. Since I had some connections as a delegate, I wanted to find out more what the councilmembers really wanted and looking for. I quickly found out that they were looking for was a bribe. I was told that if I wanted the contract, all I would have to do is put $25,000 into an independent expenditure, and I would get the contract.
So obviously, I couldn’t do that, but with closer ties with the Democratic Party, I began to see the same corruption and hypocrisy.
So my understanding of human nature and my worldview began to develop, and I left the Democratic party and became an independent; which I stayed as for years.
But during this time I experienced what my parents did firsthand when I applied for a taxicab franchise in Anaheim. The level of corruption was unbelievable and began around 2009, but the most aggregates began in 2012.
Basically it goes something like this. We submit packages on how we would conduct our services, meet city requirements and prove we have the financial capability. My package comes back and the report is one lie after another and completely contradicts what I wrote in the package. One area that you would think would be easily void of subjective interpretation would be the evaluation of our audited financial statements. But only in government can you actually receive a “pass-rating” but get a score of F, while your incumbent competitor gets an “inconclusive,” because pertinent documents were missing and they couldn’t do an analysis because they never turned in audit financials and should have been disqualified, but the according to the city, “incomplete” disqualified you but not “inconclusive.” So even though they couldn’t do an analysis they gave them a passing score, which was much higher than mine.
I have been in litigation with the city over these issues and even though we received a court-ordered rehearing and pointed out the lies of the report to the city and how they pointed out the fact that the incumbent firms didn’t meet the minimum guidelines set forth by the city and showed them the evidence. The city decided they didn’t care and increased their licenses instead.
Now it gets even better because the so-called “independent committee” called the Taxicab Advisory Committee (T.A.C.) that was set up by the city to write this report we found out after the hearing that the main taxicab company has 70% of the franchise licenses. The chair of a board called Support Our Anaheim Resort (S.O.A.R) and two of the City councilmembers sit on the same board with him. This group also has a PAC that spends hundreds of thousands of dollars getting councilmembers elected. This PAC is funded by multi-billionaire dollar businesses that are related to the hotel and entertainment industry in Anaheim. This person also sits on the board of Visit Anaheim, which at one point I believe he was the Chairman. Well, Visit Anaheim is one of the groups grading our packages and scoring us.
So why not have only one person from Visit Anaheim vote against me? Why not get someone that also sits on Visit Anaheim but is the Director of Operations of a hotel that is just the latest to get a $200+ million-dollar hotel subsidy which was pushed for by both S.O.A.R. and the City Councilmembers that were supported by them?
I can go on and on about the corruption, but you get the point. The sad reality is they stated I wasn’t qualified to run a taxicab company but now here comes the funny part. During most of this time, I’m actually a City Commissioner in Anaheim.
Even when they know you are competent and have the resources to perform at the highest level, they don’t care.
So with my experience with dealing with local government, state government, and even federal government in business, all I saw was corruption, excess bureaucracy, and wasteful spending.
So as I saw this corruption and I became a Christian sometime during my early 30s, my transition to conservatism began to set hold. I began to see that conservativism is the only way because it is the only worldview that is grounded in reality.
I couldn’t be a Progressive because they think more government is the answer because government is inherently good and corporations and capitalism is inherently evil and bad.
I considered becoming a Libertarian but Libertarians have the same faulty worldview as Progressives; they are just the different side of the same coin. You see, they believe that government is inherently evil and people/corporations are inherently good and if we just got rid of government that people would get together in come up with equitable arrangements. You would be in an Ayn Rand paradise.
The problem is they both miss the point. Now, Progressives are more wrong, but they both fail to miss the fundamental reality of human depravity that the common denominator is what Federalist 51 speaks of, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”
But men are not angels, and thus, as conservatives, we realize government can be more dangerous, and we wish to limit government to do things that are for the common welfare and functioning of a free society, but yet we decentralize authority and responsibilities to limit the effects of corruption and human depravity. But we don’t go full board Libertarians which makes government basically ineffectual and powerless.
People are not angels, and they are morally corrupt. This, of course, doesn’t mean that there are no noble people out there. It just means that we understand the fundamental problem with mankind. That we cannot and will not give too much power to anyone. We don’t want too much power in the hands of politicians, but at the same time, we know if we allow people and corporations to do what they want they will eventually act immorally and violate other people’s rights in order to gratify their desires as well as to maximize their profits and power.
Slavery is a perfect example of this. You not only had government-approved slavery throughout human history, but you still have individuals, groups, extremists and so forth engage in slavery, human trafficking, and forced sex workers today.
So even though I might be considered a small “L” libertarian or the term “conservatarian,” which is a popular phrase today, I believe that this all falls under conservatism. Because, ultimately, conservatives want to limit centralized government as much as possible, but we understand that government is important. But, just like our Founding Fathers, who struggled to create a system that acknowledges that men are not angels, we try to figure out how best to structure government that is administered by men over men which gives the government the control to govern but at the same time oblige it to control itself.
So at the end of the day, we conservatives understand there is no utopian policy or system out there. The point we look for is how to create policies that minimize the effect of human depravity on society whether that be through government or corporations/individuals.
That is why even though I’m no longer independent but a Republican I realized that there are major problems with the Republican Party and people in the party. That is why I say I’m a Conservative that happens to be a Republican instead of a Republican that happens to be a Conservative. I stand on principles plan and simple, but there are still good people in the party that want to reclaim the mantle of conservativism from those who have attempted to steal the term conservatism.
I think we are starting to make headway at reclaiming conservatism as seen through the efforts of Ben Shapiro which are showing the world that true conservatism is the best and only form of governance that works and is based in reality and a proper worldview.
JF: Let’s move onto this race in particular now. Who is your opponent and how are you doing against them?
Konstantinos: Right now I have two opponents. One is the incumbent Democrat and the other is from a small third-party. So being the top-two primary I expect that we will do well and move onto the general election where we think we can win. It’s too early to say but we have been getting positive responses from people regardless of party affiliation on our platform of bring sanity back to California. I believe we can win.
JF: What about you specifically makes you the ideal candidate to defeat the incumbent Democrat?
Konstantinos: I think that I am ideal because I’m not a partisan hack. As Controller of California my job is to protect the taxpayer. Even though the Controller has full independent audit authority, she decided that the boondoggle of government programs, the high-speed, shouldn’t be audited after billions wasted. When the gas tax and car taxes were raised, she was silent even though they divert and waste billions of dollars. She also willing to put Prop. 13 that protects homeowner’s from limiting increases in property taxes on the copying block so the State can tax you more. I believe we can win because she supports and promotes policies that the mass majority of Californians oppose. I believe we can and we will win this November.
JF: Have you received any endorsements yet? If yes, how has it impacted the race? Do you take this as a sign of hope?
Konstantinos: At this point in the race I have not focused on endorsements. I have been meeting with elected officials and members of my own party to talk about my tax idea called Trickle-up-Taxation, which, in a sense, federalizes California. It breaks the monopoly the state government has and decentralizes authority to the county and local level. It also brings taxation to the local level. It allows local government to structure a tax rate that works best for them and, in turn, the state will take a percentage of tax revenue generated locally. So it will allow Progressives, Moderates, or Conservatives to shape their own communities according to their needs.
Like I tell people, I don’t live in San Francisco and I don’t plan on living there, what they do they is their own business. If they are not violating people’s constitutional rights then they should be able to do whatever they want with their tax dollars. If I’m not paying, I should have no say.
So my goal is to get people to endorse Trickle-up-Taxation and that the idea of local government and local control is better than centralized government. Trust me, I know how corrupt local government can be, but decentralizing and creating competition between municipalities to provide the best possible services and the lowest tax rate will benefit everyone over a centralized government monopoly.
I’m more interested in the endorsement of my idea than of me. At the end of the day, let’s say I lose this election. I might have just been the Goldwater that eventually led to the Reagan. Trickle-up-Taxation and the conservative movement can’t be about one person. I’m more interested in creating positive change that will make people’s lives better and breathe new life into the conservative movement in California and hopefully spread throughout the US.
JF: What do you think of Trump so far? How about the GOP Congress?
Konstantinos: Better than I expected, but I’m never happy with politics in D.C. regardless of the political party in charge. I’m a staunch Federalist and both parties have failed. I believe in the original intent of the federal government: to be limited to its enumerated powers, as found in the Constitution. So even though they have made some better policy decisions I see no desire by anyone to shift powers back to the states and empower the people. Unless the GOP in D.C. begins to talk about actually limiting the federal government instead of growing it at a slower rate than the Democrats, I will never be happy with the Republican Party in D.C.
JF: California has become, sadly, a one-party state and pretty much run into the ground. Does the GOP and conservatism have any hope? What can be done to bring the state of Reagan back?
Konstantinos: Actually, I don’t want to bring the state back to the times of when Reagan was governor. I actually think we can do better. Conservatives want to go back to time of Reagan and they are fundamentally wrong. Have they learned nothing? It is like Progressives doing the whole #Resistance thing. Here is a simple rule to remember. If you liked that Obama had a pen and a phone and he was going to use it, don’t get angry when Trump does the same. As conservatives we should know better. Never give too much power to anyone including myself.
The position of governor that Ronald Reagan held is the same seat occupied by Jerry Brown. It’s time we learn from our mistakes and realized that breaking up government monopoly and decentralizing decisions and taxation to the local level is what we should be doing. Even if Reagan was governor of California or even President today, I believe that your local government officials should have a greater effect on your community and your everyday lives than Reagan would.
JF: Interesting. To be honest, I never thought of it that way. It’s clear Reagan is someone that all conservatives should look up to, but I hear that and definitely agree ideally. Now I want to move on to more policy style questions if I may. I will lay out issues that you’d be dealing with as State Controller and you tell me where you stand:
Konstantinos: I believe my Trickle-up-Taxation is the idea that works best and updates the tax code to addresses the 21st century economy.
Konstantinos: I believe most functions and spending should be determined at the local level. The state should focus on the bigger picture and the big needs of the state. Let each municipality decided how much or how little to spend on affordable housing, road repair and so forth. The state should focus on projects it is only suited to do.
Konstantinos: Economic growth will happen, as Trickle-up-Taxation will create competition between government municipalities to provide the best services and the lowest rate. It will bring competition to government like we have never seen before. By keeping tax dollars locally, each dollar is spent more efficiently because it doesn’t have to go through a host of state government agencies and wasteful bureaucracy. Each dollar will go further and actually address the needs of the community. Because Trickle-up-Taxation will fundamentally change how we do government, we should see lower taxes, less overbearing government regulations, more effective government and thus we should see economic growth that is based on real economic principles instead of artificial bubbles the government helps promote through their fiscal and economic policies.
Konstantinos: The office of Controller does not have authority in infrastructure but with Trickle-up-Taxation my plan will bring more infrastructure decisions back to the county and city level depending on the project, but large projects like aqueduct systems, dams, and power plants, the state will retain a lot of its authority because these projects effect the state as a whole. I am deeply concerned with infrastructure in the state and even though it is a function of the State Legislature, as the CFO of the state I can help lay down a budget plan on how the legislature in conjunction with local government can best fund these projects and stay in budget. If they don’t, and start wasting money, then I can come in and audit them and expose the fraud, waste, and abuse and help put much public pressure on the politicians so that they will correct course.
JF: So, in short, why should Californians vote for you?
Konstantinos: Because I’m the one person that wants to limit their power of government and stop fraud, waste, and abuse. I am the only one that wants to bring power closer to home. As you can see, the way we have been doing government hasn’t been working. It’s time to go back to common sense governance the way our Founders intended. I believe my honesty and common-sense policies will convince voters to vote for me.
JF: How can people seeing this contribute or help out your campaign?
Konstantinos: The best way is to share this interview with everyone you know on social media or via email. Also, go to our website, cacontroller.com, to learn more about our campaign and if so inclined donate in order for us to help spread our message. Our message of freedom, limited government, and Trickle-up-Taxation might be just the thing for other red or blue states throughout the nation. So the more we can spread the message far and wide, the better.