Frustrated with ‘ineffective’ government, financial adviser takes on powerful GOPer

Alexis Levinson | Political Reporter

One year ago on Monday, Dante Acosta’s son, Rudy, was shot and killed while serving as a medic in Afghanistan. He was not killed by hostile forces, but by Afghani contractors who had been hired by the government to protect the soldiers.

In the year that followed, Acosta went to Washington looking for answers. Unsatisfied with the responses he got — especially from his own congressman, Buck McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee — Acosta has thrown in his name into the ring, running against McKeon in the Republican primary.

“The experience of dealing with our government and our representatives, I had an awakening of sorts to how ineffective our government could really be and … realized that we’re really, simply, not being well represented,” Acosta, who works as a financial adviser, explained to The Daily Caller in a phone interview.

“And I decided, very recently, frankly, that if nobody else was going to challenge our congressman of 20 years — who, by the way, I feel that if you been in Congress for 20 years, perhaps you might be part of the problem. I feel like it’s time for new leadership, for someone to take the reins who is more directly tied to — and has their ear to — the ground, in what’s going on in the community,” Acosta said.

In a lot of ways, his son’s death has become a centerpiece of his campaign, something that most people wouldn’t relish just a year after the incident. Asked if this was hard for him and his family, Acosta sighed.

“Therapy’s a funny word, but I look at it as somewhat therapeutic for me to be able to speak, in different situations from my wife. It’s very hard for her,” he said.

He had to do this, Acosta said, in honor of his son’s life.

“I can do no less than serve. Rudy served his country with honor. And I can’t do that the same way he did. But God gave me the ability to speak, he gave me the tenacity and the will to persevere in the face of adversity,” Acosta told TheDC.

“I am honored to speak about Rudy. And I am honored to be able to tell people that this is not about Rudy, per say, it’s not just about force protection protocols for our soldiers — though it’s vitally important. With the amount of money we spend on the military, and then to penny pinch and squander a few pennies for low-bid or no-bid contracts to guard our soldiers, just seems like the height of idiocy to me,” Acosta explained.

“But it’s about service,” he added. He spoke about joining his local Rotary Club.

“Rotary’s about service above self. And it’s funny because that’s what our son was about, and that’s what I think every service member of our military is about. It’s about serving something greater than yourself. And I feel that I can serve this district, community, and this country … and try to make it a better place.

“If I can make the slightest dent, if I can make it any better like our son did, then I think I’ve succeeded.”

Acosta believes the best way to make that dent is as a member of Congress.

“Going to Congress means that I not only am the representative of this district — that I can perhaps have some input and affect changes and make improvements on the lives of people in the district — but I could also vote on issues and be able to speak out on issues that affect the country as a whole,” he said.

“I believe I would be a much more effective articulator and communicator of a true conservative message than what we currently have. I have a very broad understanding of the different issues that affect our country and our district today,” he told TheDC.

Additionally, Acosta would like to “restore credibility to our local office,” something he said McKeon, who has been involved in a couple of ethically-questionable situations, has squandered.

McKeon is one of several members of Congress being investigated by the House Ethics Committee for the “sweetheart deal” he got on a mortgage from Countrywide. His communications director, Alyssa McCurley, says that is a non-issue, explaining that McKeon was unaware that he was getting a good deal. But closer to home, questions have been raised about the way he uses his campaign funds.

McKeon’s wife serves as the treasurer for his campaign and receives a salary for doing so. A report in 2007 found that she had received just under $264,000 in campaign funds, plus a $4,600 bonus. Acosta notes, as others have before him, that not only does that seem like a largely inflated amount of money to pay a campaign treasurer, but that the move amounts to McKeon transferring campaign funds into personal funds, by paying them to his wife, who in turn takes them home as salary.

McCurley explained that Patricia McKeon served as her husband’s treasurer because he felt more comfortable having a member of his family do the job, given the reported incidents of treasurers stealing from campaigns.

His wife is now running for a seat in the state assembly, and a leaked internal campaign memo raised questions about what McKeon’s campaign was doing to aid her in that effort. McCurley explained that the memo had been “circulated among senior staffers and advisers” and that it represented nothing more than “brainstorming.” The congressman, she said, had never even been shown that memo.

“It’s just that flavor and that tinge of soft corruption that frustrates a lot of people in this community,” Acosta said.

“But that’s not why I’m running,” he concluded. “I’m running because I have seen under tithe tent, and I have seen the way our government works, and it’s ineffective. And our local representative is not a local politician and a local representative; he’s a national politician representing very large defense contractors and not the local constituents that sent him to Washington. That’s why I’m running.”

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