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Legislator's ex-wife publishes dramatic 'insider' book

By KEN HOOVER

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A legislator's ex-wife portrays the state Capitol as a den of corruption and lechery in a soon-to-be published novel that could prove embarrassing if not damaging to her former husband.

The book, 'Capitol Punishment,' is the fictional story of a legislative staffer who has an affair with her boss, Assemblyman Eric Darcy of Long Beach, and suffers through an unhappy marriage with him.

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What makes the book politically noteworthy is that the make-believe Darcy invites a comparison to the real-life assemblyman from Long Beach, Dave Elder.

The author, Linda Proaps, worked in real life for Elder and later married and divorced him.

Like Elder, Darcy is chairman of the Assembly committee that oversees pensions and public employees. Darcy's appearance -- tall, with graying, slightly wavy hair -- is similar to Elder's.

Proaps, now a lawyer in private practice, said her purpose was to expose the rampant corruption she says she saw during 16 years in Capitol politics.

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She won't say how much of the book is fact and how much is fiction.

'All of the characters are fictional,' she insists. 'The background is real, but has been fictionalized for dramatic effect.'

'Capitol Punishment' arrives at bookstores as the California Legislature is in the midst of an FBI corruption investigation that has already resulted in two former senators being sentenced to prison.

Last November, angry voters imposed stiff term limits on lawmakers and slashed their budget by 40 percent.

The heroine of the book is Stacy Dillon. Like Proaps, she grew up in Sacramento, went to law school in the late 1970s and worked in the Legislature, except in the later part of her career, when she worked for the state treasurer.

Eric Darcy is a corrupt brute. After repeated sexual advances, he rapes Stacy in a San Francisco hotel room he paid for with campaign funds, then hurries off to give a speech for which he has received an honorarium.

Stacy has his baby, and when reporters begin investigating the affair, he hustles her off to a motel in Glendale and lines up a sinecure in the Los Angeles office of the evil Assembly speaker, Sheridan Wexler.

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In real life, Proaps worked for seven months in the Los Angeles office of Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, D-San Francisco, after about two years in Elder's office.

She and Elder had two children.

Darcy pays for the move and the motel out of campaign funds. It's a legitimate campaign expense, he rationalizes, because his career would be finished if the voters found out about his illicit affair.

When Stacy becomes pregnant a second time, Darcy tries to induce an abortion by punching her in the stomach.

He constantly uses a credit card charged to his campaign account to pay for personal expenses.

He moves his bills through the Legislature as their proponents give him campaign contributions and honorariums, making sure Speaker Wexler gets his 'fair share.'

People seeking legislation are steered to lobbyists, who then are expected to get their clients to contribute to Darcy and the speaker.

By anybody's standards, Darcy is a miserable husband and father. His main interests are golf and career. He uses his wife mainly for sex and political convenience.

Elder said he hasn't read the book, but denies any of the events described occurred in real life.

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'It's a fictional novel written by an ex-wife,' Elder said, 'and my concern is the effect this will have on our children. She represents to me it's fiction.'

Proaps said Elder never believed the book would be published until word of it began filtering through the Capitol in recent weeks.

'He's in a state of total denial over the book,' Proaps said. 'When I told him I was writing it, his response was, 'Give it your best shot, baby. Nobody's going to publish it.''

There are plenty of characters in the book who bear a strong resemblance to real-life Capitol denizens.

The fictional Wexler is under pressure from a group of rebellious legislators called the Circle of Seven and finally is elected to a new record eighth term as speaker by a single vote.

Brown was challenged by the Gang of Five, and his speakership survived into a record fifth term by one vote in a dramatic roll call that occurred just as the book describes.

Back to the book, under Wexler's guidance, the Assembly has degenerated into a house in which staff members are expected to 'volunteer' for campaign work in order to keep their jobs and sergeants-at-arms run menial errands for lawmakers.

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The book describes a Legislature in which committee assignments and staff jobs are doled out, not on the basis of skill, but depending on political loyalties and the ability to deliver campaign contributions and honorariums.

The publisher, Lexicon Publishing of Sacramento, is printing 5,000 copies initially, which are due out at the end of the month.

A third of the first printing already has been ordered, largely by bookstores near the Capitol.

'We're excited about it,' said Lester Dix, an executive with the publisher. 'Everybody (at the Capitol) wants to see if they're in it.'NEWLN:

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