In March of this year, I attended my first chapter meeting with Our Revolution. That is where I met the Director and Co-founder of the Costa Mesa chapter (ORCM), Tim Johnson, and started a long journey that ended in codependency, blackouts, and manipulation. I would never have guessed things would land here and I debated to keep this private. In sharing this story, my first concern is to protect female volunteers. My second concern is to get Tim the help he needs.
It started simply enough. I volunteered where I could, contributed donations to help fund the events, and was available to offer advice on progressive politics. We were both interested in backing a progressive who was running for Congress, and most of my efforts were directly in support of that candidate. At the time, I was networking with my contacts to help secure endorsements.
At the same time, Tim was calling me daily to help with his chapter. ORCM events were hosted and moderated by an independent media duo, Fiorella Isabel and Craig “Pasta” Jardula of the Convo Couch, who broadcast on the MCSC Network, which is led by Niko House, an activist connected to a lawsuit initiated to reimburse donors who felt the 2016 primary was rigged by the DNC. I was moderately familiar with them through mutual acquaintances and a private strategist chat on Facebook. Niko had been in the chat for a year before me, and Fiorella was added to the chat about a month after me.
During this time, Niko had left the strategist chat due to a dispute with Undercovered Magazine editor and contributor, Don Ford, over a difference of opinion regarding the strategy of a congressional candidate, Tim Canova. This was a heated exchanged in which Niko screen captured a private conversation from the strategist chat and posted it publicly on his wall.
Canova is running in Broward County, FL against the disgraced former DNC Chair, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who was revealed to favor Hillary Clinton with DNC resources during the 2016 primary. He decided to leave the Democratic party and run as an independent.
This will come back into play later in this story.
Photo Credit: Tim Johnson
Left to Right: Convo Couch Co-Host Craig “Pasta” Jardula, Undercovered Magazine Author Jenna Beck, Convo Couch Co-Host Fiorella Isabel, and ORCM Director and Co-Founder Tim Johnson
One night, Pasta had invited Tim and me to his house for dinner. This was the first time that Tim and I spoke on a personal level. It was an hour and a half round trip to Pasadena and so we learned about each other and our private lives. This night changed the dynamic of our relationship and we became much closer as friends.
But things didn’t stay that way all night. By the end of the evening, Tim was very inebriated, not able to walk straight or sit up straight and he was slurring his speech. As someone who has been in two long-term relationships with alcoholics, this was an eyebrow-raising moment for me.
The next evening, we were bar hopping in Costa Mesa to canvass with our congressional candidate. It was that night that I realized Tim really did have a drinking problem. I had not really been paying close attention previously, but he was buying drinks and shots in fast succession.
Our conversations became much more personal and we were on the phone with each other every single day, for hours at a time, while planning events and working on the congressional race. He started asking me to take care of him, to save him, calling me “his savior,” saying he needed a new job, and that his work on the congressional race was affecting his ability to perform his job.
I would push back and say we are equals and I cannot be that person for you.
Complaints of insomnia meant that he would contact me at all hours of the day and night. Eventually, he was ending calls with “I love you” and even asked me to go to church with him. I would always respond that I loved him as a friend and that his friendship was meaningful to me. This was only the beginning.
Bernie’s (Johnny’s) Coffee Shop in Los Angeles, CA
We attended the second anniversary of Bernie’s Coffee Shop in Los Angeles, which is a hub for activists and progressive campaigns. It was an all day and late into the night event. We met several new people and listened to candidates and activists speak. There were food and drinks available to all.
Among the dozens of people in attendance, my congressional candidate spoke at the event, Pasta was mixing drinks, and Fiorella was in and out. Tim drank excessive amounts of alcohol. By night time, it should have been apparent to everyone in the vicinity that Tim had a drinking problem. He was literally begging for more wine. When he starts drinking, he cannot stop until he blacks out.
Then, anything can happen.
Sometime around 11 pm, Tim disappeared with Fiorella for a couple of hours and since I was Tim’s ride home I was forced to stay and wait. In hindsight, I should have left him there.
Already knowing he had a problem, I was trying to coax him to leave for hours. Each time I nearly got him to go, Fiorella would grab him by the hand and pull him into the back room, and someone hollered “don’t leave, Tim, have more wine.” It was well past 2 am when we finally left. This may have been fun and games to them, but it had real-life consequences for Tim and me.
The ride home was two hours of belligerent yelling and wandering hands. He kept stroking his fingers through my hair as I was driving and pulling my hair back like some sort of 50 Shades of Gray move. He took my hand and massaged it to show me what Fiorella had done when they were off in another location. Then something new started, he yelled at me and told me to watch out for Don, that I shouldn’t trust him. During the long drive, he was loud, in my face, and going back and forth between being horny, passive-aggressive, and manipulative.
Over the next few days, we discussed his alcoholism. He said he did not remember anything he did on the way home. He would go back and forth between wanting to get help and denying that he had a problem. From my perspective, the problem had already become so pervasive in a short amount of time and it was affecting me personally. I spoke with the co-founder of the ORCM chapter, Russell Baldwin, and expressed my concerns. He gave me some resources to read and better understand alcoholism.
I did not share with Russell what Tim had done in the car.
Photo Credit: Tim Johnson Our Revolution Barn Berner.
Left to right: Undercovered Magazine Author Jenna Beck, ORCM Co-Founder Russell Baldwin, Undercovered Magazine Editor and Contributor Don Ford, and ORCM Director and Co-Founder Tim Johnson.
We had a big event only three days later. The ORCM Barn Berner, hosted by Pasta and Fiorella. Tim arrived just in time but appeared to be on something. He was agitated and jumpy. At the end of the evening, Tim asked me for a ride home. He showed me a mason jar with some sort of homebrew liquor. Because he hides the problem so well, I assume Pasta was unaware of the issue but was encouraging him to drink during the event, according to Tim.
By the time I dropped him off, he left the container with me, having already drank half of its contents.
At this point, my son was getting concerned and was visibly angry when he saw me on the phone with Tim. I was trying to create some distance, but still had work and commitments with him. However, he was becoming flakey; spending his time in LA with Fiorella rather than helping the campaign and had also taken to drunk video dialing Don. It got to the point that I could no longer count on him and stopped offering him rides to go to the events. I even suggested he ask a new volunteer for a ride to the election night party rather than pick him up on my way home.
I would regret this later.
Early on, Don and I had privately agreed that even though he disagreed with Canova’s decision to leave the Democratic Party, becoming an independent made him a good fit to endorse my congressional candidate. I had been working to secure that and in the wee hours of election day, I received a PM from Tim Canova that he had decided to endorse my congressional candidate. We were all so excited, but also a little disappointed it had come so late and wouldn’t really impact the vote.
Photo Credit: Don Ford
Left to right: ORCM Director and Co-Founder Tim Johnson and Undercovered Magazine Editor and Contributor Don Ford
On the night of the election, Tim drank hard and fast. There were several people present including the candidate, his supporters, members of ORCM, my son, and Don. Tim asked me over and over again if I love him. He wanted to hold my hand and keep his arm around me. He kept pointing to his cheek and repeatedly asked me to kiss him. I told him to stop and that he was being inappropriate. His hand kept reaching for my bottom. He was slobbering drunk and the stragglers left at the party were signaling to me to keep him busy so they could talk.
Tim kept pretending to karate fight Don, who noticed how drunk Tim was and that he kept inappropriately touching people. Don redirected Tim’s attention by getting him to stand still for a selfie. We offered to call an Uber for Tim, but the new volunteer insisted she would be fine driving him home.
When I spoke with him the next day, he said he did not remember any of it. I told him that if he had acted with someone else the way he had acted with me, it could potentially be sexual harassment. That it is dependent on whether the recipient is upset enough by it to make a stink. He didn’t remember taking the selfie with Don either.
But he did remember sleeping with the new volunteer that night. I have observed in my time as his friend that either his memory is not great or that he purposely spins events, so his description of the evening should be taken with a grain of salt. He said that she invited herself inside and came on to him.
Though she appears to be in good spirits about everything, that is not always the case.
A different ORCM volunteer reached out to me later that week. She said she wanted to be more involved but didn’t want to be around Tim. I did not probe the issue, but I did ask Tim what happened to create tension. From his description, they had drinks together, she confided in him, and he believed she wanted more. I told him to fix it because we need volunteers.
He claims that the women are making advances on him and that since this is the first time he has been single in a very long time, he wants to enjoy every minute of it.
But it appears this may be what is really is happening.
It was at this point that I realized he is a womanizer.
Our friendship was becoming increasingly toxic. We bickered frequently and I found myself defending against his embellished and sometimes outright inaccurate memories of events. He also was being fed negative information that he indicated came from his friends and he regularly told me not to trust Don, whose primary interest has been getting Tim the help he needs. Tim was spending more time in LA with Fiorella, who appeared to be telling him not to trust Don, probably because of Niko’s vendetta against him for things said in the private strategist chat regarding Canova’s decision to leave the Democratic party.
Tim and I were invited to a birthday party on the Friday after the election. Though I drove him to the party, he left in an Uber without telling me. When I called to find out where he had gone, he told me that he felt he had too much to drink and wanted to leave without doing anything stupid. I told him I was proud of him for making the right decision. He told me the next day he had actually left to go be with the new volunteer he was seeing.
Then Saturday he went to Pasadena to be with Fiorella. I asked him how he was going to prevent them from finding out about each other and he said they wouldn’t.
Throughout this time, I was also sharing my concerns with Russell. However, given everyone involved was a consenting adult, I did not press the issue. When we compared notes, Russell and I realized we had similar conversations with Tim about some of the same events that had occurred, however, Tim was respectful and listened to Russell while he was combative and angry with me.
I became concerned that Tim had misogynistic tendencies.
On Sunday, I organized a beach party in the hope of bringing together progressives in Orange County. Tim had asked if he could schedule the ORCM chapter meeting at the beach party location, which I said yes but upon realizing that he was using his volunteer base as a dating pool, I disinvited him from the beach party and Tim then canceled the chapter meeting. Because he had conflated the events visually on Facebook, we had very low attendance. Trying to let the dust settle and find some way of working with him, I texted that if he wanted to come he could. He asked if we had drinks, and I told him we had water and soda. He brought a six-pack of Coors.
After the beach party, he asked if I would hang out with him for a while so we could talk. We went to watch a band in Huntington Beach and I expressed my concerns over everything. I told him that I do not want to be so involved in the chapter and that I do not want to be involved with his personal life. That regardless if everyone is a consenting adult, that I do not want responsibility for this liability. I left around 8:30 pm and he said he would catch an Uber home.
At 3:30 am he called me completely wasted. He said he was stranded in Huntington Beach and could not read his phone to call an Uber. He told me that his phone was in “Chinese.” I wasn’t sure if he had somehow hit the wrong button and changed the default language, or dropped his phone and broke the screen (he has a new phone now), or if he was so intoxicated he simply couldn’t read at all. He sounded scared and distraught. He graphically described events that occurred involving illicit activity and an exchange of sexual acts that caused me to have real concern for his safety. He said he needed help. He needed to stop. I stayed on the phone with him for over an hour until he got home safely.
The next day, I contacted a close friend who is a recovering addict and got the name of a recovery clinic and a support group. I sent this all to Tim with my friend’s contact information. When Tim finally contacted me back, he told me about plans he had just made to go to a get together with the third ORCM volunteer. He said he lied about everything he told me the night before, that it did not happen.
I told him I was done.
For the next few hours, he blew up my phone with texts, phone calls, and video calls.
Three days later, I showed him the call logs of that night and explained that his behavior was not normal or healthy.
Knowing that we do not have a strong progressive presence in Orange County, I have made every possible effort to keep a distant, but working relationship. While I have pushed him away and kept him out of the projects I am working on, he still contacts me by phone, text, or Facebook video nearly every night.
He once showed me a photo montage on his phone called something like “happy times” that is entirely pictures of me, and some that I was not aware he had taken. I’m not sure if this was stalking or attempt at manipulative praise. He has become angry with me that I’ve not included him in the projects I’ve been working on with Don and has repeatedly said that he wants to work with him.
So why end it now? Why write the article now?
Tim has recently blocked me and is being encouraged by enablers. I don’t blame them for not understanding how their influence affects him, I’m not sure they even realize he has a problem. In the process of helping him, I accidentally hid his problem. I have exhausted all options within my ability to help him and now he is completely beyond my reach.
Last Friday, Tim called me and said again not to trust Don, that he had heard he was a DNC operative. It was a false narrative being pushed by Niko House’s MCSC network, which didn’t go live until the next day. A full-blown campaign was waged to smear Don, which I suspect was intended to be click bait to increase views at MCSC and to help Canova get donations. Even Canova posted in a Bernie Sanders Facebook group a smear questioning the identity of Don, who had volunteered extensively for Canova during 2016 with hundreds of still active live posts on Facebook. Don is short for Brandon, by the way.
While mean-spirited in nature, I don’t think Niko and Canova understood just how much damage could be done by circulating lies.
This has inhibited Tim Johnson from getting the help he needs.
Shortly after, Don removed Fiorella from the private strategist chat, with good reason. Afterward, Tim blamed and berated me for a half day on Sunday, until I finally blocked him on PM. I lifted the block on Monday to address his behavior with him directly, which was the last time we chatted at length. He then learned of another project I was working on and was angry that I hadn’t invited him to participate. Someone in that group had leaked to Tim that we met on Sunday night.
Because I was respecting Tim’s privacy and not disclosing his problem, people were growing confused as to why I was not inviting him. This became a growing pressure as he convinced people I was being unfair or worse.
There was no question things were escalating.
Tim Johnson Facebook Private Message to Jenna Beck, Monday July 9, 2018
On Tuesday, I shared a status on Facebook that it was time to tell this story. One of our mutual friends screen-captured the status and sent it to Tim. In response, he called Don to ask me to not publish this article. He tried to convince Don that I was schizophrenic, which is a false narrative that Fiorella also brought to Don over the weekend. When that ploy didn’t work, he said he was extremely depressed and started sending Don very dark messages. It was emotional blackmail.
Tim Johnson Facebook Status Update Wednesday July 11, 2018
The next day, Tim shared a status on his Facebook wall saying that he had been sober for six days. He also texted me this same information. All that I asked was for Tim to publicly apologize to anyone he has hurt through his actions and words and to privately start attending a recovery group, a normal first step of recovery.
He told Don, who was negotiating on my behalf, that he would get a sponsor, but he would not make a public statement that he had a problem and was seeking help. Because he was unwilling to undo the damage or recognize that there was a problem that would include a statement saying he would seek help, which would usually have a general apology, enough to satisfy me, Don stopped attempting to mediate a solution with Tim.
I gave him the opportunity to publicly apologize, admit he had a problem, and agree to seek help, however it looks like it might have only been a stall tactic to manipulate me into not publishing my story. He didn’t follow up with me, as he promised to do, and has left me hanging in a position where my allies in the movement are questioning my credibility due to his words and behavior.
By being unwilling to repair the damage by way of a public apology, he has compelled me to go public to defend myself and protect other volunteers with my writing.
In the hopes that he is reading this article, the contact information for the groups that can help are as follows:
As the keeper of the #MeToo list, I take the responsibility of adding people from my personal life to the list very seriously. I’ve become friends with and defended people who have been accused of sketchy allegations only to learn there was a personal or political vendetta involved. My hope in sharing my personal story is that more people will make sure Tim will get the help he needs to recover.
Now that he is outside my personal reach, a leader of a public group and a face for Our Revolution Costa Mesa, he is roughly one event from making the list.
Let’s help him and prevent that from happening.
I know Tim can do great things, but not without our help to get him through this.
On a side note: Undercovered Magazine is a labor of love. All members have contributed their content without receiving any funding for the past six months. Kindly take a moment to help fund Jenna’s writing by donating to paypal.me/jennajbeck.