UPDATE: If you need the quick-hit, Jason at SaveAnaheim does a good job with little time. Jump here for the outline, or read below for more detail. The headline of Jason’s post is a little inflammatory, but he gets the “chain of command” right. http://saveanaheim.com/2012/10/28/enemies-of-the-people-of-anaheim
News of Disney pumping significant funding into Anaheim City Council campaigns is nothing new. However, their recent shift into negative campaigns is a whole new world for Disney, and given that the candidates being hit have not presented an active threat to Disney, it is especially a mystery.
If ever there was an excuse to run hit pieces in an election, the 2008 battle with Council member Lorri Galloway was it. Galloway’s re-election represented four more contentious years with an elected leader actively undermining Disney, including cheering on union members protesting in front of Disney properties to agitate guests and disrupt vacations. And yet…Disney refused to sully their squeaky clean image. In years past their political involvement was conducted much like the way their parks were cleaned and maintained-quietly, unobtrusively, one never saw it getting done, it simply….was. Disney has always protected their business interests, and from the first time that Walt dirtied his expensive leather loafers on the well-tilled dust of an Anaheim orange grove, City Hall has loved Disney right back, enjoying a symbiotic relationship in which everyone benefitted. That is why it was so easy for them to gather tens of thousands of signatures during the SunCal battle of ’07 and’08. The people of Anaheim stood with the company in the company town we live in. That same squeaky clean refusal to go negative has lent its credibility to the Disney-funded SOAR coalition in years past. Promotion by SOAR and by extension Disney was a coveted endorsement, fought over by candidates.
The recent WAND candidates’ forum revealed their eroding reputation, as the question was asked, “Are you now or have you ever been a member of SOAR?” and to which not a single candidate would admit to being a member! It seems the public is catching on to the new, aggressive style of management that Disney seems to have bought into. Literally.
The Voice of OC reports that recent hit pieces against Council candidates John Leos and Lucille Kring were sent by Citizens for Anaheim’s Future-but funded by Disney after laundering (legally) the money through another PAC. The targets have not presented any threat to Disney, in fact they have benefitted from Disney’s generous check writing skills in past elections. Certainly they have not presented anywhere near the opposition that Lorri Galloway did-and she was given a free pass.
It was not the position of the candidates that has changed, and warranted an attack disguised by running funds through multiple PACs to erase the good name of Walter Elias from the check. It is the aggressive viewpoint of Disney’s new generation of executives that appears willing to stray from the path set by previous leaders. And while it has only taken about 3 years for those new executives to trash the credibility of the company with those who know what is going on-with increasing awareness from the general public- it will take far, far longer for them to regain their warm fuzzy image as the benevolent big brother of Anaheim, working to fund the bed taxes that “protect vital city services.”
Citizens for Anaheim’s Future is a PAC created by Curt Pringle in 2008, and the Register reported on its inaugural fundraiser; “Pringle is the host, but the beneficiary is a political action committee called Citizen’s for Anaheim’s Future. Its purpose, the invite says, is to support the “reforms and the freedom-friendly, pro-business and pro-neighborhood policies adopted by Mayor Curt Pringle and his allies on the City Council.” This election, it says, the PAC is “interested in seeing Anaheim continue to move forward � by electing Council Members who support Mayor Pringle’s agenda.”
While the negative, and frankly lie-packed pieces, were sent by the C for A F, they were funded by Disney! Here is where you need a road map, although it will be a short one.
Disney execs direct significant donations to BIZ PAC, the political action committee of the Orange County Business Council. OCBC is run by Lucy Dunn, personal friend to Disney’s execs and legal team, and is the former employer of Council member Kris Murray. This crowd is known as “The Masters of the Universe”, a self-identified nickname, exposed in an email written from Kris Murray to the players on that team.
Disney exec Carrie Nocella serves on the BIZ PAC board, which is handy since she also would be the person directing Disney dollars into the BIZ PAC fund. BIZ PAC then sends funding to Citizens for Anaheim’s Future, where statements show Kris Murray has served as the Chair of the PAC, and Curt Pringle just took over for long-time President Virginia Zlaket. In my heart of hearts I hope Mrs. Zlaket quit or was replaced due to a refusal to conduct a negative campaign, I have always liked and respected her.
Filings with the Anaheim City Clerk show the OCBC/Disney money was spent on mail directed at negatively affecting candidates Lucille Kring and John Leos. Disney hits the candidates they oppose, and their hands stay clean with the public, with no direct link between them and the PAC sending the mail. How nice.
Why? What has shifted so completely that Disney is not only spending big for their chosen candidates, but funding opposition to those whose only sin is in beating their golden boy Jordan Brandman in the polls?
Go back to the mastermind of the Citizens for Anaheim’s Future PAC, Curt Pringle. The former Mayor is now working as a lobbyist, receiving a percentage of every deal he ushers through City Hall- a building he knows well, populated by leaders he has helped elect. His clients include Bill O’Connell, the already wealthy developer who was just granted a $158 million subsidy of bed taxes for his still-doomed Gardenwalk hotels. (Typically the consultant is paid whether the hotel is built or not!) And according to City records, Disney is still listed on the Gardenwalk’s Economic Assistance Agreeement to be the operator of the fully subsidized hotels. While Disney will tell you they are not interested, they are still called out quite specifically by name in the newly amended agreement-the amendment was the perfect opportunity to remove them if they are no longer players. It didn’t happen. And while there appears to be a “poison pill” amendment that terminates the agreement if Disney takes over the hotels, it appears to require written notice of termination to pull that trigger. Should a friendly City Council refuse to terminate the contract, Disney pockets the subsidy of bed taxes that would otherwise have gone into the General Fund to pay for Police, Fire, libraries and parks. But I am sure that is merely a coincidence.
Oops, nearly forgot to mention…Curt Pringle is also reported to be the “transportation consultant” for Disney and the other Resort operators. So that $319 million streetcar project just approved by a 3-2 split over the objections of Mayor Tom Tait, who has been demanding information from staff on how we are paying for it? Yep, typically Pringle would get a percentage of that spending. Those adorable little trolley buses in the Resort? Pringle works for them too. He has his fingers in pretty much every pie that Council member Kris Murray is promoting, and his friends are along for the ride with him.
Knowing this, the 2008 statement sends chills down the spine of Anaheim taxpayers. “(The PAC) is “interested in seeing Anaheim continue to move forward � by electing Council Members who support Mayor Pringle’s agenda.”
Pringle/Murray/Disney targets John Leos and Lucille Kring have never made statements opposing Disney or the Resort interests. What they HAVE offered is independent thought, and the ability to reason and determine what is best for Anaheim, not just the Resort. And that makes them a threat to those who seek obedient compliance.
This is why the Orange County Register endorsed both Kring and Leos for Anaheim City Council, stating that, “given recent crony capitalism in the city – namely the hotel subsidy – the council needs a stronger voice for the average city resident.”
John Leos is a union employee, in fact he has served on union boards, which would ordinarily make him the Great Satan in the eyes of the Register’s editorial board. But the Register recognizes that right now Anaheim is facing a threat far worse than the unions. In fact even Supervisor Shawn Nelson, who famously endured his own bitter battle with John Leos’ employer, has endorsed both candidates. The sucking noise we hear is the sound of Curt Pringle extracting every taxpayer-funded benefit he can find, or get his Council lackeys to apply for grants to fund, in order to enrich his paying clients-and his own cut of the action in the process.
Mayor Tom Tait has asked for help in stopping this pillaging of our resources, and in doing so has bought himself enemies in Curt Pringle, and those who would benefit from Pringle’s ability to mine gold from coffers already close to empty.
For those watching the escalation of animosity at City Hall, it backdates the election. The Pringle team of majority votes on the City Council has been openly antagonistic to Mayor Tom Tait, ever since Tait came to his new office, noticed a few windows left open by the previous tenant, and began closing-and locking-those security breaches. He has been in hot water with that crowd ever since. This election determines whether Pringle’s students Jordan Brandman and Steve Chavez Lodge aid Council member Murray (and sometime ally Gail Eastman, who tends to vote with the pack) or whether Tom Tait gets the help he needs, and sweeps City Hall clean of the special interest deals while we still have a General Fund left to pay for parks and libraries.
It is clear that they would love nothing more than to shove our Mayor into a corner and tell him to sit there and be a good boy while they run the City. The demands of Kris Murray are becoming more strident and brazen. At the end of the last Council meeting, after force feeding the Disney-benefit streetcar, and a grade separation we do not need in exchange for pledging our undying loyalty to the high speed rail project nobody wants, (but there is money to be made on) Kris Murray asked to create an “ad-hoc committee” with herself and Gail Eastman, to renegotiate the Angels lease for the Stadium! Some may recall my prediction years ago that Curt Pringle would step into that deal, it was obvious when funds were diverted from desperately needed civic repairs to pay for that “All Star Game” Rose Parade Float-a giant rose scented olive branch from Curt Pringle to Artie Moreno, so he could line up to negotiate the lease in 2014.
What is critical right now is to educate Anaheim residents about what is really happening at City Hall, and where these mailings are coming from.
When this is over, Disney will have to repair their soiled reputation, dirtied by overzealous executives looking for Anaheim taxpayers to fund projects to benefit them and their friends at OCBC and the Chamber of Commerce. And while Disney cleans up their image, Anaheim will be left to clean up our city, with whatever funding is left when Pringle and Associates is done raiding the treasury. The sooner we get started the better. Preferably before next Tuesday’s election!