Thursday, June 28, 2012

Remember Pam Zanelli? (It’s a small freakin’ world)

Irvine Valley President Sues College District, LA Times, Sept. 13, 2000
Pam Zanelli, PR hack
     From the 18th to the 21st of October, 2000, the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT), of which our district was (and is) a member, held its annual conference—this time, at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, TN. The theme for ACCT’s “Convention 2000” was “Leadership in a Democracy.”
     A contingent from the SOCCCD presented during that conference. I'm afraid it was pretty embarrassing.
     On Friday, Oct. 20, they offered “Dealing with the Media—Controversy Real or Contrived.” It explained the district’s alleged victimization at the hands of biased media with regard to such issues as: the board’s repeated violations of the Brown Act, trustee Frogue’s forum that invited anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists, the district’s placement on the state fiscal watch list, one college’s blatantly whitewashed accreditation report, failure to follow accepted procedures when hiring administrators, and so on. According to this benighted bunch, the media made the district look bad, not because they were doing their job of reporting the facts. No, according to this crew, the media and its people were friendly to, well, critics like meand these people assisted in our scheme to hurt the district, the trustees, the union, et al., purely out of vengeance and malevolence. (For an overview of the district's "issues" c. 2000, see South O.C. Seats Have 10 Trading Hostilities, LA Times, Oct. 31, 2000; Cirque du Socccd, OC Weekly, Oct. 12, 2000; and Irvine Valley President Sues College District, LA Times, Sept. 13, 2000.)
     Such nutty and incompetent thinking is known as having a "bad conspiracy theory."
     As I’ve explained before, the only reason I got on well with reporters is that I never attempted to manipulate them, never lied or exaggerated. And they responded. It's that simple.
     They did not become my friends. I do not communicate with them now (with the exception of Gustavo Arellano of the OC Weekly—who doesn't need prodding from me to cover the endless silliness emitted from certain sectors in our district).
     My efforts were not particularly well-organized. If there was a story I thought that reporters would like to know about, I contacted them. That's it. Sometimes they contacted me.
     No conspiracy. No organized effort.
     What these fools fail to understand is that one need not "sell" a story to journalistsif the story is true.
     The district presenters that day included trustee Nancy Padberg, trustee Dorothy Fortune (who later resigned amid accusations that she was no longer an OC resident), SOCCCD Chancellor Cedric Sampson, Accuracy in Media’s Charles Wiley, and SOCCCD director of public affairs, Pam Zanelli.
     (For full transcripts of their remarks see Nancy does Nashville.)
Steve Frogue holding IHR publication
     Wiley’s organization, Accuracy in Media, which was founded by the likes of Reed Irvine, was/is known for its unreasonable insistence that Vince Foster was murdered, its challenge of reports that suggest that global warming is real (and it very likely is), and its criticism of human-rights reporting in El Salvador by the New York Times (in 1983).
     The latter reports were eventually determined to be accurate.
     I.e., Accuracy in Media is a joke.
     And Pam Zanelli? At the conference, Padberg introduced Zanelli as follows:
     OK, and our next speaker is the lady in the trenches; she is the first line of attack with the press; thank goodness we have her, cuz, without her, we would just be deluged all of us individually. So that is Pam Zanelli. She has a BA in journalism; as I explained earlier, she has vast experience before coming to us, and, uh, it’s served her well. Pam Zanelli.
     WHENCE ZANELLI? Back in 1996, Zanelli had been hired by SOCCCD's notoriously corrupt “Old Guard” faculty union to advise on how to get its slate of trustee candidates—staunch “fiscal conservatives” Frogue, Fortune, John Williams, and Don Davis—elected. Relying on polling data, she advised that benefits for gay couples was a local “hot button issue.”
     Of course, at the SOCCCD at the time, it was also a phony issue, an invention.
     In his award-winning 1998 cover story about Steve Frogue, OC Weekly writer Matt Coker explained:
     A number of teachers went to the leaders of the faculty association before the 1996 election and asked that the union not endorse Frogue because he already had a reputation as a nut. The union ignored them and instead hired an outside consultant to help direct the campaign of its slate of candidates: Frogue, Fortune, Williams and Don Davis.
     That consultant was Pam Zanelli.
     Zanelli…told the Weekly she's been in politics since she was 19. The Tustin resident represented former Governor Jerry Brown in OC; was Brown's appointment to the male-dominated Orange County Fair Board…; served on the staffs of former state Senator Paul Carpenter and then-county Supervisor Harriet Wieder, helped the campaigns of a slew of Assembly and judicial candidates....
     She was paid $4,200 to be the faculty association's 1996 campaign consultant. One of the campaign's most dramatic moments came when the slate mailed a hit piece aimed at its opponents: "Taxpayer Alert: Don't Allow Your Tax Dollars to Pay for Same-Sex 'Marriage' Domestic Benefits at Your Saddleback Community College District." Sent to Republican voters in the district shortly before the election, it alleged that the slate's four opponents—including incumbent [SOCCCD Trustee DaveLang—supported the use of "education tax dollars" for health benefits for employees' same-sex partners, college classes including "content about gay and lesbian lifestyles" and "seminars and conferences to educate participants about the gay and lesbian lifestyle."
. . .
     Lang later told The Lariat … that no candidate on his slate campaigned with domestic-partner benefits as an issue, although they were asked their feelings about it at a public forum. The claim that Lang's slate planned gay and lesbian seminars and classes "was invented," he added.
     The mailer was paid for by … a political action committee established by … the … Faculty Association. The union spent at least $44,000 on behalf of Frogue's slate in that election, records show.
     The mailer worked....
* * *
Lang: betrayed
his supporters
     DIGRESSION: Back in 1998, Lang was the board majority—and its toady, IVC President Raghu Mathur’s—harshest critic. But then, in 2000, Friend-of-Mathur Tom Fuentes … was appointed to (and later elected to) the board. Fuentes and Lang were pretty consistently on opposite sides of issues.
     But then Fuentes did what Fuentes does: he found a weakness in his colleague: Lang badly wanted to become OC Treasurer, and Fuentes convinced him that he could help with that. (This is speculation based on subsequent events.)
     And so, in 2005, Lang underwent a dramatic transformation from being Raghu Mathur’s harshest critic to being Mathur’s most ardent champion!
     Lang's supporters were thunderstruck. Lang seemed unable to explain himself. He simpered.
     Ultimately (in 2008), Fuentes helped with Lang’s campaign for the OC Treasurer spot. The campaign was a dismal failure. Briefly, the Earth spun with the music of justice.
     For reasons unknown (to me), Lang, who for so many years was virtually the board’s sole voice of reason, has, since 2005, continued to be Fuentes’ Yes-Man. And that has led him to vote in ways that are impossible to defend. [End of Digression]

* * *
     ZANELLI, PART TWOAmazingly, despite the obvious conflict-of-interest, in 1997, the new union-friendly (i.e., union-paid for) board majority decided to hire Zanelli as its chief PR person. According to Coker,
     After the ’96 election, Zanelli landed another job that placed her close to the Gang of Four. Her consulting group was hired by the board to look into the district's public-information program in the wake of the Jews-killed-Kennedy [Frogue forum] incident. After the consultants' report…was handed to the board, Zanelli was hired as an in-house consultant, serving as the district's media spokesperson and providing political expertise. Frogue's opponents call her "a $5,000-per-month spin doctor," referring to the amount she's reportedly paid and the information she's dispensing.
     WEAPONS CONFISCATED; SO IT'S SAFE. As a district flack, Zanelli committed her share of gaffs. My personal fave was the Great Weaponry Gaff.
     In February of '98, Acting Chancellor Kathie Hodge distributed a memo to administrators, alerting them that "Without my authorization, a District Press Release was sent out...today. The release, titled 'Weapons Confiscated at SOCCCD Board Meeting,' has the potential of being frightening to our students and the community...." Zanelli had authored and sent out the press release.
     A day later, the Times ran a pleasant little piece entitled, "Knife, Pepper Spray are Found at Meeting." According to the article, "Campus police confiscated a 9-inch folding knife and a small canister of pepper spray from a man attending a SOCCCD board meeting last week. The seizure came amid tighter security measures in response to controversy surrounding a seminar Trustee Steven J. Frogue proposed last year on the assassination of President Kennedy... 'We want people to know they are safe at these meetings and they will not be disrupted for any reason,' campus spokeswoman Pam Zanelli said." (Times, 2/20/98)
     Oops.
     And so why, you ask, am I taking this stroll down the Zanelli memorial gutter of Memory Frickin' Lane?
     It's cuz I just wanna say once again that it’s a small freakin’ world. And it is.

Harriett Wieder
     IT'S A SMALL WORLD. Zanelli, you’ll recall, was tight with Jerry Brown. But Brown (back in the seventies) was a pal of—that’s right, Dr. Louis Cella of the famous “Dick and Doc” campaign finance duo, which controlled the OC Board of Supes in the seventies. (See Dan Walters.)
     As you know, that project (the "Dick and Doc Show" and all of its players) ended in a hail of indictments and prison sentences.
     Now I have no idea if anything hinky went on between “Dick and Doc” and Linda Ronstadt's old boyfriend. I only know that Brown invited Cella (and no doubt Cella’s partner, Dick O’Neill) to parties during a period in which D&D made substantial campaign contributions that were to Gov. Brown’s liking.
     Zanelli also worked for Republican Harriett Wieder, who, during her supervisorial tenure, was a known critic of then-OC GOP chairman Tom Fuentes. Wieder was also a vocal critic of the “Old Boys” club that is OC politics; Tom, of course, was the navigator and exploiter par excellence of such networks.
     Zanelli worked for state Senator Paul Carpenter.
Paul Carpenter
     Guess what?
     Back in the 70s, Carpenter was in league with Ron Caspers and “Dick and Doc.” According to journalist Dan Walters, back in the 70s,
     Carpenter was the executive director of the county health planning council—an organization that rubber stamped construction of [among others', D&D's] hospitals—before winning an Assembly seat in 1974, thanks largely to financing from Cella and O’Neill.
. . .
     Carpenter moved his political base to Los Angeles County and got himself promoted from the Assembly to the Senate, where he eventually became a member of the Democratic leadership with major responsibility for enhancing campaign fund collections. That brought him to the attention of federal investigators as they probed vote peddling in the Capitol and resulted in indictment, trial and conviction.
     Early in 1995, Carpenter was given seven years and three months in federal prison for his part in the Sacramento vote-selling scandal. (See Dan Walters, Jan 23, 1995)

     PAUL CARPENTER WAS A DICK AND DOCKER. Now get this. Former OC GOP chairman Tom Rogers writes that Carpenter was involved in Ron Caspers’ notorious smear campaign against Republican supervisor Alton Allen in 1969-70. (You’ll recall that Tom Fuentes was Caspers’ campaign manager in 1970; he then became Caspers' chief executive aide until Caspers' mysterious death in '74):
     The incumbent in the 5th district was [Republican] Alton Allen, a retired banker…. Allen was widely respected for his representation of the 5th District, which included … thousands of acres devoted to agricultural production.
     It came as a rude shock when, in 1969, a tabloid-type mailer was received by residents of the 5th District alleging wrongdoing on the part of Allen and his staff. Allen’s reputation for honesty and integrity had been undoubted, never a whisper against his character had ever been heard.…
     Allen contacted Republican leadership for help against this scurrilous attack. At a meeting at the Balboa Bay Club, GOP leaders met with Allen and those in attendance were at a loss for any explanation of the anti-Allen campaign. The retired banker was obviously distraught at having unfounded insinuations directed at himself and his staff.…
     The mysterious anti-Allen forces opened a headquarters in Laguna Hills from which to launch a formal recall campaign. The mailers kept arriving with insinuations of Allen’s “wrongdoing.” …
. . .
Robert Battin
     It would be revealed later that Tarantino [the man whose name was on the recall] had ties to Lou Cella, [Cella and Caspers' political consultant] Fred Harber, and others identified by Robert Battin as “the Coalition.” Battin, in an attempt to depict his own conviction as discriminatory, revealed the existence of the group, which also included [OC land baron] R.J. O’Neill. 
. . .
     Robert Battin was to use his position on the Board of Supervisors to make Allen look inept in dealing with certain issues. Paul Carpenter also admitted to being part of the recall effort much later, but denied knowledge of the other Coalition members being involved. Carpenter claimed that the clandestine effort was confined to himself and a Republican who aspired to be a supervisor [presumably, Caspers]…. (From Agents' Orange, Tom Rogers, 2000)
     Gosh, it all makes my head spin.
     I don't have much info on Zanelli, but she seems to be 66 years old, which would make her 30 in 1976 or thereabouts. So, she could easily have been working for Carpenter during the bad old days of Battin and Caspers and Dick & Doc.

THIS STORY CONTINUES: see Zanelli once worked for Cella, June 30.


Page 2 of the 4-page "same-sex" flier, paid for by the SOCCCD faculty union to get Frogue, Williams, and Fortune elected. It worked. (Consultant: Pam Zanelli)

Limber Lou running home at poetry softball game
     These days, Rebel Girl is up north, helping run the famous Writers' Workshops at Squaw Valley. Today, she sent me this pic.

2 comments:

  1. Pam tried to please her bosses but then someone of them turned on her. Don't recall which one.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I vaguely recall that it was either Dorothy Fortune or Nancy Padberg. Maybe Padberg. (They both strike me as women who dislike women.)

    ReplyDelete

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