Sunday, November 6, 2016

Anthony Kuo, Mathur's one-time protégé, is now Don Wagner's political pal (and they're owned by developers)

     Have you seen that campaign sign all over Irvine, the one emblazoned with WAGNER KUO SHEA in big orange letters?
     Don Wagner’s running for mayor and the other two—Anthony Kuo and Christina Shea—are running for City Council.
     You remember Wagner. Before he joined the state Assembly, he was on the SOCCCD board of trustees from 1998 until 2010, serving as Board President much of that time. A staunch religious “conservative,” he was a truly awful trustee. Still, toward the end of his run as trustee, he was burned one too many times by some Mathurian connivery, and he thus became Chancellor Mathur’s sworn enemy. It all happened in one day; he literally went around fuming and yelling and muttering how he was gonna fix that bastard. People were astonished.
     There’s no stopping Don’s wrath when you’ve crossed the line. His need for revenge will not be denied.
     Alas, Don’s newfound reason for living ran afoul of County Republican bigwig (and SOCCCD trustee) Tom Fuentes’ tidy local machine, which counted Mathur as among its cogs. Well, sparks flew. There was snortage and screaming and curious machinations. (See A new board majority? Fuentes gets hopping mad, December 11, 2009.)
     The rest is history.
     Christina Shea? Well, she’s nothing special around these parts. She’s your standard gay-bashing, Evangelical Christian Republican. (Years ago, she and her husband pursued an initiative removing homosexuals’ protections against discrimination.)
     And Anthony Kuo? Nearly twenty years ago, Kuo was a student and Raghu Mathur’s protégé here at IVC. That kid was in the catbird seat.
     Some of us old-timers will recall a dark period when the Gooster’s assorted loathsome pals kept getting prizes at the college. “Professor of the year” went to a notoriously goofy and awful science instructor—he and Mathur went way back. “Administrator of the year” went to a particularly unstable and violent Mathurian hire who was eventually dragged off campus by the cops. He was a lunatic. (See College Dean Is Abusive, Five on Faculty Complain, LA Times, 6-29-02.) Kuo got some prizes too, as I recall. Mathur seriously Republicanized the kid.
     Kuo eventually became a communications and strategy consultant. “His government relations practice has included community organizations, the hospitality industry, national trade associations, investment banks and real estate developers.” (About Me.)
     By the new millennium—Mathur started his Presidency gig in 1997—Anthony Kuo, then a student body president, emerged as Mathur’s indefatigable defender. This was at a time when virtually no faculty member or student had anything good to say about the creepy former Chemistry instructor. (Students actually sued him.) Mathur, a narcissist, made up stories about his success and popularity. Remember the time he published a “thank you” to “all the faculty” who showed up to his ill-fated “sack lunch”?
     That’s right, nobody had showed.

Kuo, Shea, Wagner
     By 2002, Kuo was still defending Mathur. Mathur, staunchly supported by the odious board (including Wagner), moved up to the Chancellor’s chair in February of 2002. But, by then, he (and the board) had been on the losing end of a series of First Amendment-related lawsuits.
     Natch, Goo and his supporters complained. They gnashed their nasty little teeth.
     In 2002, I wrote about this:
     Well, the district’s demagogic satellites are spinning again. In response to the Times’ coverage of the recent court victory against the district by students, [Mathur’s pal]… Ray Chandos—evidently, chair “for life” of IVC Accreditation—wrote the editors to say:
Your article about the South Orange County Community College District Speech and Advocacy Policy neglected certain basic facts … The policy was written in part to respond to some faculty-sponsored activities that were disruptive or life-threatening. One event called for students to smash a car with a sledgehammer as a “blow” against the administration. Students were hospitalized as a result…. (Times; 3/31/02)
     Chandos, like [Saddleback College's Ken] Woodward, can always be counted on to whitewash the Empire’s dirty linen and to invent lurid rebel atrocities. The car-smashing event (apparently, car-smashings are commonplace on campuses) was not, as he suggests, a political demonstration; rather, it was a non-political fund-raiser for the Honors Society….
     True, at one point, a peripatetic wag named Jeff spontaneously sprayed “El Presidente” on the side of the car, causing Armando Beyondo to soil his trousers, but that hardly justifies Chandos’ description of the event as an anti-administration demonstration! Further, though, at some point, a student was mildly injured by flying glass (she was not, as far as I know, “hospitalized”), nothing about this event was remotely “life-threatening.”
. . .
     Ray went on to write:
Some faculty newsletters attack ethnic background, integrity, families, religion and the gender orientation of district employees….
     Do you suppose Ray is referring to ‘Vine/Dissent? D’ya think?. . .
     At a recent Academic Senate meeting in which Ray was in attendance, I stood up to read his Times letter [in defense of Mathur and the district]; I remarked on the Rayster’s stunning disregard of the truth. I then turned to Ray and said that, if he is going to accuse people [he seemed to be referring to me and Dissent] of racism, homophobia, and the like, at the very least, he is obliged to cite concrete instances. I sat down.
     More than three weeks have passed, and I have not heard a peep from the fellow.
     Ray’s letter to the Times was accompanied by a similar epistle by one Anthony Kuo, president of the IVC Associated Students, who, despite his role as student advocate, wrote to “commend Raghu Mathur for four years of superb service to the college as president.” According to Kuo, IVC has been beset, not by a tyrannical rights-violating college president, but by “rebel faculty…and a small number of students” who “have tried to make our campus a war zone by using hate literature….”
     About two weeks ago, I wrote Mr. Kuo. Referring to his accusations regarding the use of “hate literature” by “rebel faculty,” I said:
I hereby request that you show me exactly what it is that I have written or published that constitutes “hate literature.” If I…or some unnamed person or persons…[are] to be publicly charged with “using hate literature” by you, surely you are obliged to provide evidence…I await your response.
     There’s been no response.
     Student government officers tell me that, despite the care I took to fashion my letter as a “request,” Kuo is describing it as a threat.
     I’m told that Mr. Kuo has made the best of the situation, for he has distributed copies of my letter to members of the Board Majority.…
     Kuo's bio suggests that he has long been groomed for public service in Republican World. In 2011, he was finally appointed to an office.
     By a Republican.
     According to his bio,
     In 2011, Anthony was appointed by then-Councilman Steven Choi to serve on the City’s Planning Commission. He was elected Chairman of the Commission by his peers in 2013, and has been unanimously re-elected to that post four times. As a commissioner, he has led efforts to review and advance proposals ensuring responsible and high quality development in Irvine, including those in the Irvine Business Complex (IBC) and at the Orange County Great Park. He has focused on ensuring the delivery of important improvements to the City’s roads and infrastructure. Anthony also serves on the Commission’s IBC Sub-Committee and previously served as the Commission’s representative to the city’s Task Force on Housing Needs for the Developmentally Disabled and the Ad Hoc Committee on Veterans Affordable Housing.
     He’s also done time with the Exchange Club of Irvine. He’s been on the Board of Governors of the Irvine Valley College Foundation. He does prayer breakfasts. (He’s a Mormon.)
     Yadda yadda yadda.
     Um, he’s got memories:
[G]rowing up, my grandmother used to live with us, and would trespass onto Irvine Valley College and steal oranges from the orange groves across Jeffrey. (An Interview With Irvine City Council Candidate Anthony Kuo)
     For Kuo, the hardest part of being a Commissioner is having to follow agreements:
[P]art of the challenge of being a Commissioner is being bound to rules, agreements and development entitlements which were entered into years ago. Sometimes we are faced with projects which we might not be happy with, but are guaranteed a certain unit count because of a 5-, 10-, or even 15-year old development agreement made under previous leaders. (An Interview With Irvine City Council Candidate Anthony Kuo)
     Oddly, when Kuo was asked about his (especially political) mentors, he doesn’t mention Mathur, (who, no doubt, lined up his Foundation gig, 2001-2005):
My first job in politics was with Christina Shea who was the mayor of Irvine then. I worked for her again on the city council as a policy aide and community liaison and learned how to listen to the public (our boss). My first job in the private sector was for Christine Iger who had a boutique government affairs firm; Christine was a former California Director of Housing under Governor Deukmejian and former Deputy Attorney General, so I had a great deal to learn from her about the nitty gritty of public policy. The late Marian Bergeson, who was a mentor to many, and I shared many private moments where she always encouraged me to stay involved and to pursue my love for serving the community. I will always be grateful for her friendship and leadership.
     Again, oddly, Mathur’s name does not appear on Kuo’s list of supporters (See WE SUPPORT ANTHONY KUO). As you know, Mathur loves to lend his illustrious name in support of his political pals. So what gives?
     We know that Kuo was under Mathur’s creepy wing at least up through the early 2000s. We know that, starting in late 2009, Wagner and Mathur became bitter enemies. And we know that, nowadays, Kuo and Wagner are political pals.
* * *
Raghu and Don
     It turns out that both Wagner and Kuo have turned out to be your standard, corrupt rich-special interests-pleasing politicos. Yeah, the thing that ties Wagner and Kuo together are certain well-healed supporters.
     (Remember, Kuo is on the Irvine Planning Commission.)
     The facts are nicely layed out in a recent piece in the OC Register ($1.1 million in PAC money flows into Irvine elections (OC Reg; Nov 2)):
     Political action committees have funneled $1.1 million into the Irvine mayoral and City Council races as of Tuesday, according to a Register analysis, dwarfing campaign contributions candidates are raising and spending on their own.
     Forty-three percent of that money has been used to attack Mary Ann Gaido, a candidate for mayor who has promised to halt new residential developments in the city. Gaido, a planning commissioner, said developers are pouring money through independent expenditure committees.
. . .
     “I think it really undermines the system,” Bob Stern, former president of the Center for Governmental Studies and a campaign finance expert, said about independent spending by PACs [who, unlike individuals, are not limited in the amount they can receive].
     Although independent expenditures have nothing to do with candidates, he said, they allow wealthy people to wield more influence than individuals who give money directly to candidates.
     Independent expenditure committees are pouring money into crowded Irvine city elections, featuring five candidates for mayor and 11 for council, because they are close races, Stern said.
     Four PACs have spent $466,908 in media ads, literature and mailers attacking Gaido, according to campaign finance reports. That trumps the $91,596 she’s received in monetary contributions this year, the most of any Irvine candidates.
     In addition, two of the PACs have spent $95,839 opposing council candidates Melissa Fox and Farrah Khan, both of whom are endorsed by the Democratic Party of Orange County, along with Gaido.
     It’s sometimes difficult to trace what groups, companies or individuals are funding PACs because money can go through multiple committees before being spent on candidates in various races.
     For example, the California Homeowners Association [which pays for the aforementioned WAGNER KUO SHEA signs] committee has spent over $255,305 opposing Gaido and $172,140 supporting mayoral candidate Don Wagner and council candidates Christina Shea and Anthony Kuo. The PAC received $49,000 from developer Starpointe Ventures, which has stakes in Irvine projects.
     Moving Orange County Forward – funded by such entities as the Building Industry Association of Southern California PAC, Orange County Business Council PAC and Disney Worldwide Services – has spent over $93,000 supporting Wagner and incumbent Shea, as well as contributing to PACs opposing Gaido.
     Building Industry Association of Southern California PAC received $100,000 from FivePoint, which is overseeing the development of thousands of homes near the Orange County Great Park, $75,000 from the Irvine Co., and $50,000 from Starpointe Ventures.
Starpointe and FivePoint officials said they had no comments for this article.
     Independent expenditure committees have spent $274,065 in support of Wagner, which is nearly 25 times the amount the Republican state assemblyman has spent for his mayoral campaign through Oct. 22 – $11,177.
     Despite receiving support from these PACs, Wagner said he’s frustrated with outside spending because he cannot control the messages. Candidates are not allowed to coordinate with independent expenditure committees.
. . .
     Shea also said she’s not a fan of outside spending. In the past, it was her opponents who received support from independent expenditures, she said.
     Shea said she would like to see independent expenditures banned. However, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that freedom of speech prohibits the government from restricting them.
     “I totally believe that these independent expenditures, they just don’t create a fair playing field, and it’s really driven by political agendas of people,” she said.
     Wagner blames the low contribution limit to candidates for the excessive independent expenditures in Irvine.
     Kuo said the $470 cap is too low to send out messages to the more than 119,000 voters in Irvine. Santa Ana, for instance, has a $1,000 limit per election cycle.
     Wagner and Kuo stressed they would not be beholden to special interest groups funding independent expenditure committees that support them.
     “They like things I stand for,” Wagner said. “They don’t like things Mary Ann stands for.”
     Gaido said Wagner, as a seasoned state assemblyman, must be aware that the $23,308 he has raised isn’t enough to fund a campaign in a large city like Irvine.
     Wagner says he’s raising enough to get his positive message out.
     “He’s allowing big developers to totally fund his campaign and smear my name and character,” Gaido said about Wagner. “It is very disappointing.”
     It’s nice to hear that Wagner and Kuo don’t owe anything to “special interest groups.”


Anonymous said...

This may be one of the last stand for OC's GOP. Thanks for connecting the dots.

Anonymous said...

The casual disregard for the truth in this local election as well as the national level is particularly discouraging and alarming.

Anonymous said...

It's tit for tat = Donald for Donald (local and national). Alas.

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