An Unbalanced Toxic Moxley Take on Rackauckas, Forde, and the Very Hated Agran


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1. No Rest for the Wicked

The jihad by the OC Weekly’s R. Scott Moxley against Larry Agran and all (well, many) associated with him continues in both print and pixels this week — and, as usual for the past month and more, it’s long on dastardly adjectives and short on facts.  Actually, I take that back — it has more facts than he’s offered before.  What it lacks is facts that show that Agran — not Arnold Forde, not Tony Rackauckas, but Larry Agran — has done anything wrong.  It’s like the clumsy work of a teenage stage magician — he makes a lot of noise, moves his hands around his head, stands up on tiptoe — and then blames you if you don’t agree you just saw him levitate.

Tony Rackauckas balling his fists at press conference

Orange County DA Tony Rackauckas, desperate to prove to intrepid investigative journalist R. Scott Moxley that he is not part of Larry Agran’s “political machine,” pledges to fight Agran “mano a mano” to prove his independence. (Note to North Korean readers: this did not actually happen.)

Here, Moxley notes all sorts of things that Rackauckas and Forde allegedly did wrong — and then concludes that Agran also did wrong without connecting the dots.  I’ve spoken to fans and critics of Agran alike, and no one has disputed to me that while Agran plays the game of politics aggressively, he doesn’t break or even bend the law.  (As a top Democratic target in a rich Republican-dominated county, this is smart of him.)  But Moxley can’t stop calling him corrupt — while he also can’t start providing reasons to back up that charge.

This would be pathetic if Moxley’s publication didn’t “buy ink by the barrel.”  But they do — those “escorts” still haven’t found a less embarrassing venue in which to advertise — and so it becomes irritating.

And Moxley is clearly obsessed — and not in a healthy and productive way.  Of the “Moxley Confidentials” (or should it be “Moxleys Confidential”?  Either way, his paper-published column) puvlished since he decided to invite the world to gaze upon his fertile conception of my nakedness (warning: NSFW or anywhere else), FOUR OF THE FIVE have dealt with Larry Agran.  You don’t believe me?  Look.

Moxley Confidential

Must be quite a story there, eh?  Working up from the bottom: “paid off,” “robbery,” “cash-corruption connection.”  (Hey, I used to shop at the “Cash-Corruption Connection” when I lived in Pittsburgh!  Great bargains!  Could have been cleaner, though.)  The “Robo-Cop” article attacks the D.A.  for objecting to a political mailer attacking Agran quoting T-Rack and making a robocall to set the record straight.  (I’ve written about it previously here.)  If you toss language like that around, you’d think you’d have some real persuasive facts at hand, right?  Right?  Hellooooo?

And yet: reading through these articles, one finds the case to be not really so much so.  Indeed, the (self-)esteemed gentleman gives the impression of being entirely off his nut and praying that we either not notice it or, if we do, not mention it.

We have no choice.  It’s time to Fisk him.

2. A Brief Digression on Fisking

“Fisking” an article — named after British investigative journalist Robert Fisk, who was an early and loud critic of the Iraq War and suffered for being prematurely correct — is a technique of going through a piece of writing line by line, secure in the Fair Use protection for criticism, and pulling apart its every strand.  It was developed by — well, let’s take three definitions from the Urban Dictionary to give you a sense of what it is and how people think about it:

1. Fisking 131 up41 down
The word is derived from articles written by Robert Fisk that were easily refuted, and refers to a point-by-point debunking of lies and/or idiocies
2. Fisking 69 up91 down
a point-by-point refutation of a blog entry or a news story.Originally coined by extremist right-wing bloggers in reference to Robert Fisk, a journalist who is the subject of ad hominem attacks.
There was a Fisking of a New York Times editorial in my blog today.
3. Fisking 25 up41 down
Fisking is a written argument where one person sequentially addresses each point of an of another person’s argument.This is done in a precise manner relying on semantics and ambiguities to infer a defect in the original point. This approach is tantamount to taking a sentence out of context in order to refute an entire argument.Fisking does not pay heed to the opponent’s thesis as a whole, and thus does not disprove the thesis as a whole.

(Yes, from the votes you can see that too much of the Urban Dictionary is indeed populated by right-wing fratboy types.  But when it scores, it scores.)

As an Iraq War critic myself, my feeling is that Robert Fisk himself got a bad rap (as in #1) but that Fisking itself gets a worse rap than it deserves (as in #3).  Yes, it can be a load of sophistic claptrap — but when someone is squirting enough ink in the water to exhaust an cargo container full of octopuses, sometimes you have no choice.  If there is no there there, you have to show that it is really, truly, nowhere to be found.

In this case, Moxley wants to say that Larry Agran is corrupt and a proper object for a criminal investigation.  Does he bring the sort of facts you’d expect to light?  Take an extra Xanax and tighten up your scuba mask — we’re going below.

3. BSentence by BSentence

I’m putting Moxley’s original article in italic red — the color of blood and communism, not because he seems like a Republican, of course — and my interspersed retorts in plain and forthright blue.  This will help to … well, it may not help anything at all, really.  (I’m just feeling patriotic today.)  I’m including all of the assertions of fact and fancy that purport to implicate Agran.  Remembering, the question here is: does Moxley actually lay a glove on Agran?

Thirteen years ago, Tony Rackauckas began his first term as Orange County District Attorney with a series of breathtaking ethical lapses.

Does not involve Agran.

Rackauckas ordered the agency’s organized-crime detectives to not investigate Newport Beach businessman Patrick N. DiCarlo, his fishing buddy and campaign chairman who had suspicious contacts with East Coast mafia associates.

Yikes!  Sounds bad!  Does not involve Agran.

He looked the other way when Southern California apartment-complex magnate George Argyros, one of his ultra-wealthy campaign backers, cheated thousands of low-income tenants out of their security deposits.

My word!  Horrible!  Does not involve Agran.

When British Petroleum‘s ARCO service stations ignored for a decade clean-up notices to fix more than 132 massive gas-storage leaks throughout the county, he let the company off without admitting its guilt or paying county residents a nickel for callously polluting our environment and jeopardizing our groundwater supply.

Atrocious!  Unbelievable!    Does not involve Agran.

On the other hand, Rackauckas deserves genuine applause for more recent decisions. He ignored advice from his law-enforcement brethren and arrested unnecessarily lethal Fullerton cops in the gruesome Kelly Thomas killing.

Somewhat ignorant.  In one case (Ramos), many think he overcharged; in a second (Cicinelli), many think he undercharged; in a third (Wolfe), he evaded responsibility by fending the indictment off onto a grand jury.

He withstood pressure to downplay the felony case against three well-connected characters in the infamous Haidl Gang Rape saga and made sure the unapologetic defendants went to prison.

Good!  I assume.  I don’t really trust Moxley’s word at this point, though.

He even authorized a historic investigation into our local detention facilities and issued a bombshell, scathing report detailing rampant jail-deputy corruption.

Sounds good!  For some reason, I’d want to verify this myself before believing it, though.

The point is that you can never be sure if the Good Tony or the Bad Tony will show up.

Pretty much sums up my feelings about the Moxley.

That lesson was once again apparent at a Nov. 19 central committee meeting of the Orange County Republican Party. The Republican DA came to apologize for trying to help Democrat Larry Agran defeat GOP-endorsed Steven Choi in the Irvine mayoral race two weeks earlier.

Presumably, Agran did not send him to apologize for clarifying a statement he had made against Agran.

As you might imagine, Rackauckas’ election-eve robocall for Agran’s campaign shocked and angered the county’s Republican activists. They had been trying to topple the Democrat’s 3-2 council majority control over Irvine for 12 frustrating years.

Rackauckas claimed that he was only telling the truth about a mailer that went way too far.  No wonder they were pissed!

That Agran believes a powerful, activist government—especially with him at the reins—should be the center of the community and that Republicans outnumber Democrats in the city only added to their anxiety.

Not that Moxley is grinding a political ax here, of course.  It’s more like a machete.

Partisan politics wasn’t the only motivation to knock off Agran, who is a master of looking sympathetic and grandfatherly when it suits his needs.

Damn you, you sympathetically grandfatherly looking man!  THAT IS SO UNFAIR!!

The Chicago native created an Irvine political machine …

I interrupted the sentence there because otherwise some of you may not have noticed the implicit and subtle reference to “Chicago … political machine.”  All Chicago Democrats are corrupt, you know.  That’s why noting his birthplace was so relevant.  Also: OBAMA!

… that doled out lucrative, no-bid city contracts to his personal consultants and allies.

WOW!  I mean, lots of public agencies use no-bid contracts, some of which are lucrative, and there’s no evidence here that they received contacts because they were his consultants and allies, if that’s true, but it’s a start.  Hey, I wonder if this has ever come up before and what Agran has had to say about it, if so?  (You’re going to be left wondering too, if you haven’t figured that out.  Yes, Agran does have a benign explanation for all of this, which it was, of course, critically necessary for Moxley to leave out.)

Businesses that deposited large sums of cash into his various political bank accounts won favorable city treatment.

In that order?  If so, I’m concerned — though not convinced — that it could be a quid pro quo.  If it happened in the other order, uh — duh!  Moxley doth not say.

Elections were rigged to favor Agran, who put fake or decoy Republican candidates on ballots.

This again!  Even to the extent that recruiting people to dilute the other side’s vote is illegal — and it generally is more like “standard practice” — it doesn’t seem to be true, and even if true would not be “rigging” an election.  If only Moxley had an editor who could tell him such things!

The corruption might have outraged another district attorney, but Rackauckas let Agran roam free for a decade while alarmed citizens and journalists detailed abuse after abuse.

Well, everyone knows that free-range Chicagoan tastes better.  I wonder what Moxley would come up with if someone — like me, here and now — asked him to provide details of a decade’s worth of “alarmed citizens and journalists detail[ing] abuse after abuse?”  Nothing, right?  (Someone pass the word to him.)  Sounds like, maybe, this is a load of crap that Moxley’s coarse palatte can’t distinguish from human food?

At the GOP meeting, the 69-year-old DA explained that he was “a bit hasty” in his decision to help Agran’s campaign. In reality, Rackauckas insisted, he really didn’t want him to win the race. Ponder that claim for a minute.

GOP attack hyenas were using T-Rack’s words to create a false impression that Agran was weak when it came to protecting children from rapists — which, someone might want to explain to Moxley, is a truly dastardly charge.  Agran asked T-Rack to set the record straight — and he did so.  I’ve pondered, and it seems to me that someone might have enough respect for the truth to do so despite not wanting someone to win the race.  The clearest most recent example is from the 2008 Presidential campaign, when a woman told John McCain at one of his rallies said “”I can’t trust Obama. I have read about him and he’s not, he’s not uh — he’s an Arab.”  McCain responded: ”No, ma’am. He’s a decent family man [and] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that’s what this campaign’s all about. He’s not [an Arab].”  [Writer's Note: nothing is actually indecent or wrong with being an Arab, but this, sadly, was still an advance on McCain's part.]  Ponder that for a moment!  By Moxley’s logic, McCain wanted Obama to win.

So far, we have two undeniable oddities: A DA who steadfastly won’t investigate Agran’s corruption …

Whoa!  Putting aside the question of whether there was corruption — about which Moxley is, shall we say, not an really objective source at this point, where does it say anywhere above that T-Rack “steadfastly won’t investigate Agran”?  Seriously, go read it again, if you dare.  For all we know, T-Rack was keeping tabs and none of the things that have Moxley’s veins fluttering actually failed the smell test.  The corruption — it’s coming from inside Moxley’s head!

… and who, when Agran is frantically trying to keep power over Irvine and the multibillion-dollar Great Park project, tries to come to his rescue.

Obviously, the oddness is deniable.  For one, calling something “corruption” doesn’t actually render it corruption in the real world.

Hmmmm.

Hmmmm?

The situation is more puzzling when you consider that at the Nov. 19 meeting, Rackauckas unequivocally asserted he had been vigilantly watching Agran for any wrongdoing. This attempt to rewrite history is alarming. In fact, the DA has blocked repeated citizen complaints demanding the launch of a criminal grand jury probe.

Well, gosh!  Did those complaints appear to have any merit?  Or is this consistent with what I posit a few paragraphs above — he checked and there was nothing apparently wrong.  Hey, is that part of what an investigative journalist ought to ask in this situation?  Democrats “blocked” Darrell Issa’s nutjob investigations — does that “alarm” Moxley?

Republican activist Allan Bartlett asked Rackauckas if he had any special relationship with Agran’s political machine, especially Arnold Forde, the media-shy private consultant who grabbed a highly suspicious $120,000-per-month, no-bid contract for more than seven years to do publicity for a public park that still hasn’t been built to spec. He adamantly denied it.

Why does Agran think that that contract was justified?  Has anyone asked him — and if so, what did he say?  (These questions are rhetorical.  Of course they have; of course he’s answered.  You wouldn’t have suspected it, would you?)

But the DA wasn’t as forthcoming as he should have been. Forde and Rackauckas worked together as close political-campaign associates for as many as four years beginning in the 1980s.

So … they had a four-year “relationship” — starting as much as 30 years ago.  OK.  Is that the sort of “special relationship” Barnett was talking about — “was this person ever your coworker?”

At the height of public cries to investigate Agran’s corruption in 2004 and 2005, the two men shared a private lunch. The DA declined my request to outline what they discussed, but Rackauckas adviser Mike Schroeder described the meeting as “just social.”

And this proves, uh … that Moxley won’t explicitly call Mike Schroeder a liar?

At the central committee meeting, Rackauckas oddly posed clueless that Forde is Agran’s top consigliere. “I don’t consider [Forde] an enemy or anything,” the DA said in response to a question. “But I know he works for, uh, apparently for, uh, Larry Agran.”

At this point, I’m not going to take Moxley’s word on an assertion that Forde is Agran’s “top” anything, let alone a consigliore, though if a horse’s head shows up in Moxley’s bed I might believe it.

Why would Rackauckas—a lawman who claims he has been vigorously investigating Irvine corruption—pretend he wasn’t sure of Forde’s thoroughly documented, cozy relationship with Agran?

Because have a close adviser working on a project one is heading just doesn’t fall into the sort of corruption that captured T-Rack’s concern?  Maybe thought the critics were sort of nuts?

Was he trying to obfuscate his ties to Forde and Agran?

Not if he didn’t have them!

The DA didn’t mention that in 2002, Agran and Forde came to his rescue by critically bolstering his re-election campaign against Wally Wade, a veteran, high-ranking prosecutor.

Watch carefully for any evidence that Agran “came to his rescue.”

Rackauckas had supported unpopular efforts of the aforementioned soiled apartment magnate Argyros to build an international airport at the mothballed El Toro Marine Corps Air Station near Irvine.

Hey, reader, did you wonder how Agran felt about that proposal?  Moxley doesn’t mention it.  Hmmmm.

Forde and Agran let the DA appear in widely distributed, pro-Great Park slate mailers (Taxfighters Voting Guide, a project of the Voter Education Project) and described him as a “vigorous” law enforcer solidly against the airport.

Had, um, T-Rack changed his tune on the airport at that point?  That could explain it!  But more than that — Forde, a Republican, is in the business of producing mailers.  Has Moxley asked Agran what role he had in “deciding” to let T-Rack onto them?  And, if Agran was involved, was it just a way to solidify public support for his side?  You know — did he engage in … coalition politics?

The affair got fishier. Neither Rackauckas nor Forde nor Agran publicly disclosed the arrangement in a timely fashion. In violation of California law, the DA waited 10 months to reveal he owed the Forde/Agran slate $25,000, mislabeled the reason for the cost and post-dated the deal by at least five months. Forde and Agran were mum for an entire year.

We have not only have no evidence presented that this wasn’t a benign mistake, but we have no evidence that Agran had knowledge that he was required to disclose — or that the lack of such knowledge could explain his being “mum.”

Fishy turned odorous.

They have ointments for that.

According to dozens of reviewed campaign-finance-disclosure reports housed at the Orange County Registrar of Voters and the California Secretary of State’s office, Forde and Agran did another huge favor for the DA. They let him wait until December 2006—a whopping near-five years—to fully repay them for the February 2002 campaign expense.

“They.”  Evidence of Agran’s knowledge and direct involvement, please?  I only ask because Moxley is calling him corrupt here.  By the way, is allowing such a wait unusual — or illegal?  What did Agran have to say about … oh, forget it.

Odorous then turned toxic.

OK, now you have to go to the emergency room.  Next time, buy the frakkin’ ointment!  Hygiene!

Records of alleged payments from Rackauckas to the slate mailer don’t match. Forde reported he took $4,000 from the DA between Jan. 20 and March 13, 2006. Rackauckas’ campaign reports show he paid just $3,000 during the period.

Forde.  And a $1000 discrepancy over when things were reported.

Between March 18 and May 20 of that year, the DA claims he gave Forde $2,000. The slate mailer records no payments for that period.

Forde.  And a $1000 discrepancy in the other direction.

Then, Forde reported he took $3,000 from Rackauckas on June 19, an alleged transaction that never appears in the DA’s disclosure filings.

Forde.  OK, so that’s the $1000 in dispute again — $2000 discrepancy, now in Forde’s favor.

Finally, Rackauckas reported in January 2007 that he paid the slate mailer $5,000 from July 1 to Dec. 31, 2006, and owed no more cash. Forde reported he received $1,000 less during the period but also said the debt was satisfied.

Forde.  OK, Rackauckas paid $5000, so there’s $3000 discrepancy in his favor, and Forde said he got $4000, so it looks like maybe he got overpaid by $1000.  OK, honestly, I’ve lost track.  Is this really supposed to “corruption”?

Innocent mistakes or not, …

YA THINK???

… something else happened in 2006 when the DA was in debt to Agran/Forde.

Forde, Forde, Forde, Forde … Agran/Forde?  Huh?  What just happened?  Did Agran actually know about all of this? Was he just trusting the political consultant being paid by — well, from this I don’t even know if it was by Agran!

I discovered a record that proves Agran violated state law on independent campaign expenditures. That document, an election mailer, was supposed to have no tie to the Irvine Democrat, but it contained Agran’s handwritten editing marks as well as signature.

Wow!  Evidence!  Let’s see what Moxley does with the details, so we can judge for ourselves!  I’m all ears and eyes!

Simple curiosity might have driven an independent prosecutor to ask questions after the revelation.

Wait.  Back up.  The only thing I’m sure of at this point is that Scott Moxley hates Larry Agran with the fiery heat of a thousand suns, and we’re just supposed to take Moxley’s word for it that this PROVES AGRAN’S GUILT??!!  Maybe T-Rack didn’t ask questions about the “revelation” because it was clearly a bunch of horse sauce!

Six years and seven months have passed. Rackauckas never asked to see a copy of the smoking gun.

Moxley “discovered” a smoking gun document — and Rackauckas never asked to see it.  Surely, Moxley would have said “hey, Tone!  Wanna see this Agran-smacking smoking gun?”  But he doesn’t mention that.  Or, maybe, did T-Rack see it and disagree that it was smoking — or maybe even a gun at all?

This column appeared in print as “The Trouble With Tony: DA Tony Rackauckas owed Larry Agran’s political machine $25,000 when he said he saw no corruption in Irvine.”

Surely, Dear Reader, at this point you should be able to identify exactly the moment — that’s the significance of the word “when” — when BOTH T-Rack owed “Agran’s political machine” (which at this point, so far as I can tell, just means “Arnold Forde, whether or not Agran even knew what was going on with the mailers or whether an invoice had gone out”)  AND T-Rack said that “he saw no corruption in Irvine.”  It’s the title of the print version of the story — which you just read.  So you know that at some point T-Rack owed Forde money — and at some point he didn’t see anything improper happening in Irvine.  You are being invited, if it’s not clear, to infer cause and effect here.  Do you think it has been shown?

And, if it has been shown — has it been shown that it actually did involve Agran acting corruptly?  You know — does Moxley justify his use of words like corrupt, corruption, and criminal?  Because if he doesn’t, then is Moxley an idiot — or does he think that his readers are idiots?

Moxley’s editor, Gustavo Arellano, will probably tell us below that I am a jerk and my articles are too long.  He truly does not get paid enough to defend Moxley as often as Moxley needs defending.


About Greg Diamond

Prolix worker's rights and government accountability attorney and General Counsel of CATER. His anti-corruption work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, leading them to work with the Democratic Party of Orange County Chair and other co-conspirators (who had long detested the internal oversight his presence provided) to remove him from the position of DPOC North Vice Chair of in violation of party rules and any semblance of due process. He also runs for office sometimes. Unless otherwise specifically stated, none of his writings prior to that lawless putsch ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level. He tries to either suppress or openly acknowledge his partisan, issue, ideological, and "good government" biases in most of his writing here. If you have a question about any particular writing, just ask him about it and (unless you are an pseudonymous troll) he will probably answer you at painful length. He lives in Beautiful Bountiful Brea, but while he may brag about it he generally doesn't blog about it. A family member works as a campaign treasurer for candidates including Wendy Gabriella in AD-73; he doesn't directly profit from that relatively small compensation and it doesn't affect his coverage. He does advise some campaigns informally and (except where noted) without compensation.