1. Moxley Nails Agran in Terms That No Moxley Would Ever Dispute!
R. Scott Moxley refers to the events of Irvine’s upcoming Mayoral election with hyperventiating fervor. His new OC Weekly story, timed to put the pot on boil just before Election Day, is entitled “Larry Agran’s Great Irvine Election Robbery”. It uses phrases like “such an arrangement is corruption,” “this alarming fact,” “this shady status quo,” “stealing another election,” “diversionary accouterments in a show of deception,” “achieve a nefarious goal,” “the price … is corruption” — and this doesn’t even dip into previous articles on Agran during the past weeks.
By golly — to use language like that, you would think that Moxley must really have the goods!
And, of course, if you read closely — he doesn’t. Nothing near to the goods, in fact.
Judging from my own recent experiences with Moxley (and I really do encourage people to search my name on the Weekly’s site and look at Moxley’s unhinged comments for a sense of how badly his mainspring has become bent), by the middle of the first paragraph I expected that the supposed factual basis for his conclusions about Agran and Daigle would be almost entirely unrooted in reality and that when you probed it even slightly it would disintegrate like a bubble of dried laundry soap.
In this respect, and only in this respect, I was not disappointed.
Here’s Moxley’s thesis in a nutshell:
(1) A secretive cabal of Agran supporters, led by Agran himself, has wanted to run Republican Katherine Daigle as a third candidate in the Mayoral contest between Democrat Agran and Republican Stephen Choi so as to siphon votes from Choi.
(2) This is because of Corruption So Huge That It Can Only Be Hinted At.
(3) And it’s illegal, stealing, thieving, nefarious, and corrupt (had to say it twice), too!
Let me point to the apparent grains of truth here, the inclusion of which is designed to lead you to think that the more numerous grains of raving paranoid fantasy must have some value as well.
(1) Agran has had dealings with Patrick Strader and appointed him to a powerful city oversight commission.
(2) Some conservatives around Irvine have supported Agran or Daigle (or “Agran or Daigle”) in this election.
(3) This has included funding anti-Choi (and thus objectively pro-Agran, or pro-Daigle, or pro-“Agran or Daigle”) mailers coming out of a firm associated with “Evil Dave” Gilliard.
(4) At least one Democrat has apparently contributed to Evil Dave’s anti-Choi efforts.
(5) (this is a semi-fact) This probably has to do with Agran’s influence over the Great Park.
“GUILTY! STOP RIGHT THERE! AGRAN IS PROVEN CORRUPT!”, you may shriek at this point, if you are R. Scott Moxley or are not quite right in the head (but I repeat myself….) If you’re anyone else (perhaps even including long-suffering Moxley Editor Gustavo Arellano), you may say “yeeeeesssss — OK, what else do you got?”
There’s the problem. Moxley’s got nothing to offer but insinuations and lots of unjustified synonyms for “larceny.”
2. The Missing Pieces of the Puzzle!
Let’s start with a discussion of the Agran “machine” by granting, for the sake of argument, every disputable fact for which Inspector Moxley actually has even a shred of even suggestive evidence.
- Agran has substantial apparently power due to his role in determining what happens in the Great Park.
- Some generally Republican groups began to fawn over him after he achieved that power.
- They might even be inclined towards corrupt attempts to gain his favor.
- They might even want to help Agran win an election!
Suggestive? Maybe! But you’ll notice (those of you who are not Inspector Moxley) that there’s something missing in this scenario, something critical towards establishing the conclusion that Agran is stealing, thieving, taking with intent to keep without authorization, robbing, jobbing, swiping, etc., the upcoming election. Do you see what it is?
That’s right. There’s no actual suggestion that AGRAN HIMSELF has done, or encouraged others to do, anything wrong — or that he even wants to engage in anything but legal, above board, non-thieving electoral politics. Nothin’.
That’s SORT OF A BIG GAP TO LEAVE IN ONE’S ARGUMENT.
Ask yourself, after reading Moxley’s story, if there is anything there that is inconsistent with the following scenario:
Some mostly-Republicans are supporting Agran (and/or Daigle) for Mayor not because they expect to get their palms greased, but because he is
- a known quantity, even if a little too honest for their taste
- a good and knowledgeable steward of the long-term future of the Great Park,
- better than Choi and whatever plans he has for the Great Park, and
- probably going to win regardless — so why antagonize him?
(Don’t bother looking through the article for Moxley to address this possibility; he doesn’t consider any alternative to the notion that support for Daigle must have come specifically at Agran’s direction.)
Under the above scenario, all Agran wants is to be treated fairly and judged on the facts — and, if you’re not Scott Moxley, is that really so hard?
But Oh! Oh! Oh! — Moxley has some facts to set forth! (I’m going to mark those facts that are more like unsupported assertions of opinion with asterisks.) These include:
- Agran ally* Patrick B. Strader was “the”* person who “helped to” convince Daigle to make her laughable* run for Mayor
- Strader and his family are longtime campaign contributors to Agran
- Daigle is without prior public accomplishment*, cogent ideas* or money*
- Agran* and his* alliance* decided* to fund* her candidacy.
“That’s right,” Moxley excitedly erupts, “the cagey veteran Democrat is supporting a Republican candidate . . . in his own race!”
Well, I hate to break it to Inspector Moxley, but this wouldn’t be the first time that had ever happened in the U.S. — or even in OC, even recently — and it’s more like something that happens all the time. (This is one of the things that got Scott Baugh in trouble in a previous race, as I discuss in my Evil Dave Gilliard story.) I’ve never done it myself, but my understanding is that unless it involves bribery, extortion, or fraud I don’t know that tactical support of another candidate is even actually illegal. (If it is, why hasn’t Van Tran faced charges for having his peeps induce Ceci Iglesias, who was not yet officially a Republican but who was already officially a Latina, into his Congressional race against Loretta Sanchez in 2010 so as to split the Latino vote? I’ve pointed out previously that Moxley was aware of that race — but somehow didn’t get exercised about that one.)
Back to Agran: do the actions of people who many be currying his favor, presuming that that’s true, prove in any way that he is corrupt? No — in fact, what Moxley can document doesn’t actually involve Agran’s OWN actions at all. It means that there’s the POSSIBILITY of corruption — and Agran either succumbs to it or … resists it!
My impression, from my few dealings with the man, is that Agran is probably aware that one’s having power means that other people may be inclined towards untoward influence — but that he successfully resists it. Good for him, if so! (Of course, it means that there’s no actual story here for Moxley — and that’s inconvenient.)
No problem for Moxley, though! If there’s a missing piece of the puzzle, get some cardboard and make one up!
3. Engineering the Missing Puzzle Piece!
For any competent reporter, “not corrupt” would be the default hypothesis about a politician with an unblemished ethical record — that doesn’t count blemishes that an interested reporter airbrushes in — and a conclusion of corruption would be something that would need to be proven. Not for Inspector Moxley, though! His bias is that grown-ups are bad — and that Agran must be presumed to be a liar, a cheat, and an election stealing election thief until and unless proven otherwise! If Agran has power, he must be corrupt — so let’s just find out how! To the jigsaw!
(Note to Larry Agran. Moxley won’t do this to you if you rub his belly the right way. Check in with Jim Righeimer or Tony Bushala for details.)
So Moxley builds a vivid scenario out of eye gorp scraped off his lids after his fever dreams. In it, all of these Republicans construct this awesome mechanism to help Larry Agran CHEAT and to STEAL the election from Stephen Choi by diverting the votes to which Choi is entitled to Katherine Daigle. (Only two things are missing from his story: Larry Agran and Katherine Daigle. Those are sort of big omissions.)
Moxley apparently doesn’t recognize that parties encourage vote-splitting candidates to run all the time — as I’ve noted previously, he flat out missed the story of Van Tran’s peeps pulling Ceci “Wasn’t Yet Openly a Republican” Iglesias into the 2010 race against Loretta process to suck up Latino/a votes.) Moxley seems vaguely aware that it’s only actually “cheating” — a strong word best not misused by fulminating morons — if you actually fund and corruptly their campaign.
And so, Moxley duly comes up with a scenario in which Agran’s people fund Daigle’s campaign! The problem is that these people — Probolsky, Evil freakin’ Gilliard, Strader, Erik “Whip me! Then reimburse me!” Brown — ARE NOT AGRAN’S “PEOPLE.” If anything, Moxley’s own recent writing, which he touts in his article on this exact point, demonstrates that they’re DAIGLE’S people. They might want to see Agran beat Choi — even without any corrupt promises on Agran’s part — but there’s not any EVIDENCE presented here that Agran is actually giving them direction. Go look for actual evidence in the article! IT IS ALL JUST INSIDE MOXLEY’S FEVER-SIZZLING BRAIN!
An aside: Moxley describes putting out mailers attacking Choi as “helping Agran” — although doing so is also, and to the extent it targets Republicans, is more directly — helping Probolsky’s and Strader’s buddy Daigle. (As Dan “of the Liberal O.” C. writes, there are actually good reasons why Irvine Republicans might want to promote Daigle to a good — even a second place! — finish in the Mayoral race, such as that Irvine Republicans tend to be lousy candidates — check out what he writes about Christine Shea — and Daigle has some of the earmarks of looking like she might be less so.) If there are internal GOP politics here separating these Irvine Republicans from Choi — and there surely are — then Moxley is oblivious to them. There’s no apparently indication that he actually even looked for them — he was after Agran. That’s why he calls them “Agran’s group” despite there being NO ACTUAL EVIDENCE PRESENTED OF A TIE TO AGRAN. Seriously — read the story again. I did. Nada. Nothin’ but eye gorp.)
Aha! But Inspector Moxley has a last line of defense! What about casino owner Dennis Sammut, who has given to liberal Democrats in the past? Why is he funding a mailer that attacks Choi? Wasn’t he interested in helping Agran?
Maybe so! I mean, a casino owner might give to lots of people regardless of party, because he’s probably mostly interested in helping his casino business — and Moxley actually never even says that he’s a Democrat, or a liberal, or an Agran fan. (Uh, does Choi have a negative position on gambling? Could that have something to do with it? Inspector Moxley does not bother himself with such trifles!)
Ok, maybe Sammut thinks that keeping Agran in office is a better way of holding open the possibility of casinos in the area, or whatever, then electing Choi. But there’s a decent alternative explanation to the notion that Sammut is being directed by Agran and his agents to spend money to divert votes from Choi to Daigle. (Remember: it should not even be necessary to make this argument at all, given that Moxley has no evidence that Sammut IS directed by Agran or someone so instructed by Agran.)
Ready? Come here, Inspector Moxley, I’m going to whisper it into your ear…. Sammut may have been advised to do this because …
… BECAUSE IT’S BLOODY OBVIOUS, YOU MORON! Agran wouldn’t have to tell Sammut to do this, or even know that he’s doing it, because it’s AN OBVIOUS MOVE. A seven-year-old could figure it out. And if Agran didn’t recruit Sammut into the assertedly shady deal, then he’s just not morally responsible for it — no more than Jodie Foster was responsible for inspiring the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan. SOMEONE ELSE IS DOING THE SUPPOSEDLY BAD THING!
I’d better spell this next part out clearly:
Based on what Moxley actually reports, Agran is not “CHEATING,” not “STEALING,” not “THIEVERY,” not “PURLOINING” (I add, in case Moxley ever reaches for this thesaurus) because Agran is NOT INVOLVED, AND ERGO NOT CULPABLE, IF THERE WAS EVEN ANYTHING ILLEGAL OR IMMORAL ABOUT THIS HAPPENING IN THE FIRST PLACE, IF TRUE!
I leave it as an exercise to the reader as to determine whether calling this “an election robbery,” “stealing an election,” etc. is at all appropriate. I mean, I’m just an amateur, not a pro like Inspector Moxley, but before I’d make that sort of inflammatory accusation just before a big election, I’d want something that more closely resembled “the facts.”