Matt Cunningham’s $2500 Payday in Orange

Here at the Orange Juice there is a long tradition of bashing former Red County blogger Matt Cunningham, who used the pseudonym Jubal until he came out,  but later left blogging at his right wing playground with a published explanation that “blogging didn’t pay the bills.”

Cunningham catches flak because he is a flack, sometimes lapping at the public trough, sometimes doing public relations and ginning up astroturf support  for developers. Conservatives lambasted him for his over-the-top billing for the First Five Commission. Others despised him for his role in protecting John Urell the protector of sexual predators in the Catholic church.  Gustavo Arellano likes to detail Cunningham’s general political hypocrisy.

Jubal had a nice little $2500 payday in the City of Orange in the period between July 1st and September 30th, as detailed in the campaign finance reports of the Southern California Taxpayers Association Sponsored by Ridgeline Partners LLC.

Cunningham had ended his tenure as an Orange Planning Commissioner after voting to approve the Ridgeline Development. A few months later, he and his wife were seen organizing support for the development. Because these meetings happened before the referendum qualified, the billing for those services would not have appeared in the campaign finance reports. So we don’t know what Jubal and his wife garnered for their home-based consulting firm before June 1, 2011.

The City Council approved the development of one of the last pieces of land zoned as recreational open space in Orange.  Long time Orange residents, using the slogan Orange Needs Parks, set out to gather signatures to overturn the City Council’s decision via referendum. Under this progressive constitutional feature, ordinary voters can force a public vote on legislative actions if they quickly gather enough signatures.

During the referendum campaign, the finance reports detail a $2500  payment for Matthew’s consulting firm,  Pacific Strategies.

This $2500 was chump change in the context of staggering $640, 273 that was spent attempting to block a series of referendums while they were still in the signature-gathering stage.

Political consultant Scott Taylor of STA Campaigns raked in $20,000 for consulting plus any other mark-up he might have made on services he billed. STA Campaigns has worked on local Orange County races including winning Orange City Council campaigns for Carolyn Cavecche  and Jon Dumitru, so it’s understandable that they would collect big.

Roni Hicks and Associates billed lavishly for Diane Gaynor’s services, including at least $35,500 that was specifically allocated to consulting after July 1st and some share of $46,200 that is not otherwise allocated in the reporting period ending June 30th. Gaynor had been shepherding the deal through working, hand in glove with Ken Ryan.

Olson and Associates, the Tulare-based provider of goons and blockers grabbed an amazing $233,270 for bringing in campaigners from the central valley who served as “blockers” to convince voters not to sign the referendum petitions. The Olson workers harassed volunteers,  going as far as to follow young female volunteers home. The outsiders also circulated their own petition so voters would know that they had already signed something when a volunteer came to their door with a referendum petition.

Bieber Communications received $103,456 for direct mail, which didn’t include $24,724 paid directly to FDS, a commercial printer in Santa Fe Springs, and also didn’t include an additional $29,882 that was billed by Roni Hicks and Assoc for literature after July 1st or $4800 that was paid to Sacramento design firm Planet Kelly.

Attorney Steve Baric and his firm Baric Minesinger are shown receiving $35,700, which was in addition to the $15,449 billed by Stockton-based attorneys Harem Crabtree.

So yes, in the scope of things, Cunningham only got a taste of the money that was being wasted. It was a feeding frenzy for local consultants for a naïve and desperate client, and Cunningham barely nuzzled his way up to the trough.

So why do we pick on poor Matthew when everyone else was making more money?

Well, there is his affidavit in a lawsuit trying to disqualify the successful referendum:


(Home addresses redacted due to ... erm ... our respect for privacy.)

Cunningham was the only witness who submitted an affidavit, and his affidavit seems to rely on a description of what he did not see and the thickness of a binder that he did not personally open to see what was inside it.

And then there’s the question of why they needed to throw more money at Pacific Strategies when they were already paying other consultants.

Maybe it’s just that Claus Dieckell, Chairman of the Board, and the other officers and  investors at Milan Capital are hopelessly naive and being taken for a ride.

From Milan Capital’s website, we can see that

Mr. Dieckell is actively involved in the acquisition, repositioning and management of the company’s portfolio. He has overseen the acquisition of more than 1,200 apartment units, more than 2 million square feet of commercial space, and nearly 200 acres of land for development. With a critical eye for spotting undervalued assets and underlying market trends, Mr. Dieckell has vast experience in a wide range of project types from entitlement and rezoning to management of stabilized assets.

These are guys who have successfully bought and sold a lot of apartments and commercial property, but they’re over their head in Orange, and getting desperate. They overpaid for property at the top of the market, relying on another limited partner, John Martin,  to grease the skids with political contributions and by hiring a consultant who had a history of working well with Mayor Cavecche in a developer-friendly city.

Doubtless only a pale foreshadowing of the torrents of cash we should expect them to unleash over the summer and fall to protect their Orange Land Grab!

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