A Simple Mailer Devastates Kris Murray’s Campaign — and Her Self-Serving and Destructive Political Career

Murray Mailer (photo)

One quibble: High-speed rail is the state’s issue. Murray’s spending Anaheim into oblivion to help her bosses is the issue for Anaheim’s voters.

“EXPOSED” is right.  The only problem with the devastating mailer that hit Kris Murray yesterday is that it doesn’t go far enough.

I have plenty of criticisms of Dave Gilliard and the PAC that he haunts, CAHOA — mostly that he tends to bend the truth until it screams for mercy.  But give the man some actual facts to work with and he can be devastating.  That’s what happened with yesterday’s mailer from CAHOA (the return address is in the upper left, while another ad hides the addressee), which takes on Murray for conflict of interest.

Conflict of interest has been the hallmark of Murray’s tenure on Anaheim’s City Council.  Usually, it’s political conflict of interest — promoting the interests of her political sugar daddy, Curt Pringle, and his clients in the Resort District.  They want to pump every last dollar out of Anaheim’s future General Fund budget in order to gain the political and personal benefit of that money now — and Kris Murray is their helpful concierge within the Anaheim City Council.  (Three other Councilmembers, Gail EastmanLucille Kring, and Jordan Brandman, follow her lead — but she’s the one who actually knows what she’s doing.)  What the mailer does is to remind us that, unlike her colleagues, Murray is not simply acting in her political best interest; she’s making a whole lot of money for ransacking Anaheim as well.

How’s that?  Money from whom?

Willdan.  Have a look at the flip side of the flyer:

Murray Mailer (text)

Now Kris Murray, much like Anaheim’s General Fund if she gets re-elected, is busted.

(If you’re new to understanding the connections among Anaheim and related players, you may want to review Vern’s classic story on the “Masters of the Universe” from 2012.  To help you understand that phrase, Vern’s story links to Adam Elmahrek’s brilliant and illuminating article from earlier that year.)

Kris Murray didn’t just end up in Anaheim accidentally: she was recruited by Curt Pringle.  As one of the most voraciously ambitious politicians in OC not currently running for Senate District 34, her background was as a public information officer — although her highest talent lay in hobnobbing with the upper echelons of the public.  While married, she is famously smiling and “high-touch” when meeting men — knowing that I’ve had some dealings with her, one actually called me to ask whether I thought she was flirting with him, and I had to admit that I had never personally gotten that treatment — and as warm and effective one-on-one as she is droning and robotic in her “policy wonk” mode.

Why did Pringle want her in Anaheim?  First, she was intelligent and pliable, agreeable and not-too-fastidious ethically.  And second, the man had plans — and he needed someone like her in office to help make them work.

Pringle was a member of the High-Speed Rail Commission for 4½ years starting in 2007, spending the last two as Chair; he was simultaneously a member of the Orange County Transportation Agency.  (His role in HSR is the major reason that I view it with suspicion, and I want to like it.)  He was highly aware of the money to be made in such big transportation-related deals — not only by contractors, but also by middlemen such as himself.  And that goal of personal profit seemed to be, if you’ll pardon the expression, what was “driving the bus.”

Pringle’s directly transportation-related initiatives were the $200,000,000 ARTIC train station — a replacement for the existing Amtrak station across from the parking lot from Angels Stsdium that may never house a High Speed Rail train — and the $320,000,000 Streetcar (or “fixed-rail system, if you want to be technical.  The latter project, which many political observers believe is what is prompting Disney’s massive investment in maintaining a pro-Streetcar Council Majority (ideally, for them, including Murray) will take people from the possibly deserted train station to Disneyland and to the expanded Convention Center.  Well, technically, the plans are not to have it go to Disneyland, but across the street from it — requiring a pedestrian bridge across Harbor Boulevard if traffic is not to be even more snarled than now– so that Disney can pretend in court when “victim of streetcar accident” cases appear that the streetcar was not done for its benefit and so its deep pockets are off limits.

That $320 million is for just three miles of streetcar.  Over $100 million per mile.  Other communities with streetcars look at that number — and then they point at Anaheim and burst out laughing.

Such critics miss the point.  The Streetcar may be terrible for the City of Anaheim’s budget, but it’s great for Disneyland, great for middlemen like Curt Pringle, and great for contractors like Willdan.  The presence of a Streetcar project — as opposed to, say, a huge fleet of buses that can be redeployed on different paths as needed — supposedly makes it more likely that HSR will be built and will have a station (even its terminus!) in Anaheim, because if they don’t build it than the money spent on the Streetcar will have been wasted!

Yes, indeed — except that ARTIC and the Streetcar will have already served their real purpose: extracting money out of taxpayer’s pockets and putting it into the hands of middlemen like Curt Pringle and contractors like Willdan.  And that is why a company like Willdan hires someone like grinning and glad-handling Kris Murray to be in charge of “business development” (read “bringing in money”) and “government affairs” (read “that money being from taxpayers.”)  “Pet Projects” with “Your Tax Dollars” — check and check.  One might think this that pecuniary interest might lead Murray to, oh, not vote on some projects like the Streetcar — but of course she hasn’t done so.

Pringle’s VP and hatchet man Todd “Anaheim Insider” Priest conveniently paints the mailer as being strictly about High-Speed Rail as opposed to what it calls the “add-ons” that HSR’s prospective (though increasingly doubtful) arrival brings — such as ARTIC and the Streetcar, which are the follies for which Anaheim will be paying.  (Note: yes, Anaheimers won’t be paying directly for projects bought with Measure M funds.  They will instead be either paying for building the other useful projects for which such funds could be used if they weren’t being wasted on the HSR add-ons — or they will be paying, in terms of lost productivity and of pothole damage, for the absence of these projects that the City could not fund because it wasted its money here.  Pretending that selling/leasing City assets, giving away tax receipt concessions, and all aren’t really taking money away from taxpayers is a favorite intellectual gymnastics exercise of the Pringle Ring.)  Priest also enjoys arguing that someone who acts to benefit a different subsidiary of one’s parent company — does not violate conflict of interest laws because they aren’t benefiting the same company.  Good luck with that argument, Todd.  For the record, here’s his pitch:

Acting against truth and logic, the Tait Family Trust is trying to tell Anaheim voters that Kris Murray only supports high-speed rail because in late 2013 a separate division of the company she works for, Willdan, is a subcontractor on a portion of the design and construction of the California High Speed Rail project.

Never mind that Murray doesn’t work for the Willdan Infrastructure.

Never mind that Murray’s support of high-speed rail predates that contract by several years.

Never mind that the mailer is a lie.

I’m sure that Murray has supported High-Speed Rail since, at the latest, the moment that HSR huckster Pringle told her that she did.  That’s not the point.  The point is: how much is her “support of high speed rail” costing Anaheim by indirectly imposing costs on its General Fund.  Money that would otherwise end up bolstering the City’s budget instead goes to middlemen and contractors as guaranteed profits.  She supports HSR and the schemes built around it — the latter of which hurt Anaheim.   That’s the larger truth addressed in the mailer.

A City Councilmember should try to get the best deal for his or her constituents.  Not “contributors,” not “political patrons” — constituents.  What this mailer points out so bracingly is that Murray is instead looking out for two groups — herself and those who can be of use to her.  And, right now, the barrage of political mailers from Disney and Pringle-entities like OCTaxPAC are showing that those who can be useful to her are capable of being very, very useful indeed.

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)