[UPDATED] Developers Drop Belated Big-Bucks IE Blitz into Beautiful Brea’s City Council Contest




[Ed. Note 10/27: See updates at the end as more information came in over the past day.  Additions and deletions to the text are marked.  The first three words of the headline used to be “Dishonest Dave Gilliard’s; see the update for why that was changed.]

[1] Introduction: Who is Trying to Buy My City’s Brea’s City Council?

Brea City Council races are generally relatively small-money contests.  Some mailers, a few huge honking signs, a passel of smaller ones.  So when a developer and an out-of-town home builder and a local businessman dump over $30,000 into independent expenditures for the City Council race, spent to damage the current Mayor and boost two of his competitors, it captures one’s attention.  When they and a buddy or three put another $4,000 directly into their campaigns — plus another $6,000 from a source with a name that apparently can’t be traced — it captures even more of it.

Obviously, I wouldn’t mention this except that that’s what happening right now in my small city of Beautiful Bounteous Brea.  In a city where all five fundraising City Council candidates combined had collected less than $100,000 through Sept. 30, the addition of about $33,500 in Late Independent Expenditures certainly has a good chance of swinging the election.

Why would someone want to do that?  In this case, strong circumstantial evidence suggests that a development interest is trying to come into Brea to build some new homes — and it’s a controversial enough sort of project that they want to make sure that the City Council majority will support them.  Ideally they want one without the current Mayor — who, if I’m reading the tea leaves correctly, may have indicated to the developer that he is not warm to this proposed project.

(That doesn’t come from inside information.  I have never met or spoken to my city’s Mayor or any political representative of his campaign.  One reason for that is that my daughter, who works part time as a professional Campaign Treasurer to get through Cal State Fullerton, serves in that capacity for his campaign — so I’ve been more comfortable with no contact.  I can say that she likes him and respects him — and if she felt the opposite way I doubt that I’d vote for him.  So while I would have liked to interview him for this story — you’ll see why as we go on — I haven’t.  Because this is happening in my own City, though, and for all I know might well involve development of the Puente Hills, which I oppose — for a follow-up story I may well be suspending my practice of not picking up the phone for reporting and seek out comments from all candidates.)

My own feeling about development projects is that while I don’t oppose them categorically — I actually really like most of the development I see in Brea, including our “Disneyfied” Birch Street Promenade — if you need to elect a new pro-development City Council majority to get yours passed, I am probably going to oppose it.

Why is that?  It’s because it would be much easier for the politicians you’re opposing to give into you than to fight you — and risk your doing exactly what is happening here — so if they’re opposing you it is probably for a very good reason.

[2]  Names and Important Identifying Features to Know for This Story

Political Action Committee (PAC):  California Homeowners Association (CAHOA)

Despicable Political Consultant:  Dishonest Dave Gilliard

$20,000 donor to PAC:  Reggie King of Rancho Cucamonga

Reggie King’s Employer: Young Homes, of which he is Chairman and CEO

$10,500 donor to PAC:  Dwight Manley a Real Estate Developer from Brea

$3,500 donor to PAC’s two candidates:  That’s also Dwight Manley

Dwight Manley’s Employer: MIMCO

Holding company Manley apparently controls or works for/with:  Manley Fanticola Holdings

Mayor of Brea, target of $16,403 in attacks by CAHOA PAC:  Brett Murdock (who is seeking reelection)

Murdock’s current allies in the City Council majority:  Ron Garcia (not seeking reelection) and Christine Marick (up in 2016)

Murdock’s current antagonists on City Council:  Marty Simonoff (up in 2016) and (less so) Roy Moore (not seeking reelection)

CAHOA PAC’s top favorite candidate:  Steve Vargas (received $2500 from Manley, benefits from $8,388.50 from CAHOA)

CAHOA PAC’s 2nd favorite candidate:  Cecilia Hupp (received $1000 from Manley, benefits from $6,552.50 from CAHOA)

CAHOA PAC’s 3rd favorite candidate:  Mark Harris (not fundraising, files no reports) benefits from $2106 from CAHOA)

Other City Council candidates not favored by CAHOA PAC:  Glenn Parker (City Treasurer) and Mike Kim (Planning Comm’r)

Mysterious Donor of $6000 to Hupp’s campaign:  “Don’s Co” of Brea

Donor of $1000 to CAHOA, possibly intended for Brea campaign: Robert Chagolla Construction

Donors of $500 to CAHOA and $500 to Hupp:  Jerry (to CAHOA) and Lorena (to Hupp) Kolb

[3] CAHOA’s Big LIEs in Brea

CAHOA’s participation in the City Council race involves LIEs.  Yes, that’s grammatical — a LIE is a “Late Independent Expenditure,” which is the preferred method for outside groups to get involved in politics without leaving their own clear fingerprints.  LIEs can be funded directly by individuals, but are more commonly funded by PACs.  One is not supposed to be able to direct a PAC to engage in a specific LIE for or against a given candidate — but I don’t think many people in politics believe that it doesn’t happen.  (We’ll look at CAHOA’s donations and expenditures below and you can judge for yourself.

Here’s what CAHOA has done in Brea:

CAHOAs LIEs in Brea

LIEs have to be designated as being in support of or in opposition to given candidates.  CAHOA’s only opposition in Brea has been aimed at Mayor Brett Murdock.  Its support has been directed primarily for their two most favored candidates, Vargas and Hupp.  I don’t know if CAHOA has actually done much to support Harris; there are ways to “support” a candidate in ways that turn into a tacit attack on someone else, such as highlighting his criticisms of a candidate you dislike, so this expenditure may in effect belong in the anti-Murdock column.  (I haven’t read them.)

As you can see, CAHOA got into supporting Vargas early and big.  The expenditures on October 14 may be separate mailers for Vargas and Hupp; the money matches the amount of the Hupp mailer on October 1 and approximates the expenditure for Harris, which looks like a down payment with the balance paid 20 days later.  The expenditure on October 8 looks like something of which the benefits were to be shared equally by the Vargas and Hupp campaigns.

[4] On what has CAHOA spent this money?

Here’s the link to CAHOA’s regular “Expenditures” in Brea, the relevant parts of which are reproduced below.

CAHOA Expenditures through 9-30

A couple of things pop out about this chart.

First, if you’re impressed that Steve Vasquez has the apparent endorsements of the slates for Budget Watchdogs, Californians Vote Green, California Voter Guide, Continuing the Republican Revolution, United Taxpayers of Orange County, California Republican Taxpayers Association, Cops Voter Guide, or Election Digest G2014 — bear in mind that that is only because a homebuilder from Rancho Cucamonga and a developer from Brea paid for it.  In fact, Vargas could not even choose which slate mailers would bear his name, because that would be illegal coordination with the PAC!  So these should give these “endorsements” no weight — or, if this arrangement seems hinky to you, negative weight.  You can even fit these expenditures like puzzle pieces into the above chart.  The $833 takes up Rows 5 and 6; the $400 takes up Row 7; the $515 is Row 3; the $450 is Row 4; and the $1745 neatly adds up to the amounts in Rows 1, 2, and 8.  (See — unless I miss my mark, you just learned which of these companies get paid on the same check!)

Second, you’ll notice a name popping up here and on the next chart: the name Dave Gilliard.  (He has not legally changed his name to include the appellation “Dishonest,” with which I usually favor him.)  CAHOA has been referred to as “Dave Gilliard’s PAC”; I don’t know if it is, but if it is I certainly hope that he is investigated exhaustively for illegal coordination.  In my opinion, Gilliard — who is tied to the Corrupt North OC/Diamond Bar tag team of Ed Royce and Bob “the Redevelopment King” Huff and who is currently doing the messaging for their respective proteges Young Kim and Ling-Ling Chang — is the dirtiest liar in OC politics.  Execrable Dave Ellis may be meaner, but Gilliard has less apparent regard for the truth.

Now that’s only before October 1.  We have a different chart to get to the LIEs from October 1 and afterwards.  And we’re about to learn a whole lot more about CAHOA.

[5] Who’s Been Funding CAHOA?

Here’s a chart that I composed based on CAHOA’s LIE filing.  Donors are color-coded to match up with what I believe to be their intended expenditures.

CAHOA Contribs since 2014-0515

As you can see, CAHOA seems to be engaged in — maybe I should say “engaged for” — relatively few causes.  They’ve lately been involved in LIEs in the races in AD-44 and AD-21 — good picks, suggesting donations from people who have been focused on legislative control.  (You’ll see what AD-44 was about when we get to spending.)  Aside from those Assembly races — AD-44 tagged in purple, AD-21 tagged in dark gray — the causes seem to be opposing a Mayoral candidate in Redlands (tagged as red), supporting the GOP-endorsed in Irvine (gold), the Brea Development project (green), and supporting Poseidon-favoring Water Board candidates (blue).  I think that Robert Chagolla Construction probably deserves to be categorized with the Brea development interests rather than AD-44, but I’m not really sure.  [Note that Young Homes should be in red.]

[6] What are They Spending on Generally?

In case you’re wondering if we can really identify CAHOA as engaged in “pay to play,” this chart should answer most of your questions.

CAHOA - non-Brea LIEs

This chart may require a little explanation.  The column at left states the person for or against the expenditure was made.  In the middle two columns, expenditures highlighted in green are to support candidates; ones highlighted in orange are to oppose them.  The right column contains the person or purpose I believe (or others state) was behind the expenditure.  Back in the middle two columns, next to each highlighted expenditure is its date; in the other column is the the race involved and the person who was to be harmed (if it’s green) or to benefit (if orange.)

Note that there’s one cause here in the November election that doesn’t have a corresponding contribution: attacks on Anaheim City Council members Kris Murray and Gail Eastman.  I’ve read elsewhere that these have been attributed to the Tait Family Trust, in which case I presume that they are to support James Vanderbilt (who, if it’s an IE, would have no knowledge of them.)  Based on what I’ve personally read, I don’t know that to be true — but can tell you one thing: I don’t see a contribution here to match it!  Reporting it would not be the responsibility of the Tait Family Trust, but of the PAC itself.  Maybe Gilliard just made those expenses on his own because he loves America.

The PAC also gave $975 to Joe Dumitru (presumably to retire his debts from his 2012 Mayor’s race) and $48,000 to “Taxpayers for an Ethical Government,” which I’d bet heavily is misnamed.

[7] So How Much Is $33,450 — or $37,450, or $43,450, or $46,450 — in Brea’s Elections, Anyway?

The role of the Brea YOUNG/MANLEY Development interests’ contributions to CAHOA in this election — as well as the direct $4000 contributed by people associated with them and another $6000 that I suspect may be added to the tab — are huge.  Have a look at how much each of the City Council candidates had raised through September 30:

Brea Council Contribs and Expenses

ALL COMBINED, they had raised less than $100,000 by the end of September!  The $33,450 spent by CAHOA in the race is over half of the collective cash-on-hand that the candidates had at 12:01 a.m. on October 1!

So, yeah: by Brea standards — which are not Anaheim standards, Irvine standards, or even Huntington Beach standards — this is an awfully large amount of money to be spending to get a Council that will be friendly on one development by one developer an builder.

Pardon me for editorializing, but this is disgusting.  This is not how democracy is supposed to work.

That $37,450 figure in this section header, by the way, comes from adding in the $2,500 that Dwight Manley himself gave to Vargas and the $1000 that he gave to Hupp — along with $500 from Lorena Kolb.  (I wish that I could exclude the Kolbs from this story, as while she is a Realtor they don’t seem like big players, but for the sake of completeness I’m not.)

[8] What the Register Has to Add

The professional reporters at the Register, I found after doing my own digging into these records, had reported on this story a week ago, on October 16.  They have a few points worth adding:

  • Its contributors include “a Boston-based company that partners with water agencies to create infrastructure projects [that’s Poseidon], a homebuilder [that’s Reggie King], and Dwight Manley, a Brea native and major downtown property owner.”
  • CAHOA doesn’t actually advocate for homeowners.
  • Gilliard is the group’s “Sacramento-based Consultant.”
  • “Sea and Sky,” which donated $9,000 to CAHOA, is owned by Brea businessman Sang Kim, who owns several businesses, including Uni-caps, a company that makes fish-oil gel caps.

Now let’s return to what I found that they didn’t.

[9] Two Telling Loose Ends About Two Leading Candidates

 If you were reading the graphic about carefully, you’ll note that I didn’t cover the material all the way down to the bottom.  I left out two contributions, one for $6,000 and one for $3,000.

The $6,000 was made to Cecilia Hupp.  She lists the donor as “Don’s Co.”  The only reason that I know it’s based in Brea is that her Treasurer messed up and forgot to include that information, leading to an amended complaint that indicated that it was being added in.

Brea - Hupp contributors, Don's Co

I have no idea who “Don’s Co” is.  I can’t find a company named “Don’s” listed in Brea.  It seems to be a casual reference in a spot where, especially given the huge amount — OVER 1/3 OF WHAT SHE HAD RAISED THIS YEAR THROUGH SEPT. 30 — one should KNOW that a specific reference is required!  So I will be contacting Cecilia Hupp — some of you may want to join me in that — and asking her “who or what is Don’s Co and why did it give you $6,000?”

(Note that I’ve blotted one contributor’s name — that person doesn’t deserve the notoriety — and underlined the absence of a response to the question of how much Manley Fanticola Holdings had provided to her campaign over the course of the year.  Given Manley’s position in the city of Brea — and his role in directing money to her own campaign — this is a pretty serious omission!

Now for the $3,000 contribution — which is in some ways the most interesting part of the story.

That contribution wasn’t cash, it was in-kind.  In 2013, Manley hosted a fundraiser for a politician at TAPS, the cost of which was $3,000.

I don’t blame Murdock for this: if a wealthy guy in your small city is willing to hold you a fundraiser, you pretty much do it.  There are exceptions, like “neo-Nazi” or “member of Al Qaeda,” but “probably wants something from me” isn’t one of them.  After all, after the fundraiser, you can always say “no.”

Who was the candidate?  Brett Murdock.

Judging from Manley’s subsequent behavior, it seems likely that he did want something from Murdock.  And it seems likely that that something had to do with development — probably something involving Young Homes.  And it seems equally likely that, whatever it was, Murdock said “no.”

(I’d be willing to consider the possibility that maybe it was just personal, that Murdock insulted the memory of Manley’s sainted grandmother or something, if it were not for the rich homebuilder from Cucamonga giving almost twice as much to the same PAC.  That smells like “business.”)  (Update: Even with Young Homes out of the picture, it looks like it was about business redevelopment — and if the rumors are true, which I hope they are not, I may end up addressing it extensively next year and even in 2016.  I think that Manley has done some good things in Brea, but those things have made him rich — and that money gives him the ability to take investment risks.  It doesn’t give him the right to elect a Council that will put those risks — “risks” only to the extent that they aren’t sure losers for the city — onto its citizenry.  More if and when necessary.)

Now if Murdock said “no” to “a major downtown property owner” — knowing full well that that person had the means to spend huge amounts of money against him — then that says not only that there were probably serious problems with the project, as I said in the beginning (in orange), but one other more important thing: that Brett Murdock has guts — and is willing to put the interests of the City above his own.

That’s what I like about Tom Tait; that’s what I like about Connie Boardman and Joe Shaw.  And that makes me very happy — happier that I was before I figured it out and was just supporting him because my daughter said that he was a decent guy — to be voting for Brett Murdock.  And I’m also happier to vote for Glenn Parker and Mike Kim — who, for whatever reason, the Young/Manley development interests decided were not the candidates on which they wanted to dump a truckload of money.

Update, 10/27:

I’ve gotten a fair amount of additional information now that the weekend is over, which I’ll put into bullet points.  I doubt at this point that I’ll have to time to do a thorough investigation, but I’ll post the developments that seem to be pretty firm.

First, I’m going to incorporate my comment from late Friday night into the story.

I don’t know what it is or where it is planned. (To be honest, I also don’t know that it exists — but what else makes sense?) The most sensitive place to site homes would be on the slopes of the Puente Hills. Another possibility that comes to mind would be the razing and rezoning of commercial or industrial property to allow for residential construction.

Young Homes, Manley, and Brea appear together in just four stories: yours, mine, the PAC’s report — and this one from the Inland Politics blog.

He argues — with some force — that Reggie King is interested in the Redlands campaign against Neil Derry, a political enemy of San Berdoo County’s former Assessor Bill Postmus. I wouldn’t necessarily credit that — except that that blog says that King has also given $20,000 to “Redlands Residents Against Corruption, Opposing Neil Derry for City Council, 2014″ — which makes his story quite plausible.

Here’s why I hesitate, though: if King’s $20,000 isn’t going to Brea, then who is funding the $33,450 in IE’s?

Some more donors have turned up, but no likely suspects. The Tait Family Trust and Fieldstead & Company made matching $49,750 donations on Oct. 10, neither of which was posted to Cal-Access until yesterday. Presumably, that money is headed to the Anaheim race. Two Central California and one Sacramento area Assembly district candidates have put in a total of $35,000, presumably headed to the AD-21 race. And then there’s something called Moonlight Companies from Reedley, CA, which has kicked in $10,000.

So we don’t know who among the PAC’s donors has kicked in the additional money if not Reggie King of Young Homes. And that’s really unsettling.

That update is looking pretty good right now.  Here’s what’s pretty much confirmed in addition to other tidbits.
  • Young Homes does not seem to be involved.  Yes, we’re talking about development — but not homes.  Given Dwight Manley’s interest in the race, it’s a fair bet that we’re looking at something dealing with Downtown Brea.  I’ve been told that I can look through defunded Redevelopment projects to get some ideas.  I won’t have time, so I’ll just toss that out for people so inclined to review.
  • I’m told that it’s less Dave Gilliard at work and more Adam Probolsky.  So I’ve taken Dishonest Dave out of the headline.
  • The City Clerk is supposed to get back to me with the unredacted information about Don’s Co.  Possibly some relation to Sang Kim.
  • The source of the $14,000 difference between Dwight Manley’s $10,500 + Sang Kim’s (Sea and Sky) $9,000 remains unclear.  Some may be contributions under the reporting limit — but not likely that much.
  • Bonds.  The demise of redevelopment is driving some people crazy mad with thirst for municipal bonds.  ‘Nuff said there — for now.

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.)