Anaheist: Corruption and Steve Faessel

“Steve is just such a nice guy! He can’t possibly be corrupt.”

Corrupt? Maybe not. Negligent, incompetent, egotistical, and an enabler of corruption? Oh, you betcha.

There’s an interesting discussion in the FBI’s complaint alleging Anaheim Chamber President Todd Ament violated 18 U.S.C. section 1014, which also includes allegations of embezzlement, allegations of laundering money, and allusions to bribery, all circulating around the Chamber’s ability to control majority votes in the City of Anaheim. This discussion speaks to the last part.

Unbeknownst to Todd Ament, the FBI had tapped his phone and recorded incriminating conversation with “Political Consultant 1”, who may or may not be Jeff Flint of Core Decision Analytics (CDA) and FSB Public Affairs (who, as of this writing, mysteriously has disappeared from their webpages without so much of an apology or explanation.) CDA shares office space with the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce (The Chamber). A recorded conversation from 11/23/2020 included planning for an upcoming retreat, which the FBI notes were events used to coordinate actions of “the Cabal” or “family” used to control political outcomes in the City of Anaheim.

The FBI alleges the attendees for the next upcoming meeting included: Todd Ament, A sitting member of the Anaheim City Council, an employee of the City of Anaheim, an employee of the Chamber, an employee of unnamed “Company A”, a former member of the Anaheim City Council, and Political Consultant 1 (again, who may or may not be Flint.) The recorded discussion focuses on other potential invitations to Anaheim Council members. *Author’s note, don’t worry, we’ll name those people, too.

AMENT: For me, we know [Elected Official 2] this much right, so if we go take him into the cabal and he’s playing double agent, then we are all screwed.

PC1: Right, that’s my point, I think, like for example, at the retreat, I want to have a topic being, how much do we trust [Elected Official 5]? How much do we trust [Elected Official 2]? I don’t have any doubt about [Elected Official 7] I’m not advocating that we invite him, I’m just saying I don’t think we need to worry about him. I think ideologically he is a true believer.

AMENT: [Elected Official 2] has a very easy, bright future playing to the team, right?

PC1: Right.

AMENT: He is smart enough to know how to take hall passes where he needs them, but not screw with your team. So I think having that relationship is key, but we don’t have any reason to distrust him, but we don’t have a good enough reason to go have the family meeting with him. I agree with that.

PC1: Right.

AMENT: Cause I was either gonna be zero [City Council Members at the retreat] beyond [Elected Official 1], there was even a part of me that said let’s leave [Elected Official 1] out of this, candidly, and say let’s build the plan on what needs to be the ship cause [Elected Official 1’s] very good at participating in a meeting, but he knows if we need to cover topics, you know 90% of time he lets us go, without saying nope this is how it’s gonna be, and I think today was a perfect example, the more people in the room that gets a little more awkward.

PC1: Do we include any other council members? If we do, I’m kind of defaulting to back to [Elected Official 3] and [Elected Official 4] at this first one. [Elected Official 3] may do a little bit of self promoting, but at the end of the day, he’s going to be loyal to the team, [Elected Official 4] the same. Almost to the point, [Elected Official 4], we tell [Elected Official 4], we got you reelected, we expect you to be a loyal member of the team, you know for purposes, we’re going to do a little bit more with [Elected Official 2] to keep him close, and that means there’s a couple you get excluded from, and it’s not because we don’t love you anymore, it’s because strategically that’s what we need to do for the next two years. You’ll always have your voice, plus you — give him the Mayor Pro Tem and tell him he’s always gonna be our number one guy, but we’re gonna keep [Elected Official 2] close. [Elected Official 3] up for reelection so he’s gotta be at more of the meetings, but hopefully [Elected Official 4] won’t whine about that, but it would be do we invite [Elected Official 4] and tell him that at the retreat, I was thinking about that.

Whew! What a cast! We’ve got:

PC1, Elected Official 1, Elected Official 2, Elected Official 3, and Elected Official 4.

But wait, there’s more! There’s a follow on conversation with PC1 and Elected Official 1 (EO1):

EO1: Did you invite [Elected Official 7 and Elected Official 2]?

PC1: No, I talked about it with Todd [AMENT] and [Company A Employee]; we felt like for this first one we’ll kinda keep things big picture and stick with um, with um, [Elected Official 4] and [Elected Official 3]. And part of what we’ll talk about is our plan to manage our relationship, you know particularly with [Elected Official 2]. I think [Elected Official 7] is gonna be fine on everything. But um, [Elected Official 2’s], you know, I think he’s on the team, but he’s just gonna take some management because he’s got competing pressures and things so um–

EO1: Oh yeah yeah, he will, I mean you can already see some of them like he wants to do the um, take care of the health issues in Anaheim–

PC1: Right.

EO1: –right away, I mean I saw that article what he gave an interview with.

PC1: Right.

EO1: So, which is basically fine, we can, you know, we can put a team together, health team, hard to handle that, but will take away from [Elected Official 6].

PC1: Right, exactly, which is what [Elected Official 2] told me he was trying to accomplish, and I said, “yeah, let’s talk about it before you say it next time, but yes I appreciate that, so.”

EO1: Yeah, at least put him and, uh, maybe [Elected Official 5] in there and I could be part of it, you know, three of us.

PC1: Right.

EO1: Yeah, so take it away from everything from what [Elected Official 6] wants to do, so, okay alright.

Our cast expands! Now we’ve got Elected Officials 5, 6, and 7. Seven elected officials . . . seven members of the Anaheim City Council. BUT WAIT! There’s even more! Let’s jump back to the earlier conversation with Todd and PC1:

AMENT: To me, I don’t think [Elected Official 7], I think this would be a lot for him to absorb in his first week [as an elected member of the Anaheim City Council]. It’s kind of like when S.O.A.R. took how the sausage was made to the S.O.A.R. Board to show them how polling works and how we manipulate it. That’s when half of S.O.A.R. kind of went off the deep end.

PC1: [Laughs]

AMENT: [UI] We’re part of the manipulation. I think it’s too early for [Elected Official 7] to get into this level of detail.

Well, jeez. That certainly makes this a whole lot clearer. Now who got elected for the first time in November of 2020? That’d be Councilmen José Diaz of District 1 and Avelino Valencia of District 4. One of them is Elected Official 7.

But, Avelino Valencia did an interview published in Anaheim Exclusive (which I had never heard of) on November 2, 2020. That certainly lines up with PC1 and EO1’s had to say about Elected Official 2. We’ll pencil him in for now as EO2. That puts José Diaz in at EO7.

We also know PC1 said Elected Official 3 is up for reelection. So, as of November 2020, who was coming up for reelection in 2022? That’d be the Mayor and Districts 2, 3, and 6. At that time, that was Jordan Brandman, José Moreno (termed out), and Trevor O’Neil. With Councilman Moreno termed out, that means Elected Official 3 is either Jordan Brandman or Trevor O’Neil. Elected Official 5, because math, gets whoever isn’t EO3.

Elected Official 6 is clearly José Moreno, by virtue of being the only one not considered for an invitation and because PC1 and EO1 seemed pretty pleased EO2 was trying to screw over EO6.

And of course . . . drum roll please . . . there’s only ONE candidate reelected in November 2020. Steve Faessel sure seems to be Elected Official 4. To top it off, as PC1 suggested during the recorded call, Steve Faessel was named Mayor Pro Tempore shortly thereafter.

FBI IDNameOption 1Option 2
Elected Official 1Harry SidhuNamed inSearch Warrant
Elected Official 2Avelino Valencia
Elected Official 3Jordan BrandmanTrevor O’Neil
Elected Official 4Steve Faessel
Elected Official 5Trevor O’NeilJordan Brandman
Elected Official 6José MorenoOnly personNot Invited
Elected Official 7José Diaz Avelino Valencia
Cast of Characters in the Great Anaheist

So why does it matter if Steve Faessel is Elected Official 4? So this person got Mayor Pro Tem by being a loyal member of the team, got reelected by PC1 and Todd Ament . . . that’s hardly a smoking gun. Well, for you skeptics, here’s the smoking gun, straight from the FBI:

Towards the end of this monitored telephone call, Political Consultant 1 and AMENT agreed to extend invitations to the covert retreat (beyond the list of individuals previously identified above) to only Elected Officials 3 and 4, so as to, in AMENT’s words, “keep the family close.”

Well, Steve, just where the hell where you on December 2, 2020? Did you attend a secret meeting with Todd Ament and Harry Sidhu? Who else was there? Is Jeff Flint PC1? Who is the city employee that attended this meeting? Who is the other Chamber employee who attended this meeting? Who is the employee of an unnamed Anaheim business that attended this meeting? What other “family retreats” did you attend?

More importantly, why haven’t you said a goddamn word about any of it?

Here’s what Faessel did have to say for himself this past Tuesday night. From the VoiceofOC (y’all are awesome by the way):

“The evidence is pretty damning. And I thought I knew both of these individuals pretty well and it appears that I did not. And maybe that’s because I try to look at the best side and not the worst side and this is a learning opportunity for me maybe,” Faessel said. 

Well, Steve, in the spirt of Howie Mandel’s new show, that’s a bunch of bullshit.

You weren’t looking at the best side of people who came up to the microphone on Tuesday nights and told you, to your face, that something was wrong in Anaheim.

You weren’t looking at the best side of people when you voted to shut down public comment.

You weren’t looking at the best the five dozen times you voted to silence Denise Barnes or José Moreno.

You were looking at the best side for yourself. The side that loved endorsements from the Chamber, loved the hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Disney, the Angels, OCTax PAC and the like. You were looking at the part that enjoyed being part of exclusivity, in the know, and the group in power. You were looking at the part of yourself that has literally been caught on video being told how to vote by Harry Sidhu while on the dais.

You were looking at the reflection of your image in the mirror that made you feel good. It’s that same image that still won’t let you tell the truth and still won’t let you admit that, at best, you’re a gullible tool who should have known that something was wrong.

You should have known that something was wrong when you hired an employee of Jeff Flint as your personal council aid. You should have known that it was wrong to provide her with unfettered access to confidential council communications, agendas, and possibly even closed session materials. You should have known that your talking points were being shared with and crafted by agents of the Chamber and you should have known that instructions on how to vote were not only immoral, but were also illegal serial meetings. You should have known that your uncontested willingess to follow orders not only betrayed your constituents, but may have allowed others to lie, cheat, and steal from the public.

And most importantly, you should have known that when news of Sidhu and Ament’s investigations landed, you had a duty to resign for being complicit in their alleged crimes.

Instead, all of your pride and incompetence regarding what you should have known is just a learning opportunity for your best side that loves how your image looks in the mirror. Next time, you’ll be sure to have a polished statement from “Political Consultant 3” before you go to that meeting.

Stop pretending, Steve. This isn’t going anywhere.

About Ryan Cantor

Our conservative columnist, raised in North Orange County, works as an auditor.