A Howl Rises from the Bowels of the Anaheim Chamber, thru Gloria Ma’ae.

At last Tuesday’s meeting, 9/12/2023, former Anaheim Councilwoman Gloria Ma’ae showed up to speak – Gloria, the long-time SOAR board member and Anaheim-Firster who was appointed to Council by the disgraced Harry Sidhu majority in Sept. 2021 to take the place of the disgraced Jordan Brandman, and was defeated a year later by reformist Carlos Leon. She shows up once every few months to rail against any attempts at reform by the Council. This time she spoke for an entire four minutes (limit’s sposta be 3), and our City Clerk Teresa couldn’t get her to stop.

But it’s pretty clear that the “Sage of Dogwood” didn’t write her own speech – can you picture her coming up with “atmosphere of moral panic,” “vaporizing,” “annihilating?” It sounds a lot like Matt Cunningham, though it could be Chris Nguyen, Arianna Barrios, or some other wordsmith we don’t know about. In any case, I think her ghost-written rant should be taken as a statement from the beleaguered kleptocracy itself – the Chamber, Visit Anaheim – and Gloria is the best they can do for a spokesperson right now.

I reprint “her” screed below, you can also watch it; the asides she threw in I put in parentheses and italics, such as her snide, sardonically smiling “I see some things have not changed” – a reference to us pro-reform commenters who have been exhibiting varying degrees of impatience and mistrust.

(Well, GOOD EVENING! And.. thank you first and foremost for what you do – I see some things have not changed.) I would like to make some comments on the general atmosphere that has taken hold on the Council dais. I’m deeply concerned that the Council is taking action for the sake of being seen as “doing something” (as we just heard from Jose Diaz), or trying to appease interests that are trying to exploit this situation. (For whatever those personal political purposes are.)

“I’m worried that the Council is taking action in an atmosphere of moral panic without truly thinking through the consequences of those actions. There’s no harm in acting thoughtfully and deliberately, and avoiding the unintended consequences that follow hasty decision-making.

“I understand from personal experience the atmosphere in which you must govern. As a member of the City Council last year, my belief was we should wait until the FBI completed their investigation before launching one of our own. But I yielded to the Council consensus. I regret having done so. We acted hastily.

“As a result, we hired the JL Group, who ultimately gave us a sloppy report riddled with misinformation, errors, and INTERVIEWS WITH SOME INDIVIDUALS WHO HAD LITTLE TO NO KNOWLEDGE OF THE FACTS. Their report went well beyond the scope set by the City and wound up costing taxpayers twice as much as they promised. From where I stand, this report has led to the City unfairly targeting the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce.

TODD AMENT did a lot of bad things. And he is being held accountable for his actions by Federal Law Enforcement. [I have more deep-seated feelings about that, but I am going to reserve those feelings.] Todd Ament has been gone from the Chamber for almost two years. You are not holding him accountable by punishing the Chamber of Commerce. You aren’t holding HIM accountable by demanding Visit Anaheim cut off their TID funding overnight.

“The agreement between Visit Anaheim and the Chamber has been in place for 13 years. The City has been aware of it the entire time. Every year the Council gets a report of where the TID funding goes, including this past June. The matter of the $1.5 million is unrelated to the TID. It is a separate issue and should be treated as such. There’s no harm in waiting for the State Auditor to complete his report. That is the appropriate time to review its findings and determine if any action is necessary.

“The Chamber has been a vital institution of Anaheim since 1895. It’s under new leadership that is working hard to set things right. By vaporizing a large chunk of the Chamber’s funding… [Gloria has now gone 3:17 and the clerk tries to stop her.] Thank you Teresa, just very quickly. …without any attempt to explore alternatives, this doesn’t hurt Todd, this only hurts the Chamber and its members.

“Act prudently and deliberately. I sincerely suggest dialing back your actions regarding the Chamber and waiting for the state audit. You are annihilating a big chunk of the Chamber’s revenue overnight, and the Chamber, again, has been with us since 1895. So please don’t rush to judgment and punish the Chamber for One Person’s Evil Sins. Thank you very much.”


So, where do we start with all this? First, it’s encouraging to know that the Chamber is quaking in its boots at the thought that the Council might be doing something to bring them to heel. Sometimes we WONDER if this Council will do ANYTHING meaningful – good to know the Chamber and VA are scared. But let’s look at Gloria’s the Chamber’s main points here:

1. “Don’t do anything yet, just WAIT!” The Chamber firmly contends that we should NEVER have commissioned our own investigation without first waiting for the FBI to complete THEIRS – something they also had Gloria say in February when JL came back for more time and money. Of course we don’t KNOW if the FBI is still investigating, and we won’t know when they’re done – so that could be forever. And that’s okay.

They had her say that again Tuesday, and in a similar vein, they ALSO insist we should NOT TAKE ANY ACTION or investigation regarding the Chamber/VA until Avelino’s state audit is first completed – which again we don’t know when that will be, or how serious and thorough it will be.

In so many ways the Anaheim kleptocracy is SO similar to the law-bedeviled Trump crew with its dilatory shenanigans. (“Dilatory” means “delaying” but you probably know that.) The longer reform and consequences are put off, the less people remember and care what happened, memories fade, new desmadre grabs the public’s attention. There’s a reason you “strike while the iron is hot” – cold hard iron will just laugh at your stoopid hammer.

And whatever comfy and/or profitable situation exists can continue, unmolested, for as long as possible. Just like in 2012-16 when GLORIA, Disney, and the Chamber managed to put off district elections in Anaheim for FOUR MORE YEARS, wasting $3 million of our taxpayer money fighting something it turned out 70% of us wanted. But that was worth it to them – they got four more years of Disney-chosen Council majorities out of the delay.

To coin a phrase:

“Endless Delay is the Valhalla of Those That Are Getting Away With Shit.”


2. “It was ONLY Todd Ament!” “The Chamber itself is squeaky clean, and has been since 1895!” Another classic. But NO one person gets away with this much on their own.

The Anaheim Chamber, as it still stands now, is a CREATION of Todd Ament who ran it as his fiefdom as soon as he took it over in 2004, replacing all the staff with folks HE trusted. It’s clearly been a criminal organization about that long, a veritable ShopVac of Unguarded Funds, from whence Todd created SOAR, AnaheI’m First, and many other mechanisms to suck up any cash out there that was suckable.

And, especially during the Reign of Mayor Sidhu, it was our Shadow Government, choosing the puppets to put into Council, with Jeff Flint in the office next door coordinating all the PACs that put 5 of the 7 we’ve got now onto the dais – and then giving them their MARCHING ORDERS. All that doesn’t change just because the ruddy ringleader gets busted.

In JL’s words, “the circumstances have not changed, just the participants” – and not even them. They’ve still got the ill-tempered Ross McCune, whose Caisteal Builders raked in so much work on Todd’s orders; Jeff Farano, the attorney described as Todd’s “shadow” or “sidekick;” Jim Cain who profited so handsomely off the no-bid Temporary Homeless Shelter scam. And it’s run now by Laura Cunningham, Todd’s understudy and wife of his longtime paid propagandist Matt, Laura who responded to all JL’s questions with feigned daffiness and refused (on legal advice) to share ANY documents or records.

We would all like to SEE any evidence that this Chamber has changed. But none of us have.

(Idly, I wonder what Gloria’s secret “deep-seated feelings” are about Todd that she is “reserving” – “idly” because Gloria’s not that important, and Todd is history. The two MUST have been really close – she was a founding member of SOAR from the moment TODD formed it, and she was a high-ranking member of “AnaheI’m First” from the moment Todd founded THAT. Does she feel betrayed, or that he’s been getting a bum rap, or both? Slightly interesting, but who cares really.)

MY favorite takeaway is:

The Chamber HATES them some JL Report.

Well, of course they do – there is so much we wouldn’t know about the CHAMBER’s misdeeds if that report hadn’t come out. But they can’t say THAT. Instead they harp on the “sloppiness,” misspellings, and little mistakes that are easy to pick out, and then they always have to remind us that it cost twice what was quoted. Well I retort that, little mistakes or not, IT IS WORTH ITS WEIGHT IN GOLD.

Without JL we wouldn’t have known about the $1.5 million of public money that Visit Anaheim’s Jay Burress snuck to Todd. (For those just joining us, this was $6.5 million in federal COVID funds that Sidhu’s majority insisted on giving to Visit Anaheim in the middle of the pandemic, to advertise a resort that wouldn’t open for another year – something that already seemed like a crime to most of us – and then Jay gave a big chunk of it to Todd, and then lied about it, at Todd’s orders.) Did I just say $1.5 million? Hey – JL paid for its own price tag right there!

If it weren’t for JL, the million dollars that was given to the Chamber in 2019, no strings attached, for no stated reason, by the Sidhu Council, in two tranches, would have been all but forgotten, just another dirty, baffling episode Jose Moreno sometimes cries out about in the wilderness.

In our pre-JL insouciance, we may have forgotten all about the Chamber’s covered-up Enterprise Zone scam in 2013. We may have thought Sidhu’s Temporary Six-Week Homeless Shelter of early 2019 was some kind of good deed rather than another no-bid swindle. We may have thought of AnaheI’m First as a noble attempt at grassroots democracy rather than Todd’s attempt to sideline unfriendly Councilmembers and steer all improvement projects to his cronies.

Here’s a BIG one – we already knew about the secret Dec. 2020 Chamber-Council “retreat” from the FBI affidavits. But it’s only THANKS TO JL we know what these insiders DISCUSSED THERE. And it was this: in just a few short years, when we’re done paying off the generous bonds we took out to help out Disney, we should be receiving about $100 million more in revenue per year – and our Masters in the Chamber wanted to make sure that all went to somewhere responsible – i.e. THEM. And none of the participants in this cabal retreat had any problem with that. Wow. Thanks for the heads up, JL.

And we got all this from the JL Group, NO THANKS to the Chamber, Visit Anaheim, Disney, and the Angels, ALL OF WHOM refused to speak to them or hand over any documents. Oh, I’ve only scratched the surface, you can read it for yourself HERE, pages 157-233, all about the Chamber, Chapter and Verse.

I Better Wrap This Up.

This is getting too fucking long. The Anaheim Chamber of Commerce should get no more city money. Duh. Chambers of Commerce IN GENERAL shouldn’t get public money. They are supposed to be funded by dues from the businesses they represent (just like our Police Union Boss should be paid from union dues, not by us taxpayers.) Ours has not been a normal Chamber.

Gloria’s ghostwriter is right about one thing – the $6.5 million COVID Heist and the TID funding that Visit Anaheim splits with the Chamber (per a Todd Ament contract) ARE two different things. So we ask, is the TID city money? It comes FROM the hotels (their guests really), is COLLECTED by the City, and is then given to VA who splits it with the Chamber. Do we have a right, legal or otherwise, to re-direct that (or, in a nice gesture to our tourists, reduce or eliminate it?) I dunno. But I DID say that a Chamber of Commerce should be funded by the businesses it represents, so maybe the TID funding IS legit? I dunno, you tell me.

But if the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce doesn’t want to be considered and treated as a criminal organization any more, they should open up their books and stop hiding. Laura Cunningham should come to a Council meeting and explain in a credible way exactly how they are reforming themselves if they are, rather than send Gloria Ma’ae over with a mournful homily.

And the Chamber should stay out of our elections.

And the Chamber, as Joanne Sosa always told Todd, should spend as much time and resources advocating for our small businesses as they do for the behemoths.

And when you think of the misdeeds of the Chamber, you should stop thinking so much about Todd Ament, and think more about the Chamber’s biggest member and beneficiary – to which all roads in Anaheim lead – DISNEY.

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official political troubadour of Anaheim and most other OC towns. Regularly makes solo performances, sometimes with his savage-jazz band The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.