Attack Ads Being Taken to New Level in Anaheim

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Anaheim’s current and former mayors are involved in some of this year’s most aggressive election season attack ads. 

Former mayor-turned-lobbyist Curt Pringle controls a PAC called Citizens for Anaheim’s Future Opposing Tait for Mayor 2014, which funded a TV spot featuring District Attorney Tony Rackauckas leveling accusations intended to make Tait appear to support gangs.

Though political insiders are loathe to speak publicly about the ad for fear of alienating Rackauckas, privately they say they’ve never seen a DA involve himself in a city campaign in such an aggressive way.

The ad is the centerpiece of an effort by the anti-Tait PAC that shows just how acrimonious things have gotten between Tait and Pringle, who were once close friends and political allies.

Tait’s stances in recent years against the business community’s efforts to pass hotel subsidies and push through a new lease for Angel Stadium, among other things, have led Pringle to line up some of the most powerful interests in the city against the mayor.

The anti-Tait PAC so far has spent over $63,000, with most of the money going toward production and cable distribution of the video, according to the most recent campaign finance filings. Over $12,000 has also been spent on printing and mailing costs, the filings show.

Campaign finance filings show that the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce has so far contributed $65,000 to the anti-Tait PAC, while entities connected to Bill Taormina, who formerly owned the city’s trash hauler, have contributed $17,500.

Meanwhile, Tait is spending heavily in his effort to dislodge at least one member of the council majority and get his ally James Vanderbilt elected.

The Tait Family Trust has funneled nearly $50,000 to the California Homeowners Association PAC, which has spent at least $16,000 on mailers attacking incumbent councilwomen Gail Eastman and Kris Murray for being cozy with public employee unions and voting for a hotel development’s controversial $158 million tax subsidy. 

(Update: After this article was published, Tait told Voice of OC that his parents control the Tait Family Trust, and he had no knowledge of the contribution to the California Homeowners Association PAC.) 

In the ad attacking Tait – dramatized with ominous music and grainy images — Rackauckas all but calls Tait a gang supporter, saying he opposed a memorial for K-9 unit, while supporting a gang memorial.

A Voice of OC fact check found some of the DA’s claims in the video to be false.

At the July 15 council meeting, Tait expressed support for a privately financed K-9 memorial but opposed a publicly funded loan to pay for it.

Tait also asked that city officials try to come to a “middle ground” with the mother of a man shot and killed while fleeing police after she pleaded with city officials to allow a neighborhood memorial they planned on removing to remain. But Tait didn’t suggest any public financing.

Rackauckas Spokeswoman Susan Kang Schroeder refused comment to Voice of OC regarding the video, but Rackauckas himself told the Orange County Register that it “wasn’t something I enjoyed or wanted particularly to do.”

The veracity of the ad notwithstanding, it shows how isolated from law enforcement and the city’s major businesses Tait has become after supporting civilian oversight of police and opposing huge tax subsidies for politically connected interests.

The Anaheim Police Officers Association’s PAC has spent at least $25,000 on their own cable TV ad criticizing Tait for his support of civilian oversight for police. 

In addition to the heavy spending from PAC’s supported by Disneyland, among others, the Police and fire unions have spent tens of thousands of dollars in support of Murray and Eastman. 

Please contact Adam Elmahrek directly at aelmahrek@voiceofoc.org and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/adamelmahrek

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