As voters pick their new representatives in OC’s largest cities, hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent to help particular candidates win or lose – with the largest spending coming from Disney, police unions and a host of developers.
With much of the campaign money now disclosed in hundreds of public reports, here’s a simple look at the biggest spenders in Anaheim, Santa Ana and Irvine this election and who they’re backing or opposing.
In Anaheim, Walt Disney Corp. continues to reign supreme once again in election spending in the city, pumping $1.5 million into a committee supporting candidates Jose Diaz, Steve Faessel and Avelino Valencia.
John Saunders, who faced controversy last year when he announced rent increases of up to 80 percent over five years after buying the Rancho La Paz senior mobile home park, has also emerged as a major campaign spender. He’s donated $26,000 towards groups buying ads supporting Diaz and Faessel, and opposing Anne Marie Randle-Trejo and Denise Barnes.
Barnes was the deciding vote in February to reject a controversial 54-condominium development at a property Saunders owns in Anaheim Hills that would have replaced a commercial center.
Anaheim’s police and firefighter unions are backing the same candidates as Disney, with over $200,000 spent by the two unions on adds supporting Diaz, Faessel and Valencia.
And the influential Anaheim Chamber of Commerce is spending over $47,000 from its political action committee to support Diaz, with money coming from the chamber, Saunders, and a PAC funded by developers The Irvine Co. and C J Segerstrom & Sons.
Santa Ana’s police union is again the dominant spender in city elections this year, though at a far-reduced spending level than previous years following a successful – and expensive – recall campaign the union funded this spring.
City police officers and their union have contributed at least $186,000 toward ads supporting mayoral candidate Jose Solorio and council candidates Mark McLoughlin and Vic Mendez.
In supporting Mendez, the police union is seeking to unseat Councilman Juan Villegas, who was one of two council members to oppose $25 million in raises for the city’s police officers in a key vote last year.
The other council member to vote against the raises was Ceci Iglesias, who the union successfully led a recall effort against this spring, which used a significant portion of the union’s political action funds.
Another big spender in Santa Ana’s election this year is a political action group funded by Pam Sapetto, the lobbyist for the controversial 2525 N. Main St. project by developer Ryan Ogulnick. The City Council moved to reject the project April after previously supporting it, amid opposition to the plans from nearby neighbors.
The two biggest donors to the group trying to elect Vic Mendez are the police union, which contributed $12,500, and the PAC funded by Ogulnick’s lobbyist, which contributed $5,000.
The group funded by Ogulnick’s lobbyist has also put $10,000 towards the main group supporting Vicente Sarmiento for mayor.
Developer Mike Harrah and his company Eastcom Corp. are also major donors in Santa Ana this election, funding two mayoral candidates – Solorio and Sarmiento – as well as McLoughlin for council.
Other major donors include a mobile home owners’ PAC, which contributed to a committee promoting Solorio for mayor. And a group promoting mayoral candidate Claudia Alvarez received $20,000 from the Teamsters union and $10,000 from George Pla, the CEO of former OC Streetcar contractor Cordoba Corp.
Irvine’s largest developer, The Irvine Co., is the dominant spender in Irvine elections, pumping at least $315,000 dollars into groups supporting candidates Mike Carroll, Christina Shea and John Park, and opposing Larry Agran and Tammy Kim.
Great Park developer Five Point, which was the dominant spender in recent elections, has also been spending along with its lobbying firm, though at a much reduced level of about $70,000, to the groups supporting Carroll, Shea and Park, and opposing Agran and Kim.
The money can take twists and turns on its way into the election.
Voters across the city have been receiving mailers from a PAC called the Greater Irvine Education Guide – the single biggest spender on ads in the election. That PAC is, in turn, funded by at least $78,000 from groups that themselves are largely funded by The Irvine Co. and, to a lesser extent, Five Point, according to public campaign finance records.
And in some cases, the money is coming from Five Point’s lobbying firm, Starpointe Ventures, which is run by lobbyist Patrick Strader and his family.
Also spending big in the Irvine elections are retired Behr paint company chairman John V. Croul and desalination plant developer Poseidon Resources, who have put $100,000 and $35,000, respectively, towards a committee supporting Shea and Carroll.
Carroll also has been supported with $46,000 in ads from a group funded largely by Michael K. Hayde, CEO of property management firm Western National Group and a member of the United Way Worldwide Board of Directors.
Another $50,000 has been spent on ads supporting Carroll by a group funded largely by a Newport Beach investment management firm, The Picerne Group, and Howard Ahmanson Jr.’s firm Fieldstead and Company.
Other major spending includes $91,000 from the National Association of Realtors supporting Shea.
And Kim has been opposed by ads from a group funded with $15,000 from the mobile home owners’ PAC and $10,000 from the L.A. Good Samaritan Pathology Medical Group.
And the union UNITE HERE Local 11 – co-led by Ada Briceño, chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Orange County – has reported putting $5,000 into field campaigning in support of Kim and Lauren Johnson-Norris.
The November general election is on Tuesday, Nov. 3. For more information on how to vote, visit the Orange County Registrar of Voters’ website at ocvote.com.
This article has been updated to separate and add more detail about Five Point’s spending in Irvine’s election this year, which is less than The Irvine Co’s spending.
Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. You can contact him at [email protected].