Irvine’s new Republican majority has been taking the world’s longest victory lap. The Register’s Frank Mickadeit has written several flattering columns and OC Weekly’s Scott Moxley continues to triple down on the notion he alerted the public to a possible theft of a city election by writing an article — widely distributed in social media and the basis for several campaign mailers — stating that Republican candidate for Mayor Katherine Daigle was a “fake” candidate planted by Irvine Council member Larry Agran, himself a candidate for Mayor. The source of the “Daigle is a fake candidate” meme was very like the OC GOP itself in an email sent to supporters on August 15, 2012 just five days after Daigle received an email from council candidate Christina Shea, a neighbor and friend of Daigle’s who was to have run Daigle’s council campaign. Shea had been paid by Daigle for preliminary consulting work in 2011.
Before we get into this long post, even if Agran had defeated Choi (less than a 4,000 vote difference), the Democratic majority still would have fallen because Republican Lynn Schott would have taken Agran’s seat on the city council and Choi would have been retired. You could surmise that Irvine Republicans would rather stick with Choi than hand the seat over to a candidate closely associated with the Tea Party (Schott_, but the Republicans were going to take the majority regardless of who won the Mayor’s race. There seems to be an obession of sorts with defining who is a “real” Republican and who isn’t.
The 2012 election has been over for nearly three months, yet Mr. Moxley, his colleagues at OC Weekly and Irvine’s new Republican majority and Republican Party members still cling to a notion that Irvine Council member Larry Agran tried to steal the last election. Last month, Moxley’s latest post takes aim at Frank Mickadeit of the Register for not going after Agran hard enough while OC Weekly’s Managing Editor clearly admits to a bias in reporting against Agran for his “corrupt and unethical behavior.”
The problem for this group of conspiracy theorists is, Daigle was never a fake candidate set up by Agran. A new batch of emails between Daigle and Shea prove it.
I’ve offered my file on this story to Moxley with a requirement he take it from my hand so we can review documents together. When I traveled down to OC Weekly’s office to give it to him, the receptionist said he wasn’t available and asked me to leave the file with her. Not. Happening.
I work with editors and reporters all over the country in general news media, business media and the trade press. I’ve posted a question that “if you’re doing an investigative piece on someone, aren’t you ethically obligated to interview them?” The overwhelming response from peer journalists was “yes, you are.” A source can decline to be interviewed, but you have to ask. Moxley never interviewed Daigle for his October 11 article, though he did send an email at 11:47AM October 11 asking her to contact him stating he had called earlier (Daigle has no record of getting a phone call) and the story posted at 1PM October 11 — just 73 minutes later.
Moxley’s story was already primed and set to go, and clearly Moxley’s email was a “cover your ass” email that doesn’t pass the smell test for journalistic ethics. And when the Register’s Thomas Martinez did talk to Daigle, but could not conclusively prove Moxley’s ascertations, Moxley called him a “lazy reporter” in print.
Where the most dangerous part of any interview is when the notebook closes, the telling part in the story Moxley filed in Janaury — months after the election — is in the comments of Moxley’s post. For the first time, Katherine Daigle and Moxley have a conversation of sorts. And Moxley triple downs on standing by his story (a laudable trait for a journalist, but in this case, Moxley doesn’t have all the facts).
Moxley writes: “In the weeks before the election, I revealed evidence that Agran’s team was up to its old tricks. This time, it involved Katherine Daigle, who’d been quietly approached to enter as a Republican in what had been a two-person mayoral race between Republican Steven Choi and Agran. No matter that she had no chance of winning; adding a second Republican would drain vital votes from Choi.”
Fact: Daigle hadn’t been approached by anyone to run for Mayor. She was going to run for City Council and had even secured Christina Shea’s agreement to serve as her campaign manager for a fee of $75 an hour. Shea had confided to Daigle that she herself wouldn’t run if she lost a AD-74 Central Committee election that was sewn up by OC GOP boss Scott Baugh and a slate of five candidates. Daigle ran for mayor at the urging of her DC-based political consultant Roger Lee, who had no connection to Agran or anyone in OC. As for Moxley’s contention, Daigle had no chance at winning, that’s what the pundits said about Loretta Sanchez in 1996 and Sharon Quirk-Silva in 2012. A number of local Republicans routinely make fun of Steven Choi and his inability to put a coherent sentence together, so it’s conceivable that local Republicans would vote for an alternative and Daigle did get 15 percent of the vote. But Mayor was the only office Choi could run for and still stay on the council. There are plenty of Republicans in Irvine who don’t care for Choi but without Suhkee Kang on the ballot, Irvine’s sizable Korean-American voting block came out for Choi in force.
Moxley writes: “A hilariously fake debate without Choi was organized.”
Fact: Every Mayoral candidate was invited. Adam Probolsky, a former Choi commissioner who used to deliver campaign funds to Choi, was the host. Choi declined to attend. The city council chambers were packed. It wasn’t a fake debate by any respect but it was a format that Choi was uncomfortable with. Face it, any event that requires Choi to speak publicly is painful for the audience. But to suggest the debate was fake is wrong. Choi declined, probably because Probolsky criticized Choi for being a poor student of history by posing with Tea Party members with Photoshopped poster of then Speaker Nancy Pelosi as an SS Officer and as Stalin in 2009 while wearing his City Council member badge — a stunt Choi has never apologized for.
Patrick Strader is a Newport Beach lobbyist who represents FivePoint Communities, a firm hoping to build as many homes as possible around the proposed Orange County Great Park. The company’s managers calculated last year they could get more lucrative public concessions if Agran’s regime remained in power. They also decided to use their resources to tilt the election against Irvine Republicans, who have demanded more transparency in Great Park operations.
Daigle told me she reached out to Strader after researching on the Web that Strader had contributed to Council member Jeff Lalloway’s 2010 Council race. Daigle made several attempts through the Lincoln Club to arrange a lunch, a meeting or a phone call with Lalloway to enlist his support for her council race. She never got a reply and Councilman Lalloway, who has a answering an email to our question about this, said he “doesn’t recall why” he didn’t return her messages even though Councilman Lalloway seems to have a pretty good memory. Isn’t the phrase, “I don’t recall” part of the Republican lexicon from the Nixon and Reagan administrations?
Patrick Strader has written checks to all three candidates who ran for mayor in 2012 and has contributed thousands of dollars to candidates in Irvine regardless of party affiliation. He even wrote a check in May 2011 to Choi’s failed 2010 Assembly race, and has contributed to both Jeff Lalloway and Christina Shea’s past campaigns. Moxley’s story falls apart with the claims Strader “enticed” Daigle to run when there is no evidence to support that contention whatsoever.
Based on a new series of emails between Daigle and Shea secured by TheLiberalOC, it is Moxley who is understating the role of Shea in this story.
The person with the most to hide here is Shea. She knew back in 2011 Daigle wanted to run for City Council and agreed to serve as Daigle’s campaign manager. Prompted by Moxely’s story and with counsel from her lawyer that the disclaimers in Shea’s emails are not legally binding, Daigle forwarded a new series of emails to us in the past few weeks including a copy of a cancelled check from Daigle to Shea (which I won’t publish as its on a PDF with other checks and I have no desire to expose Daigle to identity theft).
Moxley’s parting shot at Daigle: “You had repeated, undisclosed campaign consultations with a lobbyist paid by a real estate firm hell bent on Agran remaining in control of the city of Irvine and the Great Park. I have the documents and no matter what you say nothing changes that reality.”
Moxley has documents. Woot! So do I, and Moxley doesn’t appear to be interested in reviewing them. He stopped returning emails from me seeking a time to review my file two weeks ago. And in fairness, likely has much to do with a personal matter he had to deal with last week, but we’ve continued to post for the Weekly’s blog.
Let’s first establish that Shea counted Daigle among her friends, because later emails by Shea to Daigle — after Daigle turned in papers to run for Mayor — make statements like “I barely know you” and that’s clearly not true. Read the emails here. The only editing I did to the emails was to remove the telephone numbers of both women.
But to the root of the Fake Candidate claim: five days after Shea emailed Daigle to complain about Daigle’s entry into the mayoral contest, Michael Martin, an OC-GOP Irvine Precinct Chair, sent a email to a list of Irvine Republicans seeking volunteers for a door to door campaign for Choi, Shea and Lynn Schott, as well as the failed Romney/Ryan ticket. Martin’s August 15, 2012 email, forwarded to TheLiberalOC, is the first such reference of Daigle as a fake Republican candidate. The timing of this email with Shea’s note to Daigle is stunning to say the least.
Martin’s email to Republicans says, “We just learned that Agran has recruited a phantom ‘Republican’ named Katherine Daigle…to run as a ‘Republican’ for Mayor of Irvine. This is a typical Larry Agran tactic.” Martin, inadvertently, confirmed this was his email by threatening us with legal action if we published this “private communcation” sent to a group of people. He also suggested we had altered it in some way (we did not). He demanded to know who sent us the email (we protect our sources).
More incredibly, Martin confessed to being completely unaware of the Moxley articles (there were several), writing to me, “I am not aware of Mr. Moxley’s story about Ms. Daigle. I have not read it or even heard about it.” This in spite of being widely shared by OC Republicans after its publication by OC Weekly. In a subsequent email, Martin suggested that OC Register columnist Frank Mickadeit was the source of the “Daigle was an Agran plant” story and suggested I check the Register’s archives. There is no such story and Mickadeit emailed me to say the first he had heard of the planted candidate claim was from Moxley’s piece, published nearly two months after the email came out. I sent Martin the link to Moxley’s story and he said it was the first he had seen it. He apparently didn’t get any of the mailers that went out on behalf of Choi using Moxley’s story as fodder. And Martin’s name is on the email reporting the fake candidate angle with no idea where the information behind his claim came from and it was out there nearly two months before Moxley’s story.
Interestingly enough, Moxley even declares council candidate Evan Chemers as a “fake candidate” planted by Agran too. Chemers denied this to us and insisted he was going to keep running until he wins. Chemers hadn’t even met Agran until a candidate’s forum in October. When I asked him about being a “fake candidate,” he couldn’t understand why Irvine Republicans were attacking him saying, “Irvine Republicans are pretty good when it comes to eating their own.”
In response to Moxley’s original October 11 article, Chemers complained via email to OC Weekly Managing Editor Gustavo Arellano, writing: “Why do you allow Moxley to write for your magazine? He included my name as part of Agrans conspiracy to splitting votes of ‘legitimate Republican candidates’. This is absolutely ridiculous. I was the first candidate to open my campaign for Irvine City Council in January. The others candidates opened their campaign months after me. I have spent $42000 of my own money on this campaign with little donations. I am here to serve Irvine and not taking any city salary. Moxley never contacted me and is making ridiculous, false claims. This makes your magazine lose credibility. I am a contender in this race with my own money. I have more qualifications than any other candidate.”
Gustavo responded 31 minutes later: “I let Scott write because he’s an amazing reporter who makes mincemeat out of loser politicians such as yourself. Any other questions?”
I contacted Scott Moxley via email with a set of questions. He’s attending to a personal matter this week and sent back a response to my query but not asnwers to my questions. He wrote: “I have not reviewed any of your questions. I understand that though I am a longtime professional journalist and you operate an openly, one-sided, pro-Democrat blog, you feel frustrated with my pre-election news reports that helped expose unethical, hidden shenanigans of your pals and their wealthy friends.” He referred me to Gustavo who sent a link of a 2005 column Moxley wrote about how its not his job to promote Democratic candidates. And to that, I agree, but it’s avoiding answering a series of questions. If the shoe were on the other foot, I’m sure Arellano would proclaim the answer, “weak sauce.” So even the Weekly won’t answer questions.
Lalloway, in a best “Nixon aide” or “Reagan aide” fashion, admitted to talking with Moxley several times during the election but wouldn’t comment on any specific article nor would he own up to chatting with Moxley about the October 11 piece. I emailed both Shea and Choi on February 11 and I followed up with Shea late last week with a list of quesitons related to this post. No response from either of these city council members who ran on a platform of transparency. So I’ll give Lalloway props for answering questions even though he was very guarded and terse in his responses.
Now Irvine Republicans had a number of hit pieces using Moxley’s story as proof Agran was stealing the election and Moxley, who already detests Agran, took the bait. The fascinating thing is the Team Irvine Ticket and a host of Republican operatives who specialize in hit pieces had to know the Daigle as an Agran plant story wasn’t true. But it was their key message as the campaign moved into the critical late October cycle. The millions Agran was supposed to have raised from a Measure BB campaign never materialized, as Moxley himself even reported Agran loaned that campaign tens of thousands of dollars of his own money. In speaking to a number of Irvine residents who don’t follow local politics all that closely, the mailers about the fake candidate did make a difference. So a deciding factor in the election was based on a complete lie with the earliest written origin from the OC GOP itself.
I’ve written a number of posts for this site but this is the first time I’ve been “encouraged” not to write a post There is a strong desire by Irvine Republicans to see this issue die. It’s been suggested Moxley will come after me, no one would read this, and that there would be some sort of consequences. We were threatened with legal action by one OC GOPer we spoke with. And almost no one is talking, no one remembers anything, and everyone wants to know where I got my information from.
UCI Political Science Professor Mark Petracca appeared with me on a Real Orange episode shortly after the campaign was over to declare that 59 percent of Irvine voters rejected Larry Agran. He failed to point out that 55 percent of Irvine voters also rejected Steve Choi. Daigle’s showing likely hurt Agran more than Choi, but her performance in the race did point out that Choi isn’t as beloved by Irvine Republicans as he might have you believe. There were simply a number of Republicans and DTS voters who wanted anyone but Choi or Agran.
Since I started blogging for TheLiberalOC in 2006, I’ve had three political figures overtly lie to me when asked a direct question. One of them is Steven Choi.
The new Republican majority can flip easily in 2014 with the right candidate to oppose Choi and remind the voters that the ticket that ran on the transparency issue is really counting on the voters to have ADD.