This Is War?

Behind-the-scenes ties between El Toro Airport supporters and the countys biggest anti-airport groups have to make you wonder

Campaign-disclosure reports reveal that TRP's odd endorsement of the Headlands development came shortly after the Headlands' Newport Beach-based developers gave Kogerman's anti-airport group at least $5,800—an eyebrow-raising fact that has gone unreported in the daily press.

One explanation for Kogerman's strange behavior on the Headlands project could be quite simple—and, as he might put it, worldly: money. In the past four years, state financial records show, TRP paid Kogerman, his wife and two top aides more than $200,908; that figure does not include scores of expense reimbursements. Kogerman's money was paid through his corporate consulting firm, Trans Pacific Associates. He originally volunteered but began taking payments because, he said, he "could no longer afford" to donate his services.

Kogerman recoiled at questions about TRP's financial relationship with the Headlands developers and said he has "never had public or private discussions with any Headlands developers or their associates." He maintains that his anti-airport group was not influenced by the money and that the "obvious motivation" for the contributions is that the Headlands "lies right under the approach path to El Toro and the considerable value of that property would be substantially diminished by a commercial airport." All true. But another equally obvious motivation for the developer was to weaken public resistance to their commercial project by using Kogerman's influence with tens of thousands of South County residents. Kogerman willingly gave them that valuable influence after contributions were made. Another obvious point: TRP could have taken the developers' money for the anti-airport cause without then promoting the developers' narrow interests at the Headlands.

Kogerman is himself a man who sees money at the root of political corruption—when it comes to other people. Only last year, Kogerman bluntly ridiculed and questioned the motives of former Federal Aviation Administration official David Hinson for taking an honorarium from Orange County developers before making a pro-El Toro Airport speech. "What we do not fully understand is what his position on El Toro might have been before he got the big bucks," Kogerman said. "After all, this is about the big bucks."

The ugly specter of a potential quid pro quo between TRP and the Headlands developers raises a serious question: Can we trust the businessmen who are running the anti-airport campaign?

Based on the colorful and often inflammatory anti-developer rhetoric emanating from the anti-airport movement, you could easily get the impression that groups like TRP, Clean Air/No Jets, and Citizens for Safe and Healthy Communities are run by well-established environmentalists and determined reasonable-growth advocates—people fundamentally opposed to making life easier for real-estate developers. You'd be wrong. The businessmen who have taken control of the anti-airport fund-raising and public-relations campaigns have long, well-documented (if unpublicized) relationships with real-estate developer interests and, in some cases, direct connections with the pro-airport campaign and Mr. Airport himself, Newport Beach developer George Argyros.

Only at Larry Agran's Irvine-based anti-airport group Project 99 do you find time-tested anti-developer activists. It's laughable to think that Agran, who has fought numerous heart-wrenching battles against sprawl, would ever lead a developer-backed political action-committee against grassroots citizens groups. Sadly, that is not the case elsewhere in the anti-airport movement.

During the 1990s, high-ranking members of the anti-airport leadership—including Dana Point and Monarch Beach businessmen Jim Davy, Tristian Krogius, Forrest Owen and Richard Mackaig—have been associated with three aggressive developer-backed political-action committees: Dana Point United, Yes on the Headlands and CARE Dana Point. Though the committees claimed to be grassroots citizens groups, their stances suspiciously echoed those of Newport Beach developers. State and local campaign-finance records might offer an explanation: the committees were quietly funded by the likes of the decidedly pro-airport Building Industries Association (BIA) of Southern California and other developer allies and lobbying organizations. Despite their oft-stated anger at the men pushing the airport, the anti-airport leadership made a particularly puzzling choice for their consultant for CARE Dana Point: Newport Beach's Dana Reed, a top strategist for pro-airport forces and Argyros' right-hand man.

Kogerman, the pit bull of the anti-airport campaign, said Reed "is no friend of ours" but dismissed the connection as meaningless. He claimed Reed was hired by the group because he is "one of the relatively few attorneys who is expert in Orange County's election law" and that publishing for public consumption the Reed-TRP link "is a particularly insidious manner of creating guilt by association." Publicizing the connection, however, is not insidious; the cozy connection itself is. Who could honestly say it's not strange that anti-airport leaders—who say they despise those in the pro-airport movement—selected as their consultant on separate development issues a man who has helped lead each of Argyros' winning pro-airport campaigns and is a lobbyist for the city of Newport Beach's pro-airport efforts? Faced with that question in a follow-up interview, Kogerman conceded, "clearly and unequivocally that TRP would not have anything to do with Dana Reed."

Another fascinating connection between the TRP leadership and pro-airport developers is Krogius, the chairman of the anti-airport group's advisory council. Krogius, who lives in exclusive Monarch Beach, spent the latter part of his career as a major real-estate developer. He strenuously tried to distance Reed from connections to his anti-airport associates. Krogius acknowledged that Mackaig had hired the pro-airport activist for CAREDana Point but said that Mackaig "cannot be considered" part of the anti-airport leadership and "has served in no capacity" at TRP. However, a Dec. 8, 1998, internal TRP chart obtained by the Weekly lists Mackaig as a member of TRP's reorganized advisory board. Mackraig is also treasurer of the campaign committee for fellow TRP associate and Dana Point City councilman Wayne Rayfield, a pal of Krogius'. Even though TRP has sided with the Headlands developers, Rayfield is one of two council members representing citizens in secret negotiations with those same developers.

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