Lying Larry

New evidence suggests Irvine political boss stole elections

"No," said Agran. "He runs a slate mailer."

Jackson: Wasn't Zucht a fake candidate helping you?

Agran: "Why don't you give Earl Zucht a call? He struck me as a very serious candidate."

Agran: mastermind. Photo by Tenaya Hills
Agran: mastermind. Photo by Tenaya Hills

It was classic, shameless Agran.

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The key to a successful conspiracy is silence, and Dornan won't talk: he died last month of natural causes. But Petracca provided the Weekly with the final piece of key evidence against Agran and HVG.

"Larry and I spent hours on the phone talking about these [HVG mailers] and going over language, points, etc.," Petracca said in early January. "Sometimes Ed was at Larry's or vice versa, since I recall Larry giving me a suggestion over the phone that Ed had just made. Larry isn't an e-mail person, so I would type drafts of the text, fax them to Larry's house and then we'd talk about it . . . It was Larry and I who'd agree on the final wording."

Petracca remembers returning from vacation in the summer of 2002 when HVG was preparing to target for defeat Irvine City Councilwoman Christina Shea, Agran's most vocal Republican critic. "Larry and Ed had already prepared the mailers and they were waiting for me to edit them," said Petracca.

When he voiced questions about the lawfulness of HVG's activities as early as 2000, he says, Agran—a Harvard-trained lawyer—told him "it was perfectly legal." But he also recalls that Dornan and Agran liked to keep their maneuvers secret. According to Petracca, "Larry and Ed really didn't want anyone else involved in either the big picture or the production of the HVG mailers."

The impact of all this? While his opponents obeyed the $360 contribution limit per donor, Agran and Dornan used HVG to collect contributions in chunks of $10,000, $25,000, $50,000 or more from single sources, among them major real-estate developers, trash haulers and lobbyists. Campaign-finance records also show they used HVG to supplement the campaign war chest by more than $950,000 in illegal funds during the past five years.

Does this mean that Agran's machine stole the 2000, 2002 and 2004 elections?

"Those two guys [Agran and Dornan] were always working on some angle," said attorney Chris Mears, another disillusioned ex-Agranista who served on the Irvine City Council. "If Petracca's information is right, I'm sure Larry was involved in Hometown Voter Guide because he thought he could get away with it."

Agran did not respond to requests for an interview for this story.

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If Petracca and Mears are right, Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, election watchdog Shirley Grindle and Orange County Register editorial writer Steven Greenhut should renew their demands for a prosecution. But District Attorney Tony Rackauckas might require a nudge from the grand jury: Rackauckas, Agran and HVG share the same political consulting firm, the powerful Forde and Mollrich. In fact, the DA still owes the firm $17,000 from his last campaign.

But Petracca's revelation should also prompt Agran, who has spent the past two years angrily claiming he's been unfairly "slimed," to do the right thing: apologize to Irvine residents.

And then resign.

But it's unlikely he'll be prosecuted and unbelievable he'll resign. Just last month, without a hint of irony, he championed new "Rules for Ethical and Open Governance" because, he said, he's worried about preventing "government for sale . . . government by eBay."

Said Agran, "It's wrong."

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