Larry Agran's Irvine Machine Paid Off Decoy Candidate

[Moxley Confidential] Larry Agran recruits his Republican Katherine Daigle to steal the city's mayoral election, which he did before with Earle Zucht

From appearances, Irvine—Orange County's third-largest city—is the epitome of middle-class tranquility. The neighborhoods, even the ones that aren't gated, look gorgeous. The shopping malls and parks are well-kept. Street crime is rare. The schools are among the best in California, and the residents, an impressive mix of nationalities and skills, thrive in unrivaled cultural diversity.

Those superlatives, however, mask an ugly truth. If you're not paying close attention, it's impossible to imagine that a sunny, palm-tree swaying locale such as Irvine could be plagued with the entrenched corruption that has traditionally infected such cities as Chicago and New York. But a ruthless, self-serving political machine most assuredly runs this place.

No, corpses of people who've dared challenge the publicly unacknowledged governing organization aren't buried beneath concrete driveways or tossed into the nearby Pacific Ocean. Larry Agran's political machine isn't violent because, perhaps, its methods of control have been essentially lethal. Using a 3-2 council majority, Agran, a surly liberal Democrat, has held power for 12 consecutive years in Republican-heavy Irvine. How surly? A few years ago, a civil grand jury lambasted the city's brazen hocus-pocus and secretive finances and the capofamiglia defiantly told it to pound sand.

Without total power, Agran's machine would be robbed of the very thing that has kept it artificially afloat: unfettered access to more than $1 billion in city funds during its reign. The council majority adequately funds vital services, but it also acts like the Gambino family by diverting chunks of taxpayer funds to its self-preservation. Year after year, Agran has used lucrative, no-bid government contracts to funnel millions of taxpayer dollars to his private campaign consultants and to the individuals and corporations that generously contribute to his re-election efforts.

Yet, it's telling that despite the stolen resources, the Agran machine must routinely doctor ballots to cheat voters so it can keep control of City Hall. A week ago, I revealed evidence that Agran's allies had lured a decoy Republican candidate, Katherine Daigle, into the upcoming mayoral election with the purpose of stealing enough votes from GOP frontrunner Steven Choi for Agran to win the seat. The person who enticed Daigle, a political unknown, to enter the race was Patrick B. Strader, a longtime Agran-campaign contributor and a lobbyist for Heritage Fields El Toro LLC, the real-estate developer that's building around the proposed Great Park. The developer wants Agran to remain in power because it has a sweetheart deal on tens of millions of dollars in future public concessions to the private company [See "Larry Agran Is Stealing Another Election in Republican-Heavy Irvine," Oct. 11].

Daigle isn't the first political suicide bomber sent to blow up Irvine Republican chances to control the council. That honor goes to Earle Zucht. In 2004, Agran was forced out of the mayor's office on term limits and wanted Beth Krom, another liberal member of his machine, to take the job. But polling showed that Mike Ward, a popular Republican, was destined to win the election.

An unknown Zucht entered the race, declared without an accomplishment to his name that he was ready to run the city, pretended to be a legitimate candidate and was quietly funded by Agran's allies. Though there were hundreds of banks nearby in Orange County, Zucht opened a campaign account at a California Bank & Trust 40 miles away in downtown Los Angeles. It was the same bank where Agran and three members of his machine kept their campaign accounts.

On election day, Zucht completed his assignment. He siphoned nearly 5,000 critical votes from Ward, allowing Krom to narrowly win the seat. Keen observers knew the race had been stolen and were disgusted by the trickery. While Agran angrily called conspiracy allegations preposterous, local reporters joked amongst themselves about what reward Zucht would receive for his sabotage.

Daigle's odd appearance in the pending Choi-Agran contest for mayor caused me to recently revisit the life of Zucht, who'd quickly returned to relative oblivion after his candidacy. He presently works as a salesman for SAP America in its Irvine offices. I wanted to know if, in the aftermath of the 2004 election, he'd gotten new business opportunities with the aid of Agran's political machine. The results were eye-opening.

Three years after that race, Dana W. Reed, a Republican consultant and Los Angeles-based lawyer immersed in Agran's campaigns before and after Zucht, opened a business, Dana Point Today, in Zucht's name, according to California Secretary of State filings. How much the enterprise made Zucht before the entity fell inactive isn't known.

Neither he nor Reed, who is helping to run Agran's current Save Our Schools ballot initiative, responded to interview requests.

Perhaps it is just coincidence that after Zucht helped Agran to keep control of Irvine, he also performed work for Empire Water Corporation, according to records obtained by the Weekly. That company, formed in 2005, is registered in Nevada but based in Lake Forest and is involved in developing and selling water resources in Southern California. At this point, you likely won't be surprised that lobbyist Roger S. Faubel, a longtime Agran pal who has worked on various Agran-related campaign efforts, is on Empire Water's board of directors.

It makes you wonder what windfalls might eventually come Daigle's way.

 

This column appeared in print as "Irvine's Latest Suicide Bomber: Larry Agran recruits his newest decoy Republican to steal the city's mayoral election—again."

 
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15 comments
socalann
socalann

We're having problems with Roger Faubel down here in San Juan Capistrano too. He's behind an effort to smear candidates trying to oust the "good ol' boys" - mostly developers with big bucks who have been controlling the town much like Agran does. One of the good ol' boys is 9-yr incumbent Sam Allevato, a retired cop who is a "consultant" to the Larry Agran-supported PR firm Forde & Mollrich. Not sure what they do since promoting the big orange balloon surely can't cost as much as they're getting from the City, but I digress. Allevato, a 9-yr incumbent who calls himself a Republican, didn't get the OC GOP endorsement this time around, partly because it was revealed that he endorsed Larry Agran and actively worked against Christina Shea who really is a Republican. Allevato's machine which includes Faubel, his "client" the OC Taxpayers Association (for whom he served as president and who still is listed on campaign disclosures at his address) went on a political jihad against the true Republicans running when it appeared their message of reform was resonating with voters who are angry about the prohibitively high cost of water, traffic and more than $100 million in debt ($150 if you count redevelopment debt) that the good ol' boys have created. In a town of 34,000. We'll know soon enough if voters see through the smear tactics, but one thing that is clear to us down here - these people need to be cleaned out. Thanks for exposing this Scott!

irvinesince92
irvinesince92

Sad. This article comes across as just bitter and jealous. Is it really so hard to believe that liberals are doing well fair and square in a college town? Get over yourself.

itchy
itchy

where are the oc newspapers on this issue?

ltpar
ltpar topcommenter

Another very good article Scott.  Wonder if the District Attorney's new corruption unit will jump right on this election fixing violation.  Come on Mr. District Attorney, inquiring minds want to know if you are ready to challenge the "Teflon Man."  You did let him skate on the Obstruction of Justice violation a couple of years ago and that was a better case than this one.  What does it take to get a corruption investigation in Irvine?   

GregDiamond
GregDiamond

Wow!  Powerful charges of corruption -- for which you have no apparent evidence.  If there's evidence, telling the grand jury to pound sand doesn't work.Please have Gustavo, Amber, Coker -- pretty much anyone -- explain to you what "stealing an election" is and isn't.  Hint: even if Agran hoped that Daigle would run -- this isn't.

in_awe
in_awe

 @ltpar As I recall from an article a number of years ago, the DA shared the services of a marketing consultant long associated with Agran. The campaign left the DA owing the consultant a significant amount of money. Reportedly, the consultant agree to defer collection of the debt indefinitely. The DA has shown no interest in pursuing any investigation of Agran...

AllOfOC
AllOfOC

 @GregDiamond

On behalf of all Orange County. Choke on my cock you fucking dip shit wanna be loser!! you couldnt do shit in life man . Seriously FUCK off get the fuck out of OC you punk bitch loser fucktard!!!

rscottmoxley
rscottmoxley topcommenter

@GregDiamond Being angrily lectured on any issue by a knee jerk partisan Democrat hack who is a Brea lawyer with a solo law practice that earned less than $1,999 last year is always welcomed. Thanks, Greg! How is your pathetic non-existent state senate campaign going? You're not going to spend the wee hours of the night writing me FIVE comments close to 2 AM, like you did last night are you? I laugh at your incompetence and irrelevance. But please continue to blatantly suck up to Agran's machine. Perhaps Larry will toss you a lucrative no bid contact with taxpayer funds!

ltpar
ltpar topcommenter

 @chuckdevore

 Chuck, we weep for not having you here in Irvine to clean out that den of vipers at City Hall.  On the other hand, if by some curse of God, Obama wins another term, I might just leave the country and join you in the Republic of Texas, my home state.  Best wishes on whatever you are doing these days.  "Gig em Aggies." 

ltpar
ltpar topcommenter

 @in_awe

 That would most likely be former Agran Political Consultants, Forde & Moolrich, now turned big time Media experts and pulling down millions of dollars for flooding our homes with those glossy brochures about the Not So Geat Park.  That is by the way, part of the "no Bid" contracts.  Just another day in Paradise. 

DaveCustler
DaveCustler

 @rscottmoxley  @GregDiamond

 Mox,

 

Greg Diamond is about to be the First canidate in California who went an entire election cycle without a single campaign sign stolen, defaced or left behind after the election.

 

Wait. He doesn't have any signs.....Oh Yeah.

 

Orange County is being destroyed by "it's my party, right or wrong" politics. Thanks to guys like Greg.

GregDiamond
GregDiamond

 @rscottmoxley  You seem to have trouble staying on topic, among other things.

 

"I laugh at your incompetence and irrelevance" is a good line, though.  Is it from Monty Python?

rscottmoxley
rscottmoxley topcommenter

@GregDiamond @rscottmoxley I have a problem staying on topic? Ha! Greg, you are alegedly running a Democrat campaign to win California's 29th state senate seat and, yet, all you do every single day is write inane blog comments about everything but your own dismal candidacy.

 
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