It's Thursday, Must Be Time for More Irvine City Campaign Sliminess

If you thought the man and organization behind Larry Agran's campaign slush funds was only involved in Irvine political shenanigans (as we previously reported here), now comes word that Frank Lunding is up to his eyeballs in it in the Carmel Valley as well.

Jessica Lyons reports in the Monterey County Weekly that attorney Lunding and his Planning 2020 group is suing Monterey County, its supervisors and a group called Carmel Valley Forum in connection with Carmel Valley's bid to incorporate as a city.

Locals may recall Lunding and Planning 2020 gathered the funding for Irvine's Hometown Voter Guide in the 2006 city elections and the slate mailer disguised as Community News and Views newspaper in this past November's local races. The campaign tools always support the slate of candidates backed by City Councilman/Great Park Corp. Chairman Agran (shown here) and, in the '08 election, two Agran-slate-endorsed city measures. Planning 2020's '08 winners were Sukhee Kang for mayor, Agran and Beth Krom in their council reelection bids and Measures R and S.

Campaign cash from developers, businesses and vendors with interests in the city of Irvine and particularly the planned Great Park at the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station has been funneled through Planning 2020, which as an independent expenditure committee can raise and spend funds far exceeding limits imposed on individual candidate campaigns under state campaign finance laws and Irvine's own strict restrictions on local candidates.

City watchdog Stephen C. Smith, who publishes the Irvine Tattler (and brought the Monterey County Weekly story to our attention), has previously reported:

A political slush fund connected to Irvine City Councilman and Great Park Corp. chairman Larry Agran accepted $65,000 during the 2006 municipal election from actual or potential Great Park contractors.

And here's an oldie but goodie from the Orange County Register:

The controversy surrounding the Hometown Voter Guide continued earlier this year, when it was revealed that Maguire Properties made a series of contributions totaling $120,000 to an organization named Planning 2020 before submitting updated plans for a development in the Irvine Business Complex. Planning 2020 in turn financially supported the Hometown Voter Guide, which created a series of mailers in 2006 backing Krom and Kang.

The council majority this year agreed to a nearly $10 million settlement with Maguire after a series of closed meetings. A lawsuit filed by former councilman and current planning commissioner Greg Smith and former Irvine police officer Pat Rodgers, seeks to force a public review of the agreement, described it as an "illegal backroom deal."

Back to the Tattler, on November's elections:

City documents obtained by the Irvine Tattler show that a fake newspaper sent weekly to Irvine residents promoting councilman Larry Agran's candidate slate is being funded by over $66,000 from Great Park contractors.

"Political puffery" is how Lunding characterized the heat his controversial Irvine campaign tactics has generated.

Although Lunding now lives in Carmel Valley, he has been tight with Agran since the 1980s, having once been appointed by Agran to the city's transportation committee. Lunding formed the nonprofit Planning 2020 in 2006, using the same address as Agran's late crony and former Hometown Voter Guide creator Ed Dornan. The Weekly's R. Scott Moxley reported extensively on the shady support and political favors Dornan received for his role in propping up Agran, Agran's candidates and Agran's causes. That began the end of Agran's reign as a liberal darling in the mind of many progressives. 

It is believed powerful developers and business interests who'd prefer to deal with a less regulated county government (in this case Monterey County) than a city government (a future City of Carmel Valley) are funding Lunding and Planning 2020 anti-incorporation efforts. Lunding did not disclose to Lyons the identity of his contributors.

His suit is based on what he calls a flawed financial analysis that was used to support Carmel Valley's incoporation. "My major concern is that the city will be bankrupt before it even starts," Lunding tells Lyons. But Carmel Valley Forum Secretary Mike McMillan says, "It sounds like someone who is trying to sabotage or undermine the process rather than someone who has a legitimate legal complaint with the incorporation effort." McMillan notes that incorporation has been in the works for more than eight years (his own group formed in 2001), so Lunding's concerns should have been aired long ago, rather than a month after the Local Agency Formation Commission approved the incorporation proposal and Monterey County supervisors are poised to put the matter on the November ballot.

Can Lunding complete a last-second Hail Mary? Don't put it past Planning 2020.


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