Orange County Republicans Outraged That DA Tony Rackauckas Aided Larry Agran's Campaign
OC District Attorney Tony Rackauckas
R. Scott Moxley
The most historic, local moment of Tuesday's election happened around 9 p.m. when elated (literally jumping up and down) Orange County Republicans realized they were finally on their way to not just finally defeating Larry Agran but also taking control of Irvine.
But the GOPers were also fuming because one of their own, a longtime Republican elected official, had tried on the eve of the election to keep in power Agran, the two-faced, Democrat boss of a corrupt political machine that has for years ruled Republican Irvine with a 3-2 council majority.
Incredibly, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas produced a last-minute robocall for Agran's frantic re-election campaign.
We understand the call for bipartisanship, but the move was especially eyebrow raising. Rackauckas is an ultra-conservative Republican lawman. Agran is lefty Democrat and likely Orange County's most ethically warped, career politician.
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"This is outrageous," said Allan Bartlett, an Irvine Republican who already wasn't happy that fellow Republicans Adam Probolsky, Patrick B. Strader, Jimmy Camp and Dave Gilliard had also worked to aid Agran in his mayoral race against Republican Steven Choi.
For 12 long years, Agran has kept control of Irvine's massive city coffers by secretly placing fake Republican candidates on the ballot, giving lucrative, no-bid contract to his own political consultants and forcing businesses seeking city concessions to make massive contributions to his various campaign accounts.
The scheme stinks and, thanks to Rackauckas coming out of the closet for Agran, Republican activists believe they now know why local prosecutors and criminal grand juries have steadfastly ignored Irvine corruption.
I confronted the DA on election night and asked him if he could appreciate my suspicions that he, an unwavering conservative Republican, had essentially endorsed a corrupt politician from the other political party.
Rackauckas paused for about five seconds, smiled and said, "Well, sure."
He went on to say, "I believe it was the right thing to do."
According to Rackauckas, a Republican campaign mailer accusing Agran of weakening a DA-proposed anti-sex offender ordinance in the city "just wasn't fair."
I reminded the DA that if the mailer (I hadn't seen it at the time) accused Agran of weakening the proposal, then it was accurate because the Irvine Democrat had done so by limiting the prohibition against sex offenders lurching in public parks to criminals convicted only of sex crimes against kids; all other convicted sexual predators could still roam parks and school yards under Agran's editing.
"That's right," Rackauckas replied.
So why aid Agran?
"I think the mailer went too far," he said. "It was misleading because it claimed child molesters were roaming the streets of Irvine and that's not the case. Irvine is a safe city with an excellent police department."
But hyperbole is commonplace in political ads--even ones done in the past by the DA--so, again, why weigh in on this particular Republican ad against Agran?
Rackauckas said, "I just felt an obligation to straighten out the false impression the mailer created--that child pornographers and rapists are roaming the streets."
I told him that I doubted a single Irvine resident believed that was the case and pressed again for the reason he stepped into the Agran-Choi race.
"I got contacted by Agran," the DA said. "He wasn't happy with the mailer. I researched it and concluded it wasn't fair. Look, I'm all for hard blows in political campaigns but the hard blows should be fair. That one wasn't."
After Rackauckas entered a restricted Republican Party election night room protected by two private guards, multiple sources told me facts that he'd omitted from our interview: The DA had personally approved the mailer before it hit mailboxes. He'd even written a quote used in the piece.
"Why would the DA help craft a campaign message against Agran and then do a robo call for Agran?" a prominent Orange County Republican asked me.
Huddled Republicans inside the Westin South Coast Plaza then arrived at an answer. Rackauckas and Agran have a mutual dear buddy, Republican political consultant Arnold Forde.
Accurate or not, it is now conventional wisdom in GOP circles that Agran made his most brilliant Machiavellian move to insure Rackauckas would never dig seriously into Irvine by hiring Forde when his political machine took control of the federally abandoned, multi-billion dollar El Toro Marine Air Corps Station.
Any competent corruption investigation of Agran would surely probe the activities of Forde, who grabbed for more than half a decade a $120,000-a-month, no-bid city contract that included no daily, weekly, monthly or annual benchmarks
Rackauckas and Forde have been pals for 30 years.
Susan Kang Schroeder, the DA's chief of staff, said any belief that Rackauckas was involved in a pro-Agran plot is unfounded speculation.
Schroeder also said that while Rackauckas provided a quote he never physically saw the mailer until after it was sent to voters.
But Choi, the man who finally toppled the Agran machine, isn't happy about what he sees as a betrayal. On election night, he too confronted Rackauckas about the robocalls. It wasn't pretty.
In what was the next Irvine mayor's first act of leadership he suggested this to the DA's face: "Why don't you go party with the Democrats?"
Rackauckas is a man who despises bitter cat fights. Perhaps he now regrets getting involved with Agran. Maybe he doesn't. One question remains: Is there anyone without compromising ties in California law enforcement--even a Democrat--who is brave enough to hold Agran and his cheating machine responsible for its acts?
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