UPDATE, MAY 17, 12:13 P.M: Andrew Do still has not gotten back to the Weekly, but he did tell City News Service that Phat Bui’s latest FPPC complaint is a smokescreen to hide Bui’s alleged fraud against the state . “I am proud of my accomplishments in bringing together private donors to install public art at Mile Square Park,” Do said. “This baseless complaint is a political stunt, obviously constructed from incomplete data designed to mislead the public by my opponent, who is looking to distract voters from recently revealed facts that he personally defrauded the state of California out of hundreds of thousand by using false academic credentials to obtain state contracts.”
ORIGINAL POST, MAY 17, 6:07 A.M.: A sign that Vietnamese-Americans have truly assimilated: as politicians, they start eating their own.
Janet Nguyen is a former Garden Grove City Council member who later became an Orange County First District supervisor and is now a state senator.
Andrew Do is a former Garden Grove City Council member who followed Nguyen to become the Orange County First District supervisor and is now making a bid to retain that office.
Phat Bui is a current Garden Grove City Council member who is challenging Do for that county supervisor seat.
All three are Republicans and say they are conservative. But it is understandable that Do and Bui would have issues with one another, given that the latter had not even finished his first term on the council when he pulled papers in March to gun for the incumbent supervisor’s seat.
Bui’s entry into the race could cause dramatic ripples in Orange County politics. He and Do would likely split the Garden Grove vote, the Vietnamese-American vote and the Republican vote, which could allow a Democrat like Santa Ana City Councilwoman Michele Martinez to make it to a run-off.
OC Politics Blog observes that to keep Martinez from becoming the lone Democrat on the county board, Republicans may have to pull resources from the re-election bid of Assemblywoman Young Kim, who is squaring off against former Democratic Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, as well as the Senate bid of Assemblywoman Ling-Ling Chang, who faces Irvine’s former Democratic mayor, Sukhee Kang.
Why Nguyen and Do would be at odds is more perplexing. He was her chief of staff when she served as county supervisor and was her hand-picked successor. Nguyen even swore Do in after he defeated Lou Correa for the supervisorial seat in January 2015.
That chumminess ended for good around 10 a.m. Friday, when a Nguyen robo call went out to Vietnamese voters in the First Supervisor District. Here is the translation from the Vietnamese transcript:
Dear constituents, this is Senator Janet Nguyen. Thank you for your trust and support for me over the years. I called to speak about the election for the Orange County Supervisor District 1. I am very sad because this election has caused much division in our communities and Supervisor Andrew Do has made slanderous remarks and false accusations toward me. Supervisor Andrew Do has accused me of supporting another candidate, while I have not declared my support to anyone.
I always want the residents of our district to have a representative who have the heart to unite the community, and dedication to serve all. For that reason, I cannot support Supervisor Andrew Do in his reelection campaign, and I have not yet supported another candidate. Thank you my fellow constituents. Again, this is Senator Janet Nguyen.
The Bui campaign added that transcript to a press release that went out Monday morning about a complaint the candidate has filed with the state Fair Political Practices Commission against Do. Bui alleges Do misused $60,000 solicited from a Buddhist temple and private companies which were earmarked for a “Mile Square Park Public Art/Historic Project.”
“My opponent, 1st District incumbent Supervisor Andrew Do, has committed several violations of California Government Code 82025 governing payments made at the behest of Supervisor Do by private parties and non-profit organizations to his Deputy Chief of Staff and political campaign worker Tam “Nick” Lecong and organizations controlled by Mr. Lecong,” reads Bui’s complaint.
“There is no evidence that these and other behested payments by Supervisor Do meet the exemption from political contributions under Government Code 82025 and should therefore be considered unreported political contributions to Supervisor Do in excess of Orange County contribution limits.”
Six donors contributed $60,490, with two of the largest payments totaling $35,490 having been made by the Van Hanh Assembly DBA Chua Lien HOA Buddhist Temple, claims Bui, who adds the payments were made directly to Tam Lecong.
The other contributions came from entities that are not on the IRS list of organizations which are registered as a non-profit 501 (c)(3), charges Bui, adding that a City of Garden Grove business license lists their addresses as the same 8862 Garden Grove Blvd., #205. That office is used by VietLink Radio, which is owned by Tam Lecong.
“This is typical of how Supervisor Andrew Do conducts public business,” writes Bui in an email. “He abuses the power of his office to solicit charitable contributions from well-meaning people, then gives the money to his staff to use for political purposes. I am asking the FPPC to investigate and hold him accountable.”
Do has not yet returned a message from the Weekly seeking comment.
Bui previously filed an FPPC complaint against Do for allegedly using taxpayer funds to send out illegal “campaign style” mass mailings. The FPCC confirms it is investigating those allegations.
Orange County Auditor-Controller Eric Woolery previously halted payments on mailers from Do and Supervisor Lisa Bartlett because he thought the supervisors’ names appeared too many times. Woolery later reversed his opinion following a meeting with County Counsel Leon Page, who showed evidence that the FPPC had vetted the mailers and found them to fall within the law.
In other eating their own news, the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment Action, which “is a multi-racial, democratic, non-profit community organization building power in low to moderate income neighborhoods to fight and stand for economic, racial and social justice,” is part of a coalition that recently gave Nguyen a 0 grade on “The People’s Report Card of California.”
That immediately vaults Nguyen into the “Hall of Shame” for “being out-of-step with their constituents and for prioritizing the needs of corporate interests over the needs and values of their district,” according to the coalition that also includes Progressive Kick, the Presente.org Latino rights group, the ColorOfChange African American rights organization and the California-based progressive Courage Campaign.
Nguyen’s Courage Score write-up:
Senator Janet Nguyen received a Courage Score of 0. While Nguyen is a Republican, she is targeted in the “Hall of Shame” because her voting record is so out of touch with her constituents who support far more progressive policies. Nguyen voted against critical bills to improve the lives of working families—including SB 406 to expand the CA Family Leave Act, SB 3 to increase the minimum wage, and AB 1017 which would secure equal pay for women. These issues are of particular concern in Orange County, which Sen. Nguyen represents, where it is exceedingly difficult for a single mother to afford housing and average commute times are among the worst in the state, according to research done by the CA Budget and Policy Center.
Nguyen, who has received money from the National Rifle Association, also opposed SB 347, a lifesaving bill to expand gun safety that was introduced in response to the tragic Isla Vista massacre. Furthermore, Nguyen voted against SB 32, a landmark climate change bill that would have drastically reduced California’s carbon emissions, despite the fact that 58% of voters in her district supported Prop 39 in 2012 to improve energy efficiency and expand clean energy in schools. Nguyen is one of the largest beneficiaries of spending by the oil, gas and energy industries, which dumped $645,000 on her election in 2014. Sen. Nguyen also opposed AB 1351 to promote drug rehabilitation programs, AB 1352 preventing unintended deportations, SB 654 regulating hazardous waste, AB 359 protecting grocery workers, AB 465 guaranteeing workers rights, and SB 546 to stop unjustified health insurance rate hikes.
Call it another sign that Vietnamese-Americans have truly assimilated: as politicians, they start to be eaten by fellow minority members.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.