Just days before ballots were mailed out, Irvine voters received political hit pieces in their mailboxes — funded by a Political Action Committee (PAC) established last week with tens of thousands of dollars in difficult-to-trace “dark money.” The PAC was created explicitly to attack Councilman Larry Agran.
Dark money PACs are often established at the very last minute to avoid campaign finance disclosure laws. In this way, big developers and special interest groups can pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into mass-mailing pieces — filled with vicious attacks and outright lies — to sway voters who may not know the facts.
When it comes to the recent attack on Councilman Agran regarding the Orange County Power Authority (OCPA), here are the facts:
- Larry Agran was not on the Irvine City Council in 2019 and early 2020 when OCPA was established.
- Since taking office in December 2020, Agran has been the only member of the City Council to call out the incompetence and corruption at OCPA.
- Agran was the only member of the City Council to vote NO on funding the OCPA with Irvine taxpayer money.
So, who is behind these dark money attack ads? It appears that the PAC responsible for the attack mail has close ties to Mayor Farrah Khan and her longtime political consultant and mentor, Melahat Rafiei. (Rafiei was arrested by the FBI and is still at the center of a wide-ranging FBI political corruption investigation here in Irvine.)
Mayor Khan’s Mayoral re-election campaign treasurer is the same treasurer that set up the dark money PAC responsible for the attack ads. The treasurer’s office is located in Long Beach, just two minutes from Rafiei’s office, and now represents clients that Rafiei handled before her arrest. Call me cynical, but I find those facts to be more than simply a series of coincidences.
Khan — who is a paid member of the OCPA Board of Directors responsible for the dramatic increase in electricity rates now being charged to Irvine residents and businesses — has spent most of the past two years doing everything in her power to silence Agran, refusing to allow him to bring forward motions to address the broken promises and corruption at OCPA; the toxic asphalt plant in north Irvine; and the Veterans Memorial Park at the Great Park.
Khan and her hand-picked Vice Mayor Anthony Kuo (who is running for re-election against Agran) worked together to block Agran’s efforts during Council meetings, and they now appear to be teaming up to spread lies about Agran’s record and his positions on the key issues in the November 8th election.
When asked for comment, Agran said: “Unfortunately, these last-minute attacks with money funneled through dark money PACs are not new in Irvine. The big developers and special interest groups know that I can’t be bought or bossed, which is why they spend so much money to try to defeat me. My focus remains on working for the people of Irvine, not for big-money special interests.”
Agran’s campaign released a video addressing the growing number of attack pieces. (Click here to watch it.)
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