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Big Money Undermining Local Irvine Democracy


Now that the November 6, 2018 City Council election results are final — and officially certified — it’s a good time to reflect on what the results portend for Irvine.

Developer-backed Donald Wagner held onto his seat as Mayor, winning a second two-year term with just 45% of the vote in a field of four candidates.  In the 12-candidate race for two open Council seats, Wagner’s running mate, Anthony Kuo, won one of the seats.

But special congratulations are in order for civic activist Farrah Khan, who was the top vote-getter for Council.  Khan managed to finish first with a grassroots, low-budget “clean money” campaign that adhered to the City’s prescribed campaign contribution limits — limiting individual donations to $490.

This is in sharp contrast to Wagner and Kuo, who didn’t really wage their own campaigns at all.  Instead, with a wink-and-a-nod, they outsourced their campaigns to developer FivePoint — the billion-dollar corporation that organized and funneled nearly $1 million in “dark money” to layers of so-called “independent expenditure” committees.  These out-of-town committees then spent hundreds of thousands of dollars boosting Wagner and Kuo, and flooding Irvine with TV ads and vicious mailings, full of lies and scurrilous attacks on other Council candidates, including Khan.

It’s a tribute to Councilmember Farrah Khan that she survived these developer-funded attacks.  But now she’ll be tested again.  Khan sits on a City Council where the Mayor and the other Councilmembers — Christina Shea, Melissa Fox and now Anthony Kuo — all take big campaign money from
developer FivePoint and then vote for FivePoint development schemes that are harming our City.

If this sounds corrupt, that’s because it is.  Most sensible people recognize what’s going on here.  At the hands of big developers and their big-money campaign spending, our local democracy is being systematically corrupted.  It may be technically permissible under the law, but it’s corruption nonetheless.


Franklin J. Lunding


Irvine, CA
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