When the Voice of OC started reporting on Orange County politics we all hoped they were serious about their mission. However they were funded by the Orange County Employees Association, a union, and now it is more obvious than ever that they are less about reporting objectively and more about doing what their union masters bid them to do. Case in point – their latest attack by Voice of OC reporter Adam Elmahrek on Santa Ana Council Member Michele Martinez, the leading Hispanic candidate for the 69th Assembly District. Elmahrek reported that “The Santa Ana City Council is scheduled to vote May 7 on striking down one of the strictest campaign finance laws in Orange County, apparently to help Councilwoman Michele Martinez in her race for the state Assembly.” How is that reporting? The last part of that sentence is clearly his opinion, masquerading as journalism! But wait, there’s more evidence of Elmahrek’s shaky reporting and obvious shilling for labor, which is backing the obscure left-wing union hack Julio Perez against Martinez. He wrote that “The rule, which was passed in 1996, bars council members from taking contributions over $250 within three months after a council vote from anyone with a financial interest in the vote. It was most notably broken in recent years by Martinez in 2010, when she voted on the Station District residential development project.”
Um, actually Council Members Sal Tinajero and David Benavides made the same mistake as Martinez – and all three of them received bad advice from the previous Santa Ana City Attorney. He was “retired” after this fiasco that he caused, and all three of these Council Members gave the donations they received back to the donor in question.
But wait, Elmahrek wasn’t done hacking. He also wrote “Martinez is running for the 69th Assembly District seat against labor leader Julio Perez and Orange County Clerk-Recorder Tom Daly.” Wait a minute. Those are not the only candidates running for the 69th A.D. Local gadfly Francisco Barragan is in the race too, and two voter surveys conducted by the Daly and Martinez campaigns showed that Barragan was right at the 4-5% of the vote that Perez was drawing. And what about Republican candidate Jose “Joe” Moreno? He just might make the “top two” in the Open Primary on June 5, by virtue of being the only Republican on the ballot.
Embarrassingly for Elmahrek, the leading campaign finance watchdog in Orange County, Shirley Grindle, herself admits that the Santa Ana City Council is right to get rid of the finance law in question. In fact Elmahrek quoted her about halfway through his slam on Martinez. “Grindle has called the law confusing and recommends that it be scrapped and replaced by an across-the-board campaign contribution limit. She said the law makes it difficult for council members to track potentially illegal contributions.”
Elmahrek then wrote about an email from someone affiliated with the blatantly socialist group SACReD. He wrote that they are negotiating with council members on drafting a “sunshine ordinance” aimed at making City Hall more transparent.” Really? Well it was Martinez herself who first mentioned such an ordinance, as reported by L.A. Times columnist Dana Parsons way back in 2007, when he wrote about a push to televise all the Santa Ana City Council meetings. Parsons stated that “only Councilwoman Michele Martinez favored all access all the time. She made a motion to that effect, but her shy compatriots were too nervous to offer a second.”
Even the Liberal OC reported that Martinez was involved in pushing for a Sunshine Ordinance – or course the post was written by Sean Mill. The Liberal OC is pretty much unreadable garbage today – and they report the same party line that the Voice of OC espouses.
Why would Elmahrek sink to such lows? He was hired to write for the Voice of OC “after covering school administration and student government for the campus newspaper, The Daily Titan, Elmahrek interned with the Orange County Professional Firefighters Association. There he wrote news and feature pieces on OCPFA issues, including budget matters and political actions,” according to his bio. Elmahrek was a union mouthpiece before he even joined the Voice of OC!
I have long advised the Santa Ana City Council members not to return Elmahrek’s phone calls. Once in awhile they forget and do talk to him but that remains a very bad idea. They should talk to the press – but not to anyone from the Voice of OC, not as long as that self-appointed investigative news agency remains dedicated not to objective reporting but rather to shilling for labor. So of course Martinez did not return Elmahrek’s phone calls on this matter.
But Martinez told me, in an email, that she gave back every contribution that Elmahrek referenced in his shoddy reporting “before the D.A investigation,” and she “also gave back the $500 to the landscape company on 2/15/12.” You know what that means? This was a non-story before Elmahrek sat down to write it. Martinez agrees with Grindle – the law in question needs to be addressed to make things more clear. Martinez believes that the 90 day law should not apply to anyone seeking another office. It’s ridiculous that local ordinances in any way affect a candidate who is running for a state office. Note that Martinez is complying with all the State campaign finance rules. She always has.
The ultimate irony is that the Voice of OC’s board is still chaired by former State Senator Joe Dunn, a trial lawyer who now owns a law firm in Sacramento that lobbies politicians. (Dunn though is on leave from his own firm as he received a political appointment to head up the State Bar). And of course Dunn has endorsed Perez. How do you like that? The Voice of OC was funded by labor and is chaired by a guy who owns a law firm that lobbies politicians. They aren’t the Voice of OC at all. They are exactly what I said they were when the started their operation, the Voice of the OCEA. (No, the FFFF didn’t coin that phrase – I did.)