I was originally going to title this piece, “Thug Politics is Alive and Well in Tustin” but Brenda McCune over at OC Political beat me to it. So. I had to come up with some catchy title of my own. In any case, if you live in Tustin, you know what I am talking about.
Is it coincidental that almost all of the political hit pieces go out from the post office on the same day? The hit piece McCune complained about in her article, was sent the same time as hit pieces in Tustin and many other cities. Quite frankly, I thought Nielsen and “Team Tustin” as they call themselves, might forgo this bit of juvenile politics and actually run a clean campaign that would extol the virtues of the candidates. After all, Nielsen claims he signed the Code of Fair Campaign Practices.We are not sure when he did that but, according to the City Clerk’s office, only two people signed the pledge and Nielsen was not among them. Even if he signed the CFCP in a previous race, he is being as disingenuous with the voters as when he leads them to believe he is a happily married man. But, you’ll have to ask Erin Nielsen about that.
Instead, we got a mailer that, at first glance, makes you think it is from opposition candidates, Tracy Worley-Hagen and David Waldram. It has their names boldly in yellow against a black background and a picture of them to the side. All of the allegations made in the mailer are either stretches or outright lies. It is not very damning, to say the least.
In a response to the hit piece, Tracy Worley-Hagen issued a response denying all of the allegations. From her website:
All of these allegations are untrue. These are simply desperate measures by desperate people who are desperately trying to hold onto their last shreds of power. I continue my pledge to the people of Tustin to run a clean campaign and, should I be re-elected, to represent them with honesty, transparency and civility.
The most serious allegation against Worley-Hagen is one of political corruption. We asked her about it and she said, “I amended my forms in 2005 to correct a simple accounting error regarding 2 dinners and payed a nominal fine, similar to when someone makes a mistake on their income tax returns. Once the FPPC received my corrected forms and payment they immediately issued a statement of resolution.”
Wow. That’s some corruption. Of course, the mailer makes it seem like much more than that.
David Waldram has not responded to the piece. However, there was little they could say about him, beyond being accused of being a puppet for Worly-Hagen. The most the two of them have done together is to hold joint fundraisers throughout the city. He has continuously maintained an independent view and, in fact, does run a business out of his home. The two of them are running together on a platform of bringing back civility to Tustin politicss. His “full-time government employee” status is that of a public school teacher at Tustin High School. In fact, he teaches government classes. Most public teachers I know are full-time government employees. So, there is no shocking revelation there.
I have to tell you that, if this is the best “Team Tustin” could do, they are hurting for any dirt on the opposition campaign. And, they are not coming up with much. And, although Nielsen, Puckett and Bernstein will readily disavow themselves of any knowledge of the flyer, it does not take much to put two and two together.
First, unlike Worley-Waldram, there have been no other independent expenditures for campaign literature for this race. The anti Worley-Waldram piece was accompanied by another piece extolling the virtues of the “Team Tustin” candidates.
John Nielsen is touted as a strong fiscal conservative. But, the facts speak for themselves. He fully supports the lawsuits between the city and school district, placing the blame and resolution squarely with the district. He also forgets to mention that the council he sits on voted to bring multiple, frivolous lawsuits against the school district in response to their sole lawsuit. Let’s not forget he, along with Jerry Amante, also voted themselves high end Apple iPads that were paid from reserve funds. Oh, yeah, and didn’t John help balance the last two or three budgets by dipping into those same reserves?
Voters who received the mailers may notice something else. Both the Worley-Waldram hit piece and the “Team Tustin” mailer were sent from the same organization, Tustin Residents United, which lists a private post office box in Tustin as their headquarters address. No physical address and no actual location or staff. That’s because there really is no Tustin Residents United. It is a sham organization set up, apparently, by a political accountant with ties to “Team Tustin” to make independent expenditures for candidates at their behest. These types of expenditures are not supposed to be controlled or discussed with the candidates. Is that what really happened here?
Tustin Residents United, like any campaign organization, is required to fill out a Form 460 advising contributions taken in and expended either as contributions to or on behalf of political candidates. TRU’s only income for the past reporting cycle is from the Orange County Business Council’s BIZPAC who donated $10,000. In the same reporting period, they paid $250.00 for accounting services to Barrett Garcia and $1500 to Powers Communications to Support John Nielsen. OCBC is a lobbying organization for the business community. And, you might note on Nielsen’s website that most of his endorsements come from the business community, both those in Tustin and those that (hope to) do business in Tustin. This is on top of those businesses that would not lend their name but would happily hand out cash to fund his campaign.
It’s also interesting that Tustin Residents United, which obviously has nothing to do with residents, shows an address of record on the Form 460 in San Juan Capistrano, rather than the post office box in Tustin. Guess what the address of the accountant Barrett Garcia is? Yes, the exact same address. Barrett Garcia is a well-known accountant in political circles. The company also does political accounting for Chuck Puckett and Allan Bernstein, so you can see the direct connection between “Team Tustin” and Tustin Residents United. It isn’t much of a reach to see who really controls this so-called independent expenditure political action committee.
For Tracy Worley-Hagen and David Waldram’s part, they appear to be running a clean campaign. Their mailer was a simple two-sided affair that pledged fiscal responsibility and to restore civility to the circus that has become de rigueur at Tustin City Council meetings. They have both signed the fair campaign pledge and appear to be sticking to it. This hit piece, along with the recent theft of campaign lawn signs by an anti-Worley-Waldram zealot, shows the concern “Team Tustin” has over the campaign. Even the bastion of Orange County journalism, the Register, refused to endorse Bernstein, saying Worley-Waldram had more experience and would serve the public better. As we have said, Bernstein, who bills himself as a “physician” when he is a podiatrist, should heal himself from foot-in-mouth disease as he honestly believes that city councilmembers actually have some say in school district board elections.
I’ve been watching a new show on TV called, “Copper”. It’s about New York City during the Tammany Hall era. The most recent show had folks buying votes with drinks, having them vote multiple times for dead people and beat down voters at the poll who dare to vote for the opposition. The thug politics of the era are alive and well in the city of Tustin.