2022 Election

Local: Dirty Political Tactics 2022

UPDATED NOVEMBER 7, 2022 WITH CORRECTED NUMBERS FOR DISTRICT 3 CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATE JOHN YBARRA

Registered democrats in Fullerton School District Area 4 received a misleading and deceptive mailer, at the end of October, designed to present Ruthi Hanchett, (endorsed by the OC Democratic Party and a host of Democratic elected officials) as a MAGA Republican, while portraying Lisa Wozab as a progressive Democrat in the same mailer, though she is endorsed by the OC Republican Party, including extremists on the OC Board of Education (See Fullerton Observer Article Here) and Trump-endorsed candidate for Congress Kevin Kiley.

The mailer included a photo, copied from her Twitter feed, of Hanchett with ex-Republican Congressperson Dana Rohrabacher in an attempt to link Hanchett to Putin. According to Hanchett, she met with Rohrabacher in her previous capacity as a child advocate. She advocated that Rohrabacher support a bill that would provide meals to children across the globe. The mailer also noted that Hanchett is endorsed by John Richmond, a noted expert in human trafficking, who was appointed by the Trump administration as the U.S. Ambassador of Human Trafficking. In response, Hanchett said, “I’ve spent my career working with people to protect vulnerable children and end violence and exploitation. I partnered with John Richmond before and after his appointment to fight human trafficking globally.”  The mailer made several other misleading claims, including that out of town Republicans and PACS have contributed to Hanchett’s campaign, but not to Wozab’s. Recent campaign filings for Wozab demonstrate that this claim is false, as Shawn Steel, a Republican who also started a training program for far-right candidates to run for school board (See article), contributed to Wozab’s campaign on September 27, 2022. The Lincoln Club of Orange County PAC also contributed to Wozab’s campaign (See more on Lincoln Club OC below). Hanchett received contributions from Women for American Values (WAVE) and The Bench Project, two Orange County PACS that support Democratic candidates.

Many retired and current Fullerton School District and City Council members were outraged by the deceptive mailer. These community members quickly responded by writing a statement condemning the attack. Two of the signatories, Ellen Ballard and Minard Duncan, retired FSD Trustees, listed on the mailer as Wozab’s endorsers, did not provide permission to be included on the deceptive mailer, dropped their endorsements, and signed the statement. The statement reads: “The following former or current: Fullerton School District Trustees, Fullerton Joint Union High School District Trustees, and Fullerton City Council members, denounce the lies, misrepresentations, and vitriol in a recent campaign flier received by voters. This type of deceptive campaigning against Ruthi Hanchett for FSD School Board has no place in Fullerton. Our schools and community deserve better. Character matters.” Additional signers include Aaruni Thakur, FSD Trustee, FJUHSD Trustees Joanne Fawley, Dr. Chester Jeng, Dr. Vicki Calhoun, and Andy Montoya (ret.), Fullerton Council members Jesus Silva, Pam Keller, (ret.), Jan Flory (ret.) and Assembly member Sharon Quirk Silva.

Following the Money Behind Negative Hit Mailers

The Observer looked into some of the local groups using dirty campaign tactics after receiving numerous reader complaints about hit mailers attacking FSD 4th District candidate Ruthi Hanchett ; 3rd District Council candidate Dr. Shana Charles; and 5th District Council candidate Ahmad Zahra.  According to the required “paid for” line they were sent by Fullerton Taxpayers for Reform.

Fullerton Taxpayers for Reform, Major funding by Tony Bushala

According to its most recent filing (2022) the group is funded by a list of Bushala family members and two other contributors. All 2022-09-22 497 Fullerton Taxpayers for Reform Amendment

  • Tony Bushala $7,500
  • George Bushala Sr. $7,500
  • Dylan Bushala $7,500
  • George Bushala Jr. $7,500
  • Freydel Bushala $5,000
  • Al Bushala $1000
  • Chris Thompson $3,000
  • Apartment Association of OC PAC (AAOC PAC) $4,500

Additional contributions were made by some of the above donors directly in support of campaigns:

 

  • District 3 Council candidate Ybarra  (Late filing $22,965 as of 11/1/22 date filed)
    • Late Financial Disclosure Filing from District 3 council candidate John Ybarra (Campaign coach Chris Norby) 2022-08-22 - 2022-11-08 460 Ybarra PreElection
      Total raised: $22,965 as of 11/1/22
      Contribution to self $11,600 (9/14 & 9/28 & 10/13 & 11/1)
      George Bushala $1,700 (10/18)
      Susan Musashi $1,200 (9/22)
      Masciel Development $250 (10/13)
      Apartment Association of OC (AAOC) $2,000 (10/14)
      CREPAC $2,000 (10/25)
      SOCO Manor LLC  $1,000
      Damion Lloyd $1,000

Fullerton Taxpayers For Reform (and George and Tony Bushala separately) filed  disclosures on how some of the money was used on 11/2 – 11/4/2022 showing:

  • $2,038 was spent on hit mailers opposing District 3 council candidate Dr. Shana Charles;
  • $8,515 spent on robocalls and mailers opposing District 5 council candidate Ahmad Zahra;
  • $1,849 on postcards supporting District 5 council candidate Oscar Valadez.

The group failed to declare the amount it spent on negative mailers it sent only to Democrat voters against Fullerton School District 4th Area candidate Ruthi Hanchett or the cost of deceptive signs around District 5 attacking City Council candidate Ahmad Zahra.

Both Ruthi Hanchett and Shana Charles have kept their campaigns positive despite the dishonest attacks. In retaliation against Fullerton Taxpayers For Reform’s hit mailers and signage, Ahmad Zahra sent a hit mailer to District 5 voters attacking opponent Oscar Valadez stating that his contractor’s license was expired, and more, and stating that Valadez’s major supporter Bushala was fined for marijuana.

See Shana Charles’ interview  Click Here

See Ahmad Zahra’s interview  Click Here

See Oscar Valadez’s interview  Click Here

See John Ybara’s interview Click Here

See Ruthi Hanchett’s interview Click Here

See Lisa Wozab’s interview Click Here

Lincoln Club OC

The Lincoln Club OC is, according to its website, the largest conservative donor network in California. Directors include John Saunders (infamous Rancho La Paz Mobile Home Park owner), David Horowitz, and Jeff Barke and Mark Bucher (founders of OC Classical Academy Charter School),  and others. The Club takes credit for bringing to fruition the Hillsdale 1776 public charter school OC Classical Academy “through fundraising and activism.”

The group spent $1.1 million on independent expenditure hit mailers, slate mailers, and digital ads according to its latest 460 filing.

In Fullerton the club endorses Fullerton school district Area 4 High School District candidate Van Hook, Area 4 Elementary School candidate Wozab, and US Congressional District 45 candidate Michelle Steele.

Slate Mailers Rarely What They Seem

Misleading mailers are not a new phenomenon and have been increasing in frequency throughout Orange County in both school board races and municipal elections. Various candidate campaigns and PACs put out negative and deceptive mailers, signs, and digital ads each election year.  Unfortunately, claims made in political advertising do not have to be truthful and are instead protected as free speech under the First Amendment to the Constitution. A candidate’s only action against misleading and deceptive mailers is to sue in court  – often a lengthy, expensive process that rarely concludes before the election in question is over.

Look for the disclaimer in fine print somewhere on the piece indicating that candidates or initiatives with stars next to their names paid to be on the mailer and that the piece is not the official recommended slate of any party even though the title of the mailer would lead voters to believe otherwise such as  Democratic Voters Choice, California Republican Voter Guide, Latino Family Voter Guide, Budget Watchdog, Election Digest, Senior Advocate, California Voter Guide, Cops Voter Guide, Election Digest, California Public Safety Voter Guide,  Save. Prop 13, Women’s Voice, Tax Fighters Newsletter, and many more. These types of mailings are designed to give the false impression that the other candidates, usually well-known, are aligned with the candidates or measures paying for a spot – even when they are not.

(Independent Expenditure groups opposing or supporting candidates are not listed as contributions on a candidate’s financial disclosure and candidates may not have approved or be aware of negative or positive messaging on those ads, mailers or signs.)

Voters can fact-check political claims or follow the money at websites- such as FactCheck.org ,  Snopes.com ,  Influencewatch.org ,  OpenSecrets.org , cal-access.sos.ca.govwww.fec.gov,  CalMatters.org

To see Regional: Dirty Political Tactics 2022 Click Here

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19 replies »

  1. Why is the Bushala Family spending money on negative mailers and robs calls? Why are they spending money to support another candidate? What is there end game and what do they benefit from these actions? What kind of positive or preferential treatment is awarded for these efforts? No one does this kind of coordinated activities if it does not benefit them in some form or fashion. So, again why, because Oscar Valdez grew up on Truslow or is there more to all this. Just follow the money.

  2. Can the Observer fact check if Tony Bushala was fined for marijuana possession? That would be peak level irony.

  3. Thanks for your reporting here.

    It is most useful for Fullerton’s residents to know just how much a single family is spending on influencing elections in their city, and honestly ask themselves why? It’s weird.

    Then perhaps the Bushala family itself could look at its “business model.” Is it really worth it to dump so much money into the local politics here? Again _why_?

    • You seem to be drawing conclusions about what animates Tony Bushala. I know Zahra is whispering in your ear, but, really, don’t you think its time to find out what is really going on instead of being so judgmental and uninformed?

  4. Thanks for your reporting on this matter.

    Fullerton’s residents have a right to ask themselves if they want a local government purchased by one family.

    And the Bushala family itself could ask itself if its really in its interest to operate under a “business plan” that requires them to spend so much money on politics.

    There must be easier ways to make a living …

      • Come on. Being a priest must be hard work. Think of all that gibberish you have to peddle. Of course you get room and board. And if you get in trouble there’s that health farm in Canada. Of course there’s no annual report – except the collection plate tally, so I guess that’s pretty sweet.

  5. Thank you for digging into these patterns. These types of articles are really important and I’m glad that we have an independent paper to bring these dirty politics to light. I’ve never seen our community’s elected officials collectively write a statement against a candidate and denounce a dishonest mailer like they did for Hanchett, including people included on that very mailer! Our elected officials are right. Character matters. People are tired of this kind of thing and the Bushala family’s attempt to control our politicians. Wozab’s lack of integrity and ethics are clear, as are Janny Meyer’s. Sin verguenza! People aren’t going to forgive and forget this. We all know who can be bought in this town and who can’t be.

    • Linda, you are the head of the DNOC and obviously biased against the Bushalas because your side supports labor putting their scale, but when a citizen/business owner does, it is a bridge too far. I guess you forget Bushala is who led the charge against a corrupt police department when they murdered Kelly Thomas and put Fullerton in national headlines for killing a homeless person.

      • Excellent Observation. How come this rag never criticizes the union money being lobbed at Zahra and this Shana Charles woman by the cops and firefighter unions? When Kelly Thomas was murdered all the lefties in Fullerton hid behind drawn curtains.

        • The Observer did report on the money for both incumbent city council candidate 5th district, Ahmad Zahra and city council candidate 3rd district, Shana Charles. The Observer also reported on the Kelly Thomas case. The Observer is an all volunteer and community written newspaper. Observer volunteers each have their own political ideas from Republican to Democrat and all do their best to report just the facts. As always, thank you for reading the Fullerton Observer.

      • No, I am not head of the DNOC. I am simply a concerned and informed Fullertonian that does not want dirty and deceptive politics and a town bought by one family and their acolytes. Now that the election is over, and all of the Bushala-backed candidates are losers, it is clear that neither does our city.

  6. It is obvious the Observer has a negative opinion of Tony Bushala. By your own reporting Bushala has only spent less than $9,000 on anti-Zahra stuff. Zahra raised close to $80,000 from previous Observer reporting. That is barely 12%. The police and fire unions spent twice that on pro-Zahra campaign. Why do you fail to report that? Just curious.