Slingshot: Kamala Harris is No Friend to Justice in OC
It came as little surprise last week when Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden picked California U.S. Senator Kamala Harris as his vice-presidential running mate. Many Orange County Democrats welcomed the news with great enthusiasm, flooding social media feeds with photos they've taken with Harris at various liberal functions. She's the first Black woman on a major party ticket, after all.
But the announcement should've been met in OC with a collective fit of fury, or at least pangs of melancholy. Why? Harris, during her time as Attorney General of California, miserably failed residents during the throes of the OC snitch scandal.
In the late OC Weekly, R. Scott Moxley chronicled how local sheriff's deputies trampled all over the Constitution by using jailhouse informants to cheat inmates out of a fair trial. Deputies also committed perjury on the stand in covering their tracks. Former Orange County district attorney Tony Rackauckas' team of prosecutors looked the other way while securing trial victories in numerous tainted cases.
Assistant public defender Scott Sanders unraveled the scandal in a big way when he represented Scott Dekraai, the mass murderer behind the Seal Beach salon massacre. Despite an assured conviction, deputies and the OCDA cheated anyway. Former OC Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals booted T-Rack and his crew from the case at the time. Harris' office arrived in its place, but immediately sought to hand the prosecution back to the OCDA, claiming the Sheriff's deputies alone accounted for the misconduct.
And then came a lengthy sham of probe into OC Sheriff Sandra Hutchens' office in 2015 that ended with a whimper and no accountability for dirty deputies. By that time, Harris had already bested congresswoman Loretta Sanchez to become California's junior senator. She suggested voters had the final say in the OC snitch scandal rather than summoning her prosecutor powers--ask the protesters outside new district attorney Todd Spitzer's office how that's going!
But Harris' abrogation of OC justice seekers stretches further back than the OC snitch scandal. Let's turn to Anaheim next.
The city reeled in the wake of back-to-back fatal police shootings in July 2012 that exploded into days of rioting. The Latino community had little faith in the OCDA; Rackauckas proved a do-nothing DA where it concerned police brutality. With that, Presente.org helped with a community-led petition effort addressed to Harris that quickly gathered more than 17,000 digital signatures from residents and supporters alike. The petition landed at Harris' office in Los Angeles soon after.
Its demands were simple: investigate both the Anaheim Police Department's attack on Anna Drive residents following the officer-involved shooting of Manuel Diaz and its overall rising trend of such deadly incidents.
Tom Tait, Anaheim's mayor at the time, reached out to Harris on his own and asked for an outside investigation into the Diaz killing; the 25-year-old man had been unarmed when shot. She pledged no immediate intervention. Later that summer, a spokeswoman stated that the AG's office would review the OCDA report and determine if any action would be warranted.
When Rackauckas predictably declined to press charges against Anaheim officer Nick Bennallack for the Diaz shooting, I followed up with Harris' office on that point. The spokeswoman offered a curt, dismissive response, one I'll never forget.
"The office has no comment on this matter."
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Your Mouse Muckraker / Photo by Federico Medina
That Disney casts a mouse-eared shadow over Anaheim city hall is no political revelation. But with a pandemic rewriting the norms of just about everything we thought we knew, will the Mouse House flex its might once more in local council elections less than 80 days away?
It's an intriguing question, especially as the Disneyland Resort remains all but shuttered, save for most of Downtown Disney. New campaign documents filed last month are one place to look for answers.
Disney has faithfully funneled heavy contributions through the Support Our Anaheim Resort political action committee in recent election cycles. But SOAR PAC's most recent filing show no new mouse tracks from the beginning of the year through June. In fact, everything chokes off after March 16 when the pandemic upended everyday life with wide-ranging shutdowns, including locking up Disneyland's gates.
Compare that to the same time frame during the 2018 election cycle when the Mouse House shoveled $425,000 into SOAR PAC's war chest.
It might appear as if Disney has other pressing matters, especially with a $5 billion loss in theme park revenues to contend with due to the pandemic. Even still, the company remains in solid shape heading into the November elections. Why? After securing a 5-2 super-majority on Anaheim city council in 2018, it replenished SOAR PAC with mouse money the following year. By November, the Mouse House deposited a whopping $1.5 million into its coffers.
Like Suga Free says, "If you stay ready, you ain't gotta get ready."
Much of that cash remains on hand as SOAR PAC heads into the heat of election season. As campaigns gear up, it will be interesting to see how they pan out amid a pandemic. Expensive mailers may play a bigger role as grassroots candidates are hamstrung by the challenge social distancing poses to traditional door-to-door canvassing.
Disney may not even feel compelled to shell out more money prior to the vote. A fuller analysis of the Anaheim city council races is forthcoming, but for now, simple arithmetic may suffice in arriving to such a conclusion.
Three council seats are up for grabs; Disney needs to win only one to secure its council majority.
On July 7, Fox 11 news reporter Hailey Winslow filed a segment on the Klan controversy surrounding the renaming of Fanning Academy of Science and Techology in Brea. William E. Fanning's grandson appeared, offering the same apologia on behalf of his deceased relative, an early education pioneer in Brea. Winslow uncritically reported Fanning's appearance on a Klan membership list housed at Anaheim Heritage Center as a matter of supposed uncertainty.
But that's not even my biggest gripe with the segment.
When it aired, I immediately recognized a trio of photos that ran during the report as having been lifted from my February 2019 cover story, "A RecKKKoning in Brea." Fox 11 published them without permission or attribution. I followed up with the channel's news director, documenting the facts while asking a reasonable fee for my work. Instead, the station's attorney recently made it clear no such compensation would occur.
Interestingly enough, I searched for the Fanning segment online last week and--poof--it vanished in a "404" plume of internet smoke! They'd rather take the whole story down than pay me for my work.
But like Chauncy in Menace II Society, I got the tape!