Does An Influential Newport Coast Conservative Publisher Have A Deep Secret?

Illustration by Jeff Drew
Perched on Southern California's most breathtaking hillside real estate overlooking Pacific Coast Highway, 9 Pelicans Drive in Newport Coast appears to be the epitome of idyllic, worry-free living. The $21 million, three-story, Palladian-style house on 25,000 square feet contains five bedrooms, eight bathrooms, 400 feet of unobstructed sea views to Catalina Island, a grand staircase, two bars, a wine cellar, eight marble fireplaces, 14-foot ceilings, a gourmet kitchen, a swimming pool, fountains, a terrace, an elevator, $4.8 million worth of art and a movie theater. To lessen the burdens of occupying such a residence, the owner, Thomas Lee Phillips, employed a British-born butler and 14 other house servants, one of whom chauffeured him in a Rolls-Royce to swank restaurants, political events or his $14 million, oceanfront "beach house" 11 minutes away in the most exclusive section of Corona del Mar.

But the luxurious, gated-community setting is hardly scandal-free. In fact, life inside the mansion has produced enough intrigue to fill several seasons of television's raciest soap opera. The themes are sex, money, power, jarring hypocrisy and seemingly endless backstabbing plots that snared the local district attorney's chief of staff, as well as two model-handsome males, one a CBS Big Brother contestant and the other a Los Angeles rhythm-and-blues singer who appeared on Soul Train.

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Dana Rohrabacher's Scary Crisis: How Can I Buy Booze After Campaign Embezzlement?

Bill Hunt @ / OC Weekly
Rohrabacher: No, no, no! My campaign funds can't be missing. I need another couple of rounds of drinks, bartender!
Congressman Dana Rohrabacher--Orange County's senior, career politician--announced today that his longtime campaign treasurer allegedly stole more than $173,000 from his election coffers.

But Rohrabacher, a notorious cheapskate and slob known as the Loretta Sanchez of the California Republican Party, failed to mention who is likely most upset by the situation: the congressman's wife, Rhonda, who has in the past deposited about 50 percent of campaign contributions into the family's bank accounts by--cough, cough--acting as his campaign manager.

Nick Gerda at the Voice of OC broke the story and quoted Rohrabacher as claiming he's "disappointed and dismayed by this betrayal of trust" by Jack Wu, a surfing Newport Beach/Los Angeles tax accountant, past city council candidate and conservative political activist whose Twitter account description declares, "Kick ass for da Lord!"

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Scott Steiner, Judge Guilty of Sex Affairs in Court, Faces Re-Election Opponent

Schatzle seeks a black robe
The old, Orange County (semi) joke representing the lack of competition in our elections is that Congressman Dana Rohrabacher--hardly an impressive character--can easily remain in office for eternity unless he's caught submitting (again) to an underage male goat on the roof his Costa Mesa home.

We're about to test such a notion because Scott Steiner, a sitting Republican judge with fervent, historic police union financial backing, faces a challenger, Senior Deputy District Attorney Karen Schatzle.

Steiner, himself a former prosecutor elected as a judge in 2010, and Schatzle were longtime colleagues. Local prosecutors from the same office rarely fight each other for bench positions, but the contest for Superior Court Judge Office #2 is destined to be messy.

In 2014, the California Commission on Judicial Performance censured Steiner, who is married with young kids, for having sex in his chambers with Chapman University law school students; attempting to get one of the women a taxpayer-funded job with his former boss, DA Tony Rackauckas; and failing to recuse himself from a case involving an attorney who was one of his close friends.

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Latino Activists Set Their Sights Next on Garden Grove for District Elections Reform

Categories: Elections


Anaheim's going to the district elections drawing board. Fullerton's got two complaints for the reform involving a Latina city council candidate and Asian-American voters. What Orange County city is next on the Latino yacktivist hit list? The California League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and its SanTana Council began their push for district elections in Garden Grove late last month.

Now they are bringing in some legal muscle. No, not the American Civil Liberties Union, but the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). Cue the next cheesy slogan: Lock and load, Garden Grove!

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Mike Carona Still Isn't Serving as a Cautionary Tale for SoCal Law Enforcement

Illustration by Bill Hunt
Policing authority is an ego boost. Just ask Mike Carona. Around a year before the FBI arrested the Orange County sheriff for corruption in 2007, Carona showed up at a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department facility with a four- or five-SUV entourage. South Central-hardened LA deputies who observed the arrival assumed a Secret Service detail had accompanied then-Vice President Dick Cheney. But OC's top cop--a glad-handing politician and career bureaucrat who'd never made a single arrest in his life--jumped out of a government vehicle amid heavy guard, a scene that prompted laughter at the absurd grandiosity.

From pampered office-holder to convicted felon (circa 2009), Carona's fall is now the stuff of history. U.S. District Court Judge Andrew J. Guilford issued a term of 66 months in prison and, in one of the most noble and necessary stern sentencing lectures in county history, slammed the disgraced cop for thinking he was above the law. Lying officers weren't tolerated in his courtroom, Guilford told a man who clearly didn't think he would serve a minute in prison. Following his conviction and on the way to the penitentiary, Carona earned a second identity: Inmate 45335-112.

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Slippery Loretta Sanchez Darts By TV News Crew After Making Native American Gaffe

Run, Loretta, Run!
Less than 48 hours into her U.S. Senate campaign, Loretta Sanchez made two, unforced gaffes and topped off the embarrassments by providing what could be the most inadvertently hilarious footage in the Democratic Party primary to replace retiring Barbara Boxer.

Sanchez first tried to tell a story to a gathering of native Americans at the state party's convention in Anaheim this weekend. The 19-year congresswoman tapped her hand on her mouth and said, "Woo! Woo! Woo! Woo!"--the stereotypical battle cry of attacking Indian warriors. Her lame punchline served to distinguish American Indians and individuals from India.

A native American in the crowd wasn't amused and gave reporters his cell phone video of what he viewed as Sanchez's offensive remarks.

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Recall Threat Gets Judge Kelly's Irish Up!

The Daily Journal (used with permission)
Don't hate on Judge M. Marc Kelly because he's Irish.
Orange County Superior Court Judge M. Marc Kelly has responded publicly for the first time to the recall campaign being mounted against him for what has been perceived to be a light sentence given to the 20-year-old rapist of a child--with Hizzoner managing to even work in his beloved Notre Dame Fighting Irish into his plea to voters.

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Huntington Beach Activist's Voter Initiative Would End Alimony in California

Photo by flickr user Dr. John C. Bullas
Let him eat cake.
A Huntington Beach software consultant has received permission from California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to collect signatures for a voter initiative aimed at ending alimony.

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Irvine Seeks Contempt Charge Against Ex-Mayor For Evading Great Park Questions

OC Weekly photo
Agran: He wants the right to remain silent about how he wasted Great Park project money
The City of Irvine has filed a lawsuit asking a judge to issue a contempt order against former mayor Larry Agran for refusing to answer questions under oath about financial benefits he may have received from Orange County Great Park contractors when he controlled the $1.6 billion project.

Anthony R. Taylor, the city's special counsel, filed the superior court case this week in hopes of forcing Agran, a 1992 Democratic Party presidential primary candidate, to field questions he adamantly refused to answer during a March deposition.

Failure to obey a court order could result in jail time.

Agran--a lawyer and longtime boss of a political machine that ran Irvine and its proposed Great Park project for 12 years until 2012--has had troubled explaining how he spent $250 million in taxpayer funds without building a single, major planned feature.

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San Diego Politician Seeks To Undermine OC Great Park Audit

In Legally Blonde 2, Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) works to pass anti-animal testing legislation. But her sly boss, a congresswoman (Sally Fields), secretly sabotages the effort on behalf of a money-hungry campaign contributor. Though naïve and ditsy, Woods uses her charm to turn once contemptuous politicians into admirers, wins a new law and everybody, including her Chihuahua Bruiser, lives happily ever after.

It's a feel good Hollywood tale that doesn't quite mirror reality, at least in Sacramento. On April 22, Assemblywoman Lorena S. Gonzalez tried to play the role of an Elle Woods-type do-gooder by advocating that the state auditor open an investigation into the City of Irvine. Her issue? In a rambling, semi-coherent statement, Gonzalez said the legislature has "a responsibility" to determine if the audit of Orange County Great Park spending was performed "for political reasons."

The reason for the audit is obvious. Flabbergasted Irvine residents wanted to know how city officials spent about $250 million in park funds without building a single, major, promised feature of the proposed project. And the answer is most definitely political, but not the way Gonzalez is spinning the issue.

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