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Community News Focus

Countywide : Disclosure Ordered on El Toro Airport Suit Funds

November 02, 1994|H.G. REZA

A Superior Court judge Tuesday ordered Lake Forest officials to disclose within 48 hours the amount of money the city spent on a lawsuit to remove Measure A--the so-called El Toro airport initiative--from Tuesday's ballot.

Judge Ronald L. Bauer issued the order at a hearing, where attorneys for the Yes on Measure A Committee argued that the money paid by the city to the law firm of Burke, Williams and Sorenson to pursue the city's lawsuit was in effect a campaign contribution intended to influence the election.

The city's lawsuit was rejected by a judge on Aug. 25. The Yes on Measure A Committee countersued in October, arguing that municipalities such as Lake Forest are required by the state Political Reform Act to file campaign disclosure statements to reveal expenditures made in opposition to ballot initiatives.

Lake Forest officials, who did not return phone calls Tuesday, had argued that the expenditures were legal fees rather than a political contribution intended to influence voters. In authorizing the lawsuit last summer, the City Council said the ballot measure is inconsistent with the county's General Plan. The initiative calls for a commercial airport at the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station when the base closes by 1999.

Meanwhile, both backers and opponents of Measure A began broadcasting political ads this week in a final attempt to sway Orange County voters before Election Day.

Taxpayers for Responsible Planning, a group formed to defeat the initiative, is airing radio ads announcing that "Measure A was drafted in secret with only one aim; to pick the pockets of Orange County taxpayers."

Airport opponents have made much of the fact that the initiative was the brainchild of a group of wealthy developers led by Newport Beach resident George L. Argyros. Argyros has spent nearly $634,000 in the past two weeks in support of the initiative.

Opponents contend it would cost taxpayers $4 billion to finance the construction of an airport at El Toro, even though other estimates put the cost at closer to $1 billion, which would be paid through the sale of bonds to private investors.

Airport supporters are using cable television to deliver their message in a 30-second ad that promises 52,000 new jobs if an airport is constructed and implores voters to "do the right thing" and vote for the initiative.

The proponents' ad says that an airport "won't cost taxpayers a thing," and that "investors, not taxpayers, pay for airports."

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