A slate mailer urging the reelection of Irvine Mayor Larry Agran, two of his City Council allies, and passage of a ballot measure allocating $110 million in state funds for the Great Park at El Toro, received $90,000 from a group that raised the money from companies with development interests in Irvine.
The city limits campaign contributions to candidates at $340 per donor. However, there are no limits on slate mailers that list four or more candidates or ballot measures.
The money from Orange County Voters for Good Government-Yes on 51 covered more than half of what the slate mailer, Hometown Voter Guide, spent in the election's final two weeks, according to year-end campaign reports filed last week.
Critics of slate mailers charge that they allow local candidates to circumvent limits on individual campaign contributions. Producers of slate mailers counter that the multicandidate brochures they mail to prospective voters are legal and allow individual campaign organizations to pool their resources.
Late last year, Orange County imposed restrictions on how slate mailers can be used on behalf of candidates. Under the new rules, candidates must pay for the mailer if more than one-quarter of the surface area is devoted to their race. The rules apply only to county races.
The Hometown Voter Guide mailers, produced by longtime Agran ally Ed Dornan, backed Agran and Councilwoman Beth Krom, as well as unsuccessful council candidate Mitch Goldstone. The candidates paid $20,000 each for promotional matter included in the mailers. A yes vote on Proposition 51 was urged in five lines on the brochure's back page.
Proposition 51 was a statewide measure that would have redirected $1 billion a year in state vehicle taxes to special projects, including $110 million for the Great Park at El Toro. The defeated measure was backed by Agran, who sits on the board of the group that wrote it.
A larger statewide group also backing Proposition 51 gave $25,000 to Hometown Voter Guide two months before the election.
Donations to the Orange County Proposition 51 group included $45,000 from the Irvine Co.; $50,000 each from Crow Winthrop Development and Colton Properties, both of Irvine; and $25,000 each from William Lyon Homes of Newport Beach, and from a limited partnership hoping to build homes in the Irvine Business Center.
A $25,000 contribution from R.J. Brandes of San Juan Capistrano, who owns an equestrian management and promotion company, was received on election day.
Both Hometown Voter Guide and the Orange County Proposition 51 group reported paying HTP & Associates in Los Angeles for consulting services. HTP, which isn't listed as a business in public records, received $30,000 from the local Proposition 51 group and $10,000 from Hometown Voter Guide.
The guide's treasurer, Renita Smith, shares an address and suite with HTP & Associates, according to the campaign report. Calls to Smith for comment weren't returned. A call to Hometown Voter Guide also wasn't returned.