By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
At the time of his arrest, the FBI identified Topalian as a suspected leader of the Justice Commandoes of the Armenian Genocide. Topalian denied he was a terrorist but agreed to plead guilty to storing the weapons, which prosecutors insisted were used in the Turkish Mission bombing.
When the federal charges were filed, Topalian resigned from his post at the ANC, a group described by its members as fully integrated into the political and philanthropic life of Los Angeles and other parts of the country. The ANC endorsed the candidacy of Los Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti — whose Hollywood district includes Little Armenia — as well as Quintero and Krekorian in various races. The head of the ANC’s Glendale office, Steve Dadaian, served on Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s transition team.
When the terror mailer hit, Quintero posted a letter on his Web site denouncing it. Garcetti, who had endorsed Quintero, said the Glendale councilman was “sick to his stomach” over its contents. And King, the Glendale-college trustee, insisted that Quintero would never have engaged in such self-destructive behavior. “People are really upset about this flier, but they shouldn’t be directing it at Frank Quintero, who is innocent,” King said. “This guy is a really good guy, and if someone like him can be smeared by this, any of us could get it.”
Krekorian responded in a different way. With 36 hours left before the polls opened, he persuaded a handful of elected officials to denounce the attack through a new round of automated phone calls across the 43rd Assembly District. In Silver Lake and Los Feliz, calls were made by Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg. In Glendale and Burbank, messages were left by state Senator Jack Scott. U.S. Representatives Brad Sherman and Loretta Sanchez also pitched in.
With the primary election behind him, Krekorian has made little progress in tracing the money that paid for the hit piece, finding instead a web of campaign committees and intersecting political relationships. “They do these things specifically to avoid accountability,” he said.
Fund-raising reports show that the California Latino Leadership Fund spent nearly $100,000 on behalf of state Senate candidate Lou Correa, who prevailed Tuesday in his race against Assemblyman Tom Umberg. Correa and Quintero relied on the same campaign consultant — Sacramento-based Phil Giarrizzo. A third legislative candidate backed by the Latino fund was Assembly candidate Renee Chavez of La Puente, whose political consultant was Leo Briones, Escutia’s husband. The Latino fund spent $42,630 on behalf of Chavez, a week after it paid Briones $99,398 to send mailers supporting Correa.
Furthermore, the California Latino Leadership Fund found other ways to fund Quintero’s Assembly bid. On May 10, it contributed $75,000 to the blandly titled Communities for Good Government. That group, in turn, spent $47,797 on Quintero’s behalf.
Communities for Good Government also spent $122,788 on the candidacy of Alhambra Councilman Dan Arguello, who ran for the state Assembly last week against Monterey Park Councilman Mike Eng. That group was also funded by a third committee, the Oakland-based Vote Matters, which has the same address and treasurer as the California Latino Leadership Fund.
Eng, like Krekorian, found himself the target of a last-minute mailer denounced as racially divisive. He had been seeking the West San Gabriel Valley legislative seat being vacated by his wife, Assemblywoman Judy Chu, who represents cities such as Monterey Park, Alhambra and San Gabriel — communities that are predominantly Asian and Latino.
Targeting Eng was a group identifying itself as the North-South-East Coalition to Reform Local Government, which warned that Chu had undermined the spirit of term limits by helping her husband. The mailer told voters that Chu’s seat “belongs to OUR COMMUNITY, the residents of the District.” In a much larger font, it added, “Mike Eng. He’s not like us.”
“It’s designed to alienate the Latino, Asian and Anglo communities from each other by saying we have nothing in common,” said Eng, who worked in the 1980s to defuse tensions between Asian immigrants and an angry Anglo old guard in Monterey Park.
While the anti-Eng group filed no contribution or spending reports with the secretary of state, the California Latino Leadership Fund regularly submitted fund-raising documents, which showed such contributions as $295,000 from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, $50,000 from the state’s real estate agents and $25,000 from Ameriquest, the mortgage lending company.
Chris Orlando, a spokesman for Ameriquest, refused to comment on his company’s contribution. Mark Giberson, spokesman for the California Real Estate Political Action Committee, referred all questions to Coto, the assemblyman who represents part of San Jose. “[Realtors] feel, and rightly so, that it’s the leadership of the fund that has to comment,” Giberson said.
Sacramento-based political consultant Sandra Polka, who received nearly $19,000 from the fund to craft the hit piece on Krekorian, did not return calls seeking comment. Another consultant involved with the fund also did not respond.
ASK QUINTERO THESE DAYS about the California Latino Leadership Fund, and he responds with another question: “You mean the group that completely fucked up my campaign and fucked me up with all my friends?” Quintero, after all, had to field the angry calls that came in after the anti-Krekorian mailer hit the voters. They came as a blow to a man who had taken pride in being called an ambassador to his city’s Armenian community.
“How are they going to be expecting that I had nothing to do with it? It’s unbelievable,” he said. “The campaign laws are nothing but crap. That’s the best way to describe it.”