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$245,000 spent on Irvine school-cash ballot measure
By THOMAS MARTINEZ



IRVINE – The political committee that drove the $12 million Irvine Support Our Schools Initiative to victory in the Nov. 6 election received $135,000 in cash donations and spent about $245,000, campaign finance disclosures show.

More than half of the donations came in the month of October, and much of the funding for S.O.S. came from organizations, businesses or people not specific to Irvine.

The $110,000 in debt includes $97,500 in loans from City Councilman Larry Agran and his wife, Phyllis.

Larry Agran spearheaded the initiative, which gives $4 million annually in city cash to local public school districts for the next three academic years.

Major donations to the initiative committee included:

$49,500 on Oct. 24 from Friends of the Great Park Education Committee, an entity managed by Sacramento law firm Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk LLP. The firm declined to reveal any donors or players behind this committee, saying it does not discuss its clients, but did say the group supports education-related causes "at the state and local level" and policies to further develop the Orange County Great Park in Irvine. A filing with the Orange County registrar of voters lists a Ken McGuire of Irvine as a principal officer, but officials could not find any of the mandated campaign disclosures for donations received by Friends of the Great Park Education Committee.

$40,000 from Orange County Victory Fund, a political committee that supports Democratic Party candidates and causes. It donated half of that amount in mid-October. Donations to Orange County Victory Fund this election cycle include $65,500 from Disney Worldwide Services Inc. in Buena Vista and $10,000 from Los Angeles civil engineering firm Cordoba Corp., according to the state's campaign finance database.

$30,000 from Michael D. Ray, co-owner of commercial real estate developer Sanderson J. Ray Corp. in Irvine. The Laguna Beach resident gave two-thirds of that total on Oct. 15. Ray does not comment on his political contributions. His brother and Sanderson co-owner "Walkie" Ray is a director for the Great Park.

$20,000 on Oct. 2 from Starpointe Ventures, a local real estate development and consulting firm. Starpointe is a registered lobbyist with several clients in and out of Irvine. Those clients include Heritage Fields El Toro LLC, which owns and is developing the private portions of the former El Toro Marine Corps air base in Irvine. Starpointe principal associates Timothy and Patrick Strader also gave at least $16,000 to Orange County Victory Fund this cycle.

$10,000 on Oct. 22 from the Democratic Party of Orange County, whose major contributors include Orange County Labor Federation AFL-CIO, Disney Worldwide Services Inc. and Allergan USA Inc.

$10,000 from Gafcon Inc., a San Diego construction consulting firm. The company was among the highest-paid contractors on Irvine's Great Park, receiving at least $8 million in work before being cut off in March. Half of the firm's total was donated Oct. 1.

$10,000 from SharePoint 360, a San Diego-based international "software solutions" company. The company has done minor work for Irvine's Great Park. Half of its total was donated Oct. 16.

$5,000 from Irvine Police Association, a local public-employee labor union.

$5,000 from United Food and Commercial Workers Local 324, a private-sector labor union.

$5,000 from Orange County Employees Association, a public-employee labor union.

The Agrans have not been repaid for their $97,500 in loans as of Nov. 26, but the committee is still raising funds, spokeswoman Melahat Rafiei said.

Agran said he and his wife hope to recoup at least half of that amount. They had planned to contribute between $5,000 and $50,000 to the cause, but the final push required that additional funding, he said.

The couple's loans included a $43,100 infusion on Oct. 17, disclosures show.

Even if they don't recoup half of the loans, Agran said he has no regrets because he believes in the cause.

"It was worth it," he said. "We are very committed to the welfare of children."

Irvine voters approved the S.O.S. initiative – Measure BB on the local ballot – 70 percent to 30 percent. The funding would have been more crucial if state Proposition 30 would have failed.

The measure increases the amount the city gives annually to fund local schools from $1.5 million to $4 million per academic year starting in 2013-14. Some of that funding is in the form of matching grants which will definitely be raised, so the effective funding is more like $16.5 million, Agran said.

Most of the money will go to Irvine Unified School District, but some will go to Tustin Unified and Santa Ana Unified in proportion to the Irvine students they serve. It will help keep class sizes down, provide assistants for large classes and help pay for custodial and nurse staffing.

The S.O.S. initiative did not raise taxes or fees. The funds will come from Irvine's city budget, which has enough revenue to cover it.

Information: sosirvine.com






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