James Irvine Foundation Spending Millions on Progressive Political Activism in Orange County

One doesn’t ordinarily think of charitable foundations as political players, but the reality is ostensibly non-partisan not-for-profits spend enormous sums funding progressive organizations and their political agendas.

For example, the James Irvine Foundation – which has nothing to do with The Irvine Company other name a common namesake – spends tens of millions of dollars funding “civic engagement” and “democracy” projects with the goal of effecting who gets elected to local governments. Anaheim was the target of a highly-organized, multi-year project to replace at-large council elections with a by-district system in an effort to end decades of Republican control of the city council.

Spearheading the political ground game there was Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development (OCCORD), the non-profit, community organizing arm of the militant UNITE-HERE hotel workers union. From 2012 to 2013 – when the district elections project commenced – OCCORD‘s annual revenues jumped from $368,000 to $1.3 million. $450,000 of that came from the James Irvine Foundation “to promote district-based elections in Anaheim and establish a local civic engagement model for voting rights advocacy across California.”

Since 2014, OCCORD’s annual budgets have hovered just below $800,000. The James Irvine Foundation gave OCCORD another $350,000 in 2015 to “increase nonpartisan voter and civic engagement opportunities in the context of new district elections in Anaheim.” [Given the nearly two-year lag time between when these contributions are made and when they’re disclosed, we don’t know the level of Irvine Foundation political spending in 2016].

That’s $800,000 over three years to fund build progressive political infrastructure in a single Orange County city. To give this some perspective, the Republican Party of Orange County recently approved a $1.2 million campaign plan for the next 18 months that encompasses the entire county.

The “civic engagement” in question has been non-partisan in name only: OCCORD has worked hand-in-glove with the Democrats and their special interests in Anaheim.

In October 2016, the James Irvine Foundation cut a check for $300,000 to the Orange County Labor Federation to “support increased civic engagement and economic self-sufficiency for low-wage workers and communities of color in Orange County” – i.e. funding voter turnout efforts in support of Democratic candidates endorsed by the OC affiliate of the AFL-CIO.  The OCLF is run by leftist Democrat Julio Perez, who earlier this month at a Welcoming Anaheim immigration task force meeting called opponents of sanctuary cities “evil.”

During the last three years, the James Irvine Foundation has also contributed $900,000 to the Korean Resource Center, another progressive political advocacy group that has been active in pushing by-district elections in north OC cities such as Fullerton and Buena Park. The KRC’s Orange County director, Jonathan Paik, was one of the plaintiffs who sued Fullerton under the California Voting Rights Act to force adoption of by-district elections. The KRC advocates for immediate citizenship for illegal immigrants, leading the push for the Fullerton School District’s recent adoption of a “sanctuary district” policy and helping organize the recent “Caravan of Fear” campaign of attempted occupations of GOP Congressional offices in Orange County.

Another radical beneficiary of James Irvine Foundation largess is the Orange County Congregation Community Organization (OCCCO). The Irvine Foundation has given $500,000 to OCCCO in the last three years for “voter and civic participation among underrepresented communities” – progressive-speak for registering and turning out Democratic voters. OCCCO advocates for an end to deportation of illegal immigrants, contributed thousands of dollars to Measure L (the 2014 ballot district elections measure in Anaheim), and was heavily involved in the campaigns to pass Propositions 47 and 57, which are putting thousands of criminals back on the streets.

The Irvine Foundation routed money bound for Orange County political causes through the San Francisco-based Tides Center, donating $500,000 to the leftist advocacy group in 2015 to “increase voter and civic participation among Orange County’s underrepresented Latino, Asian Pacific Islander, and low-income communities.” Tides funds radical groups and causes ranging from the Occupy movement to the Marxist-inspired Zinn Education Project. In 2014, it contributed $20,000 to the Yes on Measure L and M campaign – the Anaheim ballot measures that imposed by-district council elections and expanded the city council from four to six members.

That’s $3,000,000 from the James Irvine Foundation alone to fund progressive political infrastructure in Orange County for the past few years. These examples are the tip of the iceberg of what is happening in Orange County, and a local example of a larger phenomenon of charitable non-profits founded by long-dead capitalists morphing into progressive underwriters of a political movement intent on undermining the free enterprise system whence their wealth and resources derived.

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