Anaheim mayor Harry Sidhu kicked off summer at Blush nightclub for a day of wine, appetizers and big campaign contributions. Less than a year into the job, Sidhu had some massive loans he gave himself from a previous run to attend to. Towards that end, a flyer for the June 21 fundraiser asked party goers to give up to $4,200 to retire debts from his failed State Assembly bid in 2016 if they hadn’t already maxed out $2,000 in contributions to his 2018 mayoral campaign.
Amelia Castro, a local resident who’s also a board member for the supposedly nonpolitical Anaheim First nonprofit supported by the mayor, helped handle reservations for the fundraiser at the new Anaheim GardenWalk club.
“I am a volunteer coordinator for the mayor at some of his political events,” writes Castro in response to the Weekly. “I am honored to be part of Anaheim First. I’m also happy to volunteer my time on his political activities, but the two are not related.”
Before Sidhu became mayor or Anaheim First ever existed, he finished third in the 68th Assembly District’s top-two primary, falling 154 votes shy of Democrat Sean Jay Panahi who had the honors of getting crushed by Republican Steven Choi in the general election. Ever since Sidhu had better fortunes in the Anaheim mayoral race, edging Democrat Ashleigh Aitken by less than 500 votes last year, paying off considerable loans he gave himself for his assembly bid suddenly became a top priority.
Secretary of State filings reveal that contributions for that race came to a screeching halt by September 2016. They remained comatose until December 2018, just a few days after Sidhu celebrated his mayoral victory with a party at his Anaheim Hills estate. That’s when money began curiously trickling in again. With campaign contributions having been recently reported through June, 43 donations since Dec. 19, 2018 from Sidhu’s supporters have totaled $103,000, just enough to top the $100,000 in loans he gave himself for the assembly race between 2013 and 2015.
By the time of Blush’s fundraiser, Sidhu already rallied to raise $100,000. Only two contributions appear after June 21. Well before Blush, it became quite clear that the mayor’s indebted to Anaheim’s deepest pockets for shoring up the financial fallout from his assembly race. Three days after Sidhu’s Christmastime victory party, two subsidy-lovin’ hotel corporations in the city contributed $1,000 apiece. Billionaire Henry Samueli, owner of the Anaheim Ducks, gave the $4,200 maximum as did his wife, Susan.
Fozia Malik, listed as a homemaker, donated $2,000 to the cause on March 27. She’s also the wife of Navaz Malik, the owner of a Shell station at an Anaheim Hills intersection who donated to Sidhu’s bid to become an Assemblyman when the primary race actually happened. Both are pictured in attendance of the mayor’s victory party. Months after Fozia’s contribution, Sidhu led the charge when a council majority sacked the development of a rival Arco station across the street in June, preserving the Malik monopoly on gas stations at the intersection along the way.
Other intriguing questions emerge from Sidhu’s political debt peonage. The mayor is newly positioned as a negotiator on behalf of the city in hoping to reach a new Angel Stadium lease by year’s end to keep major league baseball in Anaheim. Before that, Angels Baseball chairman Dennis Kuhl pledged $2,000 on March 29 to pay down Sidhu’s assembly race loans. Rich Knowland of Brooks Street, hired by the Angels to explore development options around the stadium, also contributed that same day, only giving the maximum.
Irvine-based Shopoff Realty Investments gave a maximum contribution in January. The real estate firm profiting off the gentrification around the Anaheim Packing District followed by answering the mayor’s call for donations to Anaheim Hills’ Fourth of July Celebration with a $10,000 contribution on May 30, behested payment records show.
So who’s Harry indebted to? Hoteliers, sports owners, developers and gentrifiers round out the utterly predictable field.
Don’t worry! The Resort Elite didn’t get left out of the party. Todd Ament, president and CEO of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, the group’s political action committee and Support Our Anaheim Resort all appear in the filings, too.
But Sidhu’s probably going to need more fundraisers in the future as the most recent campaign contribution forms show he’s only paid off $40,000 of $150,000 he loaned himself going into the 2022 reelection campaign for mayor. How hard up for cash is Harry? Two days before Blush, he appeared side-by-side with a former council colleague, one who occupied his current seat in the past but didn’t publicly endorse him in the mayor’s race last year.
None other than former Anaheim mayor Curt Pringle hosted a June 19 fundraiser for Sidhu. Even though Pringle’s influence waned in recent times through burnt political bridges, it sure is hard to keep an eternal Dark Lord down. Cue the Darth Sidious cackle!
Gabriel San Román is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and the tallest Mexican in OC. He also once stood falsely accused of writing articles on Turkish politics in exchange for free food from DönerG’s!