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Schwarzenegger’s Campaign Finance Chair Also Consults for OC Fair Suitor

Voice of OC
NORBERTO SANTANA, JR.

Costa Mesa’s city consultant Becky Bailey-Findley isn’t the only person whose connections to dealmakers on the OC Fairgrounds is being questioned.

Now, conflict of interest allegations are going straight to the governor’s mansion and his campaign finance chairman, Gary Hunt.

Hunt, a former Irvine Co. official, is now a key player at the Orange County office of California Strategies — a firm that works on government relations across a host of issues and players.

One of California Strategies’ clients is Facilities Management West — the latest private sector suitor on the Fairgrounds purchase — for an undisclosed purpose connected in some way to the transaction.

At this week’s Costa Mesa City Council meeting, FMW spokesman Guy Lemon confirmed the relationship but declined to expand.

“He’s not a lobbyist,” Lemon said. “We have a contractual arrangement.”

Yet that arrangement is beginning to draw attention in political circles in Orange County as insiders continue to try to figure out Schwarzenegger’s fixation on selling the property.

This week, Orange County Democratic Party Chairman Frank Barbaro (who wrote the governor calling for a cancelation of the Fairgrounds sale) went on the record with his suspicions.

Hunt is a good guy, Barbaro said, and the two have known each other for years. But Hunt’s major role as a fundraiser for Schwarzenegger makes Barbaro openly question the FMW connection.

Barbaro said he didn’t see the Fairgrounds as straight payback for a mountain of campaign cash raised by Hunt. But, he said, it is “a nicely-wrapped thank-you present.”

Lemon said that kind of conclusion is “preposterous.”

“I didn’t even know Gary before the sale,” Lemon said.

Hunt and the governor’s press people declined to comment for this report.

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