Another Vicious Smear Campaign Against an Armenian Candidate

Negative campaign literature making the rounds in the 43rd Assembly race (Graphic by KPCC)
Negative campaign literature making the rounds in the 43rd Assembly race (Graphic by KPCC)

Negative campaign literature making the rounds in the 43rd Assembly race (Graphic by KPCC)

BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN

There is no easy or pleasant way to present the information in this article. The reader’s patience through the buildup is very important. The conclusion is essential to the self-respect of Armenian communities.

It seems as though every time an Armenian in the Los Angeles area gets “uppity” enough to “dare” run for a public office higher than at the local level, a barrage of negativity comes his or her way. This phenomenon is on painfully obvious display in the campaign leading up to California’s Primary Election in the 43rd State Assembly District (AD), the same district where this nastiness germinated in the 2000 Primary Election.

Back then the rules had changed and were similar to the current free-for-all where any voter affiliated with any party could vote for any candidate from any party. Two Armenians ran, one each from the two major parties, splitting the community’s vote and resources, leading to both losing in their respective party’s primary election. This taught a lesson to a certain political faction in the area which had its preferred candidate ultimately get elected.

In 2006, the next time term limits created the opportunity for new people to meaningfully vie for the 43rd AD seat, Paul Krekorian ran again (he had run in 2000, too). The smears hit. At the very last minute, in the form of an “independent expenditure” not only the candidate, but the whole Armenian community were portrayed as “terrorists” by unscrupulous campaigners. This time, it backfired. People were so disgusted that turnout dropped, and a strong showing by the Armenian community propelled Krekorian to a win.

But in 2010, when the seat opened up again, the same political faction in the district, learning from 2000, was able to secure the entry of a second, unelectable, Armenian into the Special Election that was held. With the split that caused in the Armenian community’s vote, a highly qualified Armenian woman was knocked out of the running.

Six more years passed, and today, those same forces have made common cause with a statewide player which is spending massive amounts of money to defeat the Armenian candidate, Ardy Kassakhian. What makes this even more interesting is that this same group, the Parent Teacher Alliance, funded by the California Charter Schools Association Advocates Independent Expenditure Committee (CCSA for short) also went after an Armenian candidate in 2012. They lost, and Adrin Nazarian is now serving in the Assembly.

The attacks on Kassakhian, ostensibly conducted “independently” of his main Democratic opponent, Laura Friedman, are ugly. It’s intriguing that two of these mailers contain a posed picture of Friedman and her family. How did they get that picture? They are also extremely misleading. Worst of all, based on one voter’s experience, someone might think that Friedman has no campaign of her own going. All the mailers received supporting her or attacking Kassakhian are paid for by CCSA. What’s going on? And at this point, CCSA has spent $1.2 million on this one Assembly race, out of a statewide total of $3 million it has spent (80 Assembly seats and 20 State Senate seats). That sum exceeds what any of the candidates has spent! Why is this one seat worth so much to the CCSA? Doesn’t it make you wonder what they’ve been promised by Friedman, the candidate they’re supporting?

Then there is the substantive misrepresentation in the mailers. Kassakhian is subtly accused of being anti-woman, based on the fact that because of existing laws and rules (out of his hands) he had to initially disqualify Nayiri Nahabedian when she last ran for reelection to Glendale’s school board. A court overturned that decision which pleased everyone, including Kassakhian. Nahabedian actually ENDORSES Kassakhian. She has spoken out against these mailers. Yet she’s being abused and misrepresented by an outfit (CCSA) which is pretending to stand up for women (see below) and whose very purpose is inimical to public schools.

But it goes even deeper. The CCSA’s founding CEO/President, Caprice Young, served, until recently, on the Los Angeles Unified School District Board. While there, she helped shield a Magnolia Public Schools (a Gulen front charter school operator) from proper scrutiny. Gulen is the Turkish religious leader whose “organization” has worldwide tentacles in the form of schools to spread their influence AND make money from unsuspecting host countries. Many of the Gulen-connected schools in the U.S. are now under investigation for potential financial improprieties. They seem to be very good at funneling money to their cult and those they support. There has been earlier documentation of Gulen money making it into CCSA’s coffers.

And, lest anyone think that this is all an exaggeration, merely the result of heated campaigning, consider the result of one voter’s efforts. He took the time to write to CCSA about their mailers and explained the facts involved in the Nahabedian situation described above. CCSA responded, but simply repeated their falsely-lofty goal of supporting women running for office (as if this has anything to do with charter schools). CCSA is standing by its Soviet-style disinformation campaign!

So we have a candidate – Friedman, an organization – CCSA, and murky political groups/connections with track records of attacking Armenian candidates (Nahabedian, Nazarian, Kassakhian) and spending obscene sums of money to do it. Friedman and her circle want to maintain their influence in Sacramento at all costs. CCSA wants to expand its influence in Sacramento so its supporters can keep getting rich off the public’s money. They do not care if achieving their aims means once again stomping all over the Armenian community’s dignity or hurting the educational opportunities of the children who depend on public schools for the education they need to succeed in life. CCSA and Friedman are also playing the gender card. Yet Friedman’s political circle had no qualms about deviously knocking out Nahabedian, a woman who was running for the very same office. These people represent the worst practices in electoral politics.

On the education front, Kassakhian has been endorsed by California Federation of Teacher, California Teachers Association, California School Employees Association and host of school board members from Los Angeles, Glendale, Burbank, as well as prominent educators in the city and state.

From the political end, Kassakhian is endorsed by among a long list, representatives Brad Sherman and Eliot Engel, California Senate Pro Tem Kevin De Leon, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, LA City Councilman Paul Krekorian and LA City Councilwoman Nury Martinez.

If you don’t care about the dignity of the biggest, densest, Armenian community in the U.S., the one housed in California’s 43rd Assembly District and its political representation, then stop reading right now. If you DO care, then you must:

1- Vote on June 7 in the California state primary for Ardy Kassakhian, or make sure your mail-in ballot is received by that date (obviously, if you live in the district);
2- Get all your co-workers, family, friends, and neighbors to do the same (you don’t have to live in the district to do this);
3- Publicly denounce CCSA for its vile tactics and VERY publically demand that Friedman disown and apologize for the millions spent in her name against the Armenian community and its home-grown candidate.

That’s how we can help make sure that all this backfires the most qualified and decent candidate, Ardy Kassakhian, wins!

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15 Comments

  1. Peter M. said:

    I have been covering all aspects of this story for nearly a decade. Whether you stand with the smear merchants or the other side, Khachatourian has spelled-it-out accurately and with no exaggeration or slant. It is good journalism about some very bad actors.

  2. Caprice Young said:

    Because I am personally singled out in this article, I feel the need to set the record straight. First of all, I DO NOT APPROVE OF OR SUPPORT CCSA’s negative campaign tactics in this or any other race. I served on the LAUSD school board from 1999 though 2003 and celebrated the success of the Armenian students throughout the district in both public and private schools, attended the annual Homenetmen Navarsartian Games and Festival, and mourned the Armenian Genocide. As CCSA president, I helped pave the way for charter schools, like Valor Academy, to open as public schools where the Armenian culture and history is respected by and communicated to its students more deeply than the California academic standards require. Now, I am honored to lead the Magnolia Public Schools which elevates students and faculty of every culture and encourages leadership from people of both Turkish and Armenian heritage. Currently we are undergoing viscous attacks directly from the President of the Republic of Turkey, Tayyip Erdogan, who President Obama has rightly criticized for attacking human rights and democratic institutions in Turkey. Like this author, he wrongly believes that Magnolia is affiliated with Gulen. With the support os Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian in 2014-15, the California State Auditor thoroughly audited Magnolia schools and found no wrongdoing or affiliation with Gulen, or any other religious or political entities. I am proud that Ardrin Nazarian is my legislator and welcome his role as critical friend of high quality charter public schools that serve all students. Moreover, I have not become involved in the 43rd assembly race in any way and encourage the voters of that district to meet the candidates and support whomever they believe will best represent their concerns. Once again, I would like to publicly stress that I in no way approve of or condone the fallacious, negative attacks made by the California Charter Schools Advocates.

    Sincerely, Caprice Young

    • Lusine Hagopyan said:

      Dear Caprice Young;
      I find it interesting you would try to peddle your nonsense here on an Armenian publication, what we or anyone in the Armenian community or media think of you should be of no concern or business of yours. First of all let me set the record straight your political correct smooth dribble do not support the facts. You either believe 1) Armenians to be stupid 2) You are stupid 3) Or it’s another one of your dam intimidation tactics, I guess we should be amused you didn’t try your usual cease and desist warnings with Attorney Daniel Woods, who you must have on speed dial these days.
      A. Yes you were on the LAUSD school board and while President in 2001 YOU approved the 1st Magnolia Application (Reseda) that was under their Gulen mantra of “dialogue” (Dialogue Foundation). The Gulenists have since change the name many times to its current Magnolia Education and Research Foundaton (MERF) You approved a school that had 8 applicants, all were Turkish but 1, all were male but 1. The Turkish applicants had been in the USA less than 3 years following their Hocaefendi Gulen who fled Turkey in 1998. Additionally, they had NO EDUCATIONAL experience in the USA. Four are back in Turkey, 2 remain in California, one is your Board President, Gulen mouthpiece Remzi Oten who is also president of CATA (California Turkish Chamber of Commerce) who are very much in partners with Pacifica Institute who you have given talks to and both are tied very heavily with Azerbaijani lobbying and advancing Azerbaijani interest in the USA as well as denying of the Armenian Genocide. They had a feeble attempt in 2013 via Senator Huff who tried to engage the state of California, members of Assembly and various commerce departments at the State of California. Pacifica Institute is the web that these dirty spiders weave to attract local state and federal members of legislature into free trips to Turkey, Azerbaijan, and fake awards. Not to mention thousands they pay into the pockets of these people via bribes and campaign contributions. Since you are following Turkish politics at a novice level, you might want to check Houston Chronicle, New York Times or the USA today, all of which have written extensively on your loser groups connections. Whether it be Magnolia Science Academy, Horizon Science Academy, Sonoran Science Academy, Harmony Science Academy et al they are the same structures.
      B. You mention “Valor Academy” which is NOT an Armenian charter schools but rather started by a very educated Syrian Armenian who is 100% dedicated to his non-Armenian student body. Why you would mention this without mentioning you were instrumental in rubber stamping 33 charters school applications during your tenure at LAUSD without so much as vetting their background or having any sort of understanding that Turkey is below standard in education is mind blowing. Yes, Caprice Young those Gulenists may have you snow jobbed they have the best education in the world, yet according to OECD rankings and other measures they perform just slightly above Chile and Mexico and remain at 20% illiteracy rate. You mention Adrin Nazarian (note your incorrect spelling of his name) as some sort of buddy of yours when he was in fact the person who ordered the audit on your schools. Although you claim the audit “cleared” Magnolia that is not truthful claim. The conclusion was that while Magnolia had very loose financial controls and spending (like drunk Turkish sailors) the state couldn’t identify 69% of the expenditures. You went from insolvency of $1.2 million in debt to low and behold having $9 million in your checking account that your CCSA Charter school lawyer thugs at Young, Minney & Corr(upt) talked LAUSD into giving you another chance with corrective measures in place. The audit is here, so I advise readers to make their own conclusions- especially the trips US tax payers paid for to Turkey and Italy. Not to mention the shameless $209K spend on H1-b Visas for unlicensed and un-credentialed teachers, 6 of which that didn’t even work for Magnolia and you THINK this is acceptable? http://www.slideshare.net/GulenCemaat/audit-of-gulen-operated-magnolia-science-academy
      C. You vilify President Erdogan as if he is solely to blame for this investigation, that Erdogan is the bad guy. News Flash, there are no good guys in this sad story, the Gulenists are who put AKP and Erdogan into power. They were chummy buddies up until 2013, when the Gulenists (Hizmet or Cemaat) were controlling the soft power in Turkey: Media, police, judiciary system, education, banks and more. Do NOT try to educate us Armenians on Turkish politics, we know what is happening, many of us are “friendly” with your boys and have family in Turkey. BTW the Gulenists are also directly guilty of the death of our beloved Turkish Armenian writer Hrant Dink. They also jailed Nobel Prize Winner Orphan Pamuk and many hundreds of journalists, many who were friends of Dinks like Ahmet Sik, and Nadem Sener. So that defense of blaming Erdogan isn’t working, the Gulen Movement who you are defending is responsible for many acts of terrorism and do train militants at their schools in Central Asia and Pakistan (who just announce they are shuttering the Gulen schools). In 15 years, the Gulenists were able to waltz into the USA abusing our h1-b Visa system with 5,000 workers to open over 150 schools, 200 Cultural centers (to bait in politicians, etc.,) get 20 schools raided by the FBI, FCC, DOE which are connected to your Apex Educational Services and you want us to believe because they are some sort of blooming geniuses? No Caprice there is a bigger picture here and I personal thank Turkey for completing the investigation that my own country has stalled on, been understaffed, politicians paid off. You see Caprice we Armenians are ahead of you on this, we have traced back as far as 2008 campaigns that viciously attacked either Armenian candidates or those that support Public Education (Ardy happens to be both) All those campaign contributions tie to Turkish individuals and to Charter schools or the vendors that they operate which service the schools.
      D. There is so much I could share with you, but you should be ashamed saying you are proud to lead a group of schools that is 100% attached to the movement. They and you have recently been denied 8 new charter applications in 5 different districts because you have nothing to offer any community that we don’t already do. No one wants you, especially when they see lies on your applications you have a reputation for trying to silence those that speak out against your “brand” of education or mentioning the obvious ties to the Gulen Movement criminal crime organization. One was a very beloved and respected Superintendent who was recently awarded a leader in education at a huge ceremony in Washington DC. Here are just a few of the Magnolia links to Gulen, even Ray Charles could have seen it. Yilmaz Ak (formerly taught at Gulen school in Nevada – Coral Academy of Science) who is now your Northern California Regional Director. Umit (Matt) Yapanel (former principal of Gulen operation in Colorado – Lotus School of Excellence ) who was the interim CEO after the quick exit of the former CEO of Magnolia –(Before Caprice) Mehmet Argin who was the principal of “Gulen Inspired” Sonoran Science Academy. Mehmet is now back in Turkey, teaching at one of the few remaining Gulen Universities that will more than likely be shuttered as the other 90% have. While they are a few of the many connections your schools have to Gulen, your administrators (top heavy for a low student body of 3,600) are 40% Gulen Turkish, 9 out of 22 are Gulenists. Your non elected board of which Gulen mouthpiece Remzi Oten is president of, consists of majority Turkish Gulenists and 2 token non Turks. I will end with, you are correct on one thing CCSA is despicable but no one should forget you are the founding CEO of CCSA. Caprice Young and CCSA employ the same nasty politicizing and manipulations as the Gulenists, you both grossly spell words incorrectly and profess to be about education. You want to keep living a lie go ahead, but don’t drag my Armenian community into it or American children in the middle of the terrorist group FETO – yes The Gulen Movement is considered and classified as a terrorist organization and hopefully you and they are brought to justice and stop stealing from American taxpayers to push your selfish agenda. I hope I never see you at an Armenian event, I have a very strong dislike for you and your opportunistic tactics. Would love to see you follow up on your cease and desist letters, you wouldn’t make it to the discovery phase your boys would run out the country if they had to testify under oath. Frankly you sicken me. http://www.magnoliacomplaint.com

  3. HaroutunianHaroutunian said:

    If you check her background you will find out the truth.another Turkish member hiding in USA.75 percent of congress and senate have Turkish background from ottoman time. Gth nzde

  4. Tigranakertzi said:

    Similar shenigans with the Koutoujian Congressional race in Massachusetts and the Avakian Congressional race in Oregon. Brad Avakian won the Democratic nomination for Oregon Secretary of State this year despite similar shenanigans.

  5. varouj isch khan said:

    that is because you guys continue using they ” they ” instead of putting names and calling for targeting law suits which would make you since “them ” and find out “who” is really behind ” them” lol

  6. john Ahmaranian said:

    My all family members, all my friends in Pasadena, Glendale, La Cesenta and elsewhere, will vote for Mr. Kassakhian, a decent man. The problem is that our Armenian communities are not united. Armenian voters must vote for ALL Armenian candidates regardless of their religious, political and social backgrounds or affiliation. For the last 30 years I voted for Armenian candidates without asking if they were Dashnag or Ramgavar, Catholic or Protestant. Kassakhian, Najarian, Chahinian, Krikorian and others are decent and reliable Armenians. Period.
    Non-Armenian candidates challenge us when we are not supporting our candidates. More than 75,000 united Armenian votes are able to secure victory for Ardy, Chris, Ara.. I join you in this challenging venture.

    • Lusine Hagopyan said:

      I vote for Armenian candidates only if they are qualified and they have managed to reach out to the non Armenian communities. What good is “ian” or “yan” if they cannot lead or have no respect from the community. Character is important.

  7. Hagop said:

    There is not a single shred of evidence in this article that the campaign against Kassakhian has anything to do with his being Armenian. Please don’t cry wolf when there is none. Every political campaign is ugly. Just because you support a candidate who’s a minority doesn’t give you the right to shout “racism” everytime that candidate is criticized. This is a cheap trick.

    • Garen Yegparian said:

      Regarding Hagop’s comment, it strikes me that this article is not saying that Kassakhian is being attacked because he is Armenian. Rather, in the 43rd AD and its surroundings, a pattern is detectable in the behavior of those who happen to be the leading non-Armenian competitors for higher elected office. I don’t believe these contenders “hate Armenians”. But the fact that they have been willing to sacrifice the best interests and good name of the Armenian community to suit their electoral pursuits and purposes should be unacceptable to us. Replace “Armenian” with “Jewish” or “Black” or “Latino” or “Hmong” or “Ethiopian” or “Muslim” or “Arab” or… and then evaluate what the Armenian community’s reaction and response should be.

    • Lusine Hagopyan said:

      No and of course neither did the fact that Adrin Nazarian was also attacked and out spent from the same group..and a few of the Gulenist Turks from Magnolia including a former CEO of Magnolia Suleyman Bachici (Caprice Young is their 5th CEO in less than 15 years) Nor the fact Krikorian ran against “Mean Jean” Schimdt, who had 90% Turkish donors mostly tied to Magnolia Science Academy “Gulen inspired” Horizon Science Academy. This group has an agenda and it’s to silence the Armenians in academia, politics and meda. Evidently Caprice is drinking the raki.

  8. Robert D. Skeels * rdsathene said:

    The privately managed charter school industry is a lucrative business, and it has made individuals like Caprice Young, Jed Wallace, and others associated with the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) quite wealthy. Hence, they frequently resort to despicable election tactics Ñ here blatant ethnocentrism Ñ to keep those revenue streams flowing.

    It’s understandable, given CCSA’s longtime association with Magnolia Science Academy (MSA), its immediate parent organization the Pacifica Institute, and their overarching organizationÑthe shadowy GŸlen Network, that they would have their corporate spokesperson Caprice Young post here in an attempt to cover up their connections. After all, the above mentioned groups are all high-profile Armenian Genocide deniers. That damaging truth threatens their income, and hence her crocodile tears.

    Ms. Young seemingly has difficulty with making truthful statements. Recently in a joint MSA/CCSA press release she states that LAUSD has never found any evidence of their connections to the GŸlen Movement. This is an intentional misrepresentation by Young, as footage of a LAUSD board meeting where board members expressly ask the representative from the Office of Inspector General if there are any such connections. Their response puts to lie Ms. Young’s assertion:

    > “We have done some looking into that allegation and there is some evidence that some members of the Magnolia organization do have ties to the GŸlen movement.” [1]

    Compounding Young’s dishonesty, the same press release states LAUSD audits have never revealed any financial irregularities. This too, is an intentional misrepresentation as a 2014 LAUSD audit found MSA insolvent, with a $1.7-million operating deficit, up to $3-million in questionable expenses. [2]

    Lest Young’s halfhearted attempts to dissociate herself with CCSA’s attacks on Armemian candidates like Kassakhian be taken seriously, the MSA press release has a lengthy quote from CCSA CEO Jed Wallace. So much for Young not approving or condoning CCSA’s pro-GŸlen agenda.

    * * *

    [1] video from which this transcript is derived: http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2016/06/gulenist-caprice-young-lies-in-magnolia.html

    [2] KPCC piece cited and linked in Ibid.

  9. Robert D. Skeels * rdsathene said:

    The privately managed charter school industry is a lucrative business, and it has made individuals like Caprice Young, Jed Wallace, and others associated with the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) quite wealthy. Hence, they frequently resort to despicable election tactics — here blatant ethnocentrism — to keep those revenue streams flowing.

    It’s understandable, given CCSA’s longtime association with Magnolia Science Academy (MSA), its immediate parent organization the Pacifica Institute, and their overarching organization—the shadowy Gülen Network, that they would have their corporate spokesperson Caprice Young post here in an attempt to cover up their connections. After all, the above mentioned groups are all high-profile Armenian Genocide deniers. That damaging truth threatens their income, and hence her crocodile tears.

    Ms. Young seemingly has difficulty with making truthful statements. Recently in a joint MSA/CCSA press release she states that LAUSD has never found any evidence of their connections to the Gülen Movement. This is an intentional misrepresentation by Young, as footage of a LAUSD board meeting where board members expressly ask the representative from the Office of Inspector General if there are any such connections. Their response puts to lie Ms. Young’s assertion:

    > “We have done some looking into that allegation and there is some evidence that some members of the Magnolia organization do have ties to the Gülen movement.” [1]

    Compounding Young’s dishonesty, the same press release states LAUSD audits have never revealed any financial irregularities. This too, is an intentional misrepresentation as a 2014 LAUSD audit found MSA insolvent, with a $1.7-million operating deficit, up to $3-million in questionable expenses. [2]

    Lest Young’s halfhearted attempts to dissociate herself with CCSA’s attacks on Armemian candidates like Kassakhian be taken seriously, the MSA press release has a lengthy quote from CCSA CEO Jed Wallace. So much for Young not approving or condoning CCSA’s pro-Gülen agenda.

    * * *

    [1] video from which this transcript is derived: http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2016/06/gulenist-caprice-young-lies-in-magnolia.html

    [2] KPCC piece cited and linked in Ibid.

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