Disney snared in a SoCal corruption scandal, trying to 'influence public policy'

We all know Disney, the cuddly entertainment company that has brought us countless hours of entertainment in film, swag, parks, resorts, and tie-ins for kids.

When the company got into an altercation with the governor of Florida over its opposition to a state law prohibiting the grooming of grade-school children in classrooms last month, Creepy Joe Biden rushed to the company's defense, claiming that Republicans were "going after Mickey Mouse." 

After all, the "Mouse," as the company is known, is supposedly squeaky adorable.

That isn't washing much anymore, though.  Disney's been caught in a new scandal, this time in Anaheim, one that's nasty enough to make one conclude that the Mouse is more like a sewer rat.

Get a load of this hard-bitten news from the Wall Street Journal (subscription required):

The Walt Disney Co. has become entangled in a corruption scandal unfolding in Anaheim, the southern California city where its Disneyland Resort is based, that this week prompted its mayor to resign.

In an affidavit filed in a California federal court, federal investigators describe a "cabal" of business leaders and elected officials in Anaheim who allegedly meet privately to influence public policy decisions.

The reporters, Robbie Whelan and Christine Mai-Duc, described how Disney turned up in a 100-page affidavit identified as "Company A," which their source says is Disney, and the point person is Carrie Nocella, Disneyland Resorts' chief of external affairs.  The reporters noted that neither had been accused of wrongdoing.

But the picture painted is pretty gamy.

The affidavit, released publicly last week, was filed in support of an arrest warrant for Todd Ament, former president and chief executive of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Ament allegedly lied on a mortgage application and embezzled funds from the chamber to help him qualify for a loan for a vacation home at a California ski resort, the affidavit says.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation alleges that Ms. Nocella was a "ringleader" of a group that organized a retreat on the same resort property that includes Disneyland and hosted business leaders as well as members of the Anaheim City Council.

The problem was this:

In March of 2021, an Anaheim City Council member read from a script at a council meeting in favor of issuing more than $200 million in municipal bond debt to help make up for pandemic-related revenue shortfalls.

The script, according to the FBI affidavit, was written by an unnamed political consultant who did work for Disney, with input from Ms. Nocella. Later, the consultant asked the city council member's office to edit the script so that it wouldn't mention a Disney-owned parking facility, according to the affidavit.

Sounds pretty underhanded. 

The mayor of Anaheim, Harry Sidhu, who has since resigned as of May 24, also was under FBI investigation for leveraging the $320-million sale of Angels stadium to the team's owner in exchange for a big campaign contribution.  Sidhu was a Republican, but prominent Democrat operative Melahat Rafiei was also implicated, as were others.  The unnamed political consultant who advised Disney played "a key role," according to the Journal.

Seems as though sweetheart deals were expected.  The Journal quotes an academic expert as saying that:

Anaheim is "a company town and Disney has a tremendous amount of sway in Anaheim politics," said Fred Smoller, associate professor of politics at Chapman University in Orange County, Calif. "They are a major player, and they are not shy about using their influence to garner favors."

So Disney has been accused of self-dealing behind the scenes, and it doesn't look good.  It's worth looking at as a matter of public interest because Disney was caught in loudly trying to influence public policy in Florida earlier.

According to CNBC:

After Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Florida's so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill into law on Monday, the Walt Disney Company condemned the legislation and vowed to help have it repealed.

"Florida's HB 1557, also known as the 'Don't Say Gay' bill, should never have passed and should never have been signed into law," the company said in a statement. "Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that."

This is also a bid to influence public policy.

Apparently, that is what they do: a crummy variety of big-city muscle politics with the purpose of looking out for Numbah One.

If they have corrupt collaborators, they use those, and if they don't have corrupt collaborators, they loudly go public.

What kind of a company is this?  How does any of this strong-arm wokester politics serve its shareholders?  Why is it constantly trying to influence public policy, in matters big and small?  Shall we start calling it "Big Rodent"?

More and more, it looks as though Florida did exactly the right thing by slapping the company down and giving it the penalty of loss of its special tax status.  If the company is capable of doing under-the-table dealings to influence public policy in Anaheim, it shouldn't be surprising that it's gotten it into its head that it can do over-the-table public policy influence in Florida.  Big Rodent has gotten a big head.

Image: Bernard Spragg via Flickr via RawPixel, CC0 public domain.

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