Ad targeting David Couch sparks controversy as Bakersfield businessmen say they mistakenly funded it

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Yet another political controversy has unfolded in Kern county. This time, an on-line attack ad against incumbent David Couch is at the center of the controversy.

The ad was reportedly funded, in part, by donations to a political action committee. Two Bakersfield businessmen say they were solicited by 5th district Supervisor Leticia Perez to donate the funds as an effort to teach young leaders about bipartisanship. They said the money instead went to attacking Couch in an ad that described him as “more Trump than Trump.”

The ad appeared on YouTube two weeks ago, but has since been pulled from the internet. It describes 4th district Supervisor David Couch, locked in a tight race to hold his seat in a mostly democratic district, as “more Trump than Trump.” The ad was paid for by the “Council for Tri-Partisan Politics” Political Action Committee.

According to documents obtained by 17 News, the largest donations to the political action committee, which paid for that anti-David Couch ad, came from three well-known Bakersfield businessmen, two of whom are couch supporters.

According to documents from the secretary of state, three of the largest recent contributions to the PAC came from three Bakersfield businessmen; $25,000 from attorney Daniel Rodriguez, $25,000 from Majid Mojibi, president of San Joaquin Refining Company, and $5,000 from John Haddad, owner of the Haddad Kia car dealership in Bakersfield.

John Haddad did not return our repeated calls today for comment, but Majid Mojibi did respond. He confirmed making the donation at the request of supervisor Leticia Perez. Mojibi says he was told by Perez the money would be used to train young politicians how to be non-partisan, something he considers a worthy cause.

Then he found out last week about the attack ad against David Couch, paid for by Tri-Partisan. 

Mojibi called couch a good friend, telling 17 news, “I don’t understand these shenanigans, and I don’t want to be a part of it. I’m a businessman. I should have checked this out and I didn’t.” Mojibi went on to say,” I’ve know Leticia for many years. She’s a wonderful woman. I don’t think she would do that by herself. I think she was coached or let’s say she was monetized by doing that. Politics is a dirty game.”

John Haddad told the Bakersfield Californian essentially the same story, and that he too considers supervisor couch a friend, and wishes he could take his contribution back.
     
State records show the PAC has made no expenditures on any type of training for young politicians.

Nearly $1,300 went to couch’s election opponent Grace Vallejo, $17,000 to a Wyoming polling service, $11,000 to Facebook for on-line ads, and $31,000 to Blue Sky Media, owned by local political operative T.J. Esposito.

“They wanted viral media, and that’s exactly what Blue Sky does,” said TJ Esposito, owner of Blue Sky Media. “We provide viral media.”

Esposito showed 17 News the content. Some of the videos appeared to be get-out-the vote neutral ads, but other videos seemed to be attacking specific board members. 

“We gladly do lots of work against Maggard,” Esposito said. “We think he’s terrible, and I think couch is a pretty good guy to be honest…I can confidentially tell you, not one penny, not one penny. I wouldn’t partake in that against Couch. Couch is my friend.”

Supervisor Perez declined our request for comment today  Supervisor stated “this is all about weed and greed” in reference to the ongoing cannabis controversies swirling around the county.

17 News will continue to follow this story.

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