Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Monday, September 22, 2008


Page 3


New Judge Spent More Than $360,000 to Win Seat, Records Show




Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Bianco spent more than $360,000 to win his post, campaign finance reports show.

Bianco, a Superior Court commissioner at the time, handily defeated Los Angeles attorney Bill Johnson in the June to win the seat left vacant by the retirement of Judge Daniel S. Pratt. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Bianco in July to fill Pratt’s unexpired term.

Johnson reported total expenditures of $7,000, all of it between May 18—the beginning of the last reporting period—and the June 3 primary. Bianco’s total appears to set a record for a candidate who did not have to go to a runoff.

Bianco raised most of his money well in advance of the election, but added a little over $20,000 in the last reporting period. Of that amount, $6,000 came from attorneys with the Los Angeles litigation firm of Girardi and Keese and members of their families.

In fact, the Girardi firm was extremely active during the last reporting period, donating a total of $61,000 to judicial candidates. Lawyers at the firm have long given to  partisan campaigns, mostly on behalf of Democrats, but their recent influx of funding to local judicial candidates was unusual.

Besides Bianco, beneficiaries of the Girardi largesse included Superior Court Commissioner Rocky Crabb, who received $7,000 and faces a November runoff with Deputy District Attorney Michael Jesic; Deputy District Attorney Serena Murillo, who received $10,000 for her unsuccessful race against Superior Court Commissioner Harvey Silberman; Commissioner Patricia Nieto, who received the same amount in her successful run against state Deputy Attorney General Lance Winters; and Deputy District Attorney—now Judge—Jared Moses, who also received $10,000, and who defeated attorneys Robert Davenport and Howard Weitzman.

Also, Deputy District Attorney Kathleen Blanchard—who, like Moses and Bianco, was appointed to the court after winning election—received $8,000 for her race, in which she defeated Los Angeles Deputy City Attorney Alan Nadir and attorney Richard A. Nixon. And Deputy District Attorney Hilleri G. Merritt, who faces attorney Steven Simons in a Nov. 4 runoff, received $10,000.

Judge Ralph Dau, who was the only incumbent challenged this year and who handily turned back the challenge of Redondo Beach lawyer Sydnee Singer, outspent his challenger $172,751 to $126,700, and had about $8,700 in cash on hand and about $19,000 in unpaid bills as of June 30.

Dau raised a little over $26,000 in the last reporting period. His donors included former U.S. Attorney Antonio Mayorkas, who gave $500, and a number of Los Angeles Superior Court judges.

Judge William MacLaughlin gave $500; Michael Carter and Marjorie Steinberg, $250 each; Jacqueline Connor, Eudon Ferrell, Mary House, John Meigs, Nancy Newman, Jose Sandoval, Charles Lee—who has since retired—and Philip Soto $200 each; Larry Fidler and Peter Meeka $150 each; and Michael Nash and John Shook, $100 each.

He also received $250 from the campaign fund of Judge Bobbi Tillmon, who still has money left over as a result of not having drawn an opponent when she was elected in 2006.

Singer, who borrowed heavily for the campaign, raised less than $6,000 in the run-up to election day, and made no new expenditures in that period. The campaign wound up owing nearly $60,000, mostly to Singer, although there was an outstanding advertising bill of $1,880 from the Jewish Journal.

In other races that were decided on June 3:

•Silberman raised and spent nearly $200,000 in his winning race against Murillo. Only $13,000 was raised in the last reporting period, $250 of it from Tillmon. He reported that the campaign had debts of about $55,000, including his personal loans to the campaign.  Murillo wound up raising a little over $130,000 and spending about $9,000 less, and had more than $70,000 in campaign debt.

-Nieto raised over $68,000 and spent about $61,500, with nearly half of her total fundraising coming in the last reporting period. Besides the Girardi donations, she got $1,000 each from attorney Edward Ortega and from a political action committee, Hispanics Organized for Political Equality; $500 from Superior Court Judge Steven Sanora; $250 from Judge Peter Espinoza; $200 from Commissioner Louise Halevy; $150 each from Judges Dalila Lyons, Juan Carlos Dominguez, Dennis Landin and Michael Villalobos; and $100 each from Judges Donna Groman and Michael Linfield and Commissioner Amy Pellman. 

Los Angeles City Controller Laura Chick kicked in $250 from her officeholder account.

Winters wound up raising over $100,000 for the race, but spent less than $57,000, repaying much of the money he had borrowed for the campaign during the last reporting period, although the campaign wound up more than $45,000 in debt. Winters actually saved himself money by losing, because his arrangements with slate mail vendors included $35,000 in “winner’s bonuses” that he will not have to pay.

•Moses raised just over $70,000 and spent nearly all of it. Besides the Girardi money, his receipts in the last period included $1,000 from former legislator Dario Frommer, $2,000 from Waste Resources, Inc.; $1,000 from attorney Richard Gutierrez; and $200 from attorney Mark Priver, the husband of Superior Court Judge Laura Priver.

Moses’ opponents, Davenport and Weitzman, both filed short forms, meaning they did not raise or spend more than $1,000, exclusive of their filing fees.

•Blanchard raised $116,000 and spent around $103,000, with $11,500 in donations coming in during the last period. Besides the Girardi contributions, she got $200 from Superior Court Judge Ruth Kwan.

Nadir self-funded his entire campaign, which consisted of purchasing a candidate statement in the official ballot pamphlet for $83,000 and about $40,000 in slate mail. Nixon filed a short form.

In races that went to runoffs, the high spender by far was Merritt, who raised $243,000 through the primary and spent about $230,000. The campaign owes more than $200,000 to the candidate and her family, she reported.

Her donations for the last period were nearly $14,000, including the Girardi donations. The law firm of Flier and Flier, whose principals are the husband and son of Court of Appeal Justice Madeleine Flier, gave $500.

Steven Simons, who faces Merritt in November, reported raising and spending a little over $100,000, with more than $90,000 of the fundraising total coming in the form of loans from the candidate. The third candidate in the race, Deputy District Attorney Marc Chomel, raised a little over $10,000 and spent about $11,000, charging the difference on his personal credit card.

In other contests that are headed to the November ballot:

•Deputy District Attorney Patrick Connolly raised nearly $53,000 and spent a little over $49,000. Nearly all of his funds came in the form of loans from the candidate and others.

His runoff opponent, Superior Court Commissioner Lori Jones, raised and spent about $39,000. Her contributors included Carter, who gave $250, as did Superior Court  Judge—and fellow dog breeder—Daviann Mitchell and Superior Court  Judge Patricia Titus; Groman, who gave $200; Commissioner John Lawson, $100; Judges Sandra Thompson, Allen Webster, and Vincent Okamoto, $150 each; and Judge Edward Moreton, $500.

Eliminated were Deputy Attorney General Robert Henry, who raised about $40,000 but reported spending less than $28,000, and Workers’ Compensation Judge John Gutierrez, who reported spending less than $12,000 on the race.

•Superior Court Referee Cynthia Loo reported raising about $157,000, including nearly $45,000 in the run-up to election day. She reported having more than $50,000 on hand, while her campaign owes more than $66,000.

Much of her funding has been in the form of loans, particularly from her father, Thomas Loo, a partner in the Greenberg Traurig law firm, which donated $1,000, as did the firm of Brot & Gross, where the candidate’s sister, Lori Loo, practices family law.

Her donors in the last reporting period included Judges Webster and Diana Wheatley and Commissioners Patricia Ito and Steven Berman, who gave $100 each; retired Judge Isabel Cohen, $150; and Commissioner Robert McSorley, $250. She also received candidate transfers of $250 from Tillmon, $1,000 from Assemblyman Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, and $250 from State Board of Equalization member Judy Chu, D-Monterey Park.

Her November opponent, Deputy District Attorney Thomas Rubinson, raised $84,000 and spent nearly all of it. His campaign has been largely self-financed.

The third candidate, Deputy District Attorney Mark Lee, raised about $39,000 and spent less than $35,000. Most of the money was in the form of laons from the candidate, although he reported donations of $1,000 each from Chee Young Chung, a homemaker living in Youngginci, Korea, and from the Police and Sheriffs Korean American National Scholarship Association, based in Rowland Heights.

•Crabb raised a little over $63,000 and spent about $51,000. The Girardi donations constituted the bulk of his $10,000 in fundraising for the last period, although he also received a candidate transfer of $1,000 from Bianco and $100 from Judge Daniel Murphy.

Jesic raised a little over $56,000 and spent less than $37,000. His donors in the last period, in which he raised over $19,000, included Superior Court Judge David Gelfound, $250 and Judge Daviann Mitchell, who gave $100.

Many of his remaining donors were fellow deputies. The third candidate in the race, Deputy Attorney General S. Paul Bruguera, did not file a report and has been sent a non-compliance letter, an elections official told the MetNews.

•Deputy District Attorney Michael O’Gara raised more than $60,000 and spent nearly that much, while his runoff opponent, Deputy Public Defender C. Edward Mack, raised less than $14,000 and spent less than $13,000. The third candidate in the race, Deputy District Attorney Eduard Abele, raised more than $33,000 and spent nearly that amount.

Abele’s fundraising total does not include nearly $20,000 in loans that were paid back before the election.


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