Monday, April 13, 2009
Report: City Attorney Candidate Trutanich’s War Chest Exceeds Opponent’s
Weiss Accuses Adversary of Misrepresentation, Calls for Investigation
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
In a reversal of fortunes since the March 3 primary election, Los Angeles city attorney candidate Carmen “Nuch” Trutanich’s campaign coffers have surpassed those of his runoff opponent, City Councilman Jack Weiss.
Weiss reported raising $1.8 million before the primary election while Trutanich only garnered $862,000, but in a report filed Thursday with the City Ethics Commission, Trutanich reported cash contributions of $413,368 and matching funds of $122,203, swelling his war chest to over $520,000—nearly double Weiss’ reported assets of $310,196.
Weiss, who declined matching funds, has raised just over $408,815 and reported no outstanding campaign bills. Trutanich reported over $86,000 in unpaid bills, which if paid, would lower his cash on hand amount to a little over $437,000.
The reports covered the period from Feb. 26 through April 4.
Some of Weiss’ funds came from developers and businesses operating parking structures near Los Angeles International Airport, but the majority came from individual donations from attorneys in several large law firms.
Among his contributors were six attorneys from Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP, four from Goodwin Proctor, three from Wasserman, Comden & Casselman LLP, and three from Liner Grode Stein Yankelevitz Sunshine Regenstreif & Taylor LLP.
Most of Trutanich’s donors were individuals and businesses in and around the South Bay and Trutanich’s native San Pedro.
He also received $500 from Jana Cooley, the wife of Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, and $200 from Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Philip Mautino.
Although Trutanich’s campaign issued a press release criticizing Weiss for having raised money from developers and law firms that contract with the city, Trutanich also received the maximum contribution of $1,000 from two developers and donations from five Lewis Brisbois attorneys.
Trutanich’s campaign consultant John Shallman told the MetNews that accepting contributions from developers with projects in Los Angeles poses a “direct conflict of interest” for Weiss—since he sits on the council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee—that is absent for Trutanich since he is “not in a position to do anything.”
Acknowledging Weiss reported raising only $2,000 less than Trutanich and that the differential in their campaign coffers was due to a the matching funds given to Trutanich, Shallman insisted the importance lies not in the numbers, but in what they signify.
“When you put it in the context of who has leverage and who doesn’t…and when you consider the fact that our guy was outspent 2-to-1 in the primary and is now pulling ahead financially…these are really serious problems for Weiss,” Shallman said. “The momentum has completely shifted since the primary campaign.”
The Weiss campaign, however, Friday released a copy of a complaint to the City Ethics Commission alleging that Trutanich had misrepresented thousands of dollars in campaign expenses and outstanding debt.
Among the discrepancies noted were that Trutanich’s campaign had publicly released survey data from a polling firm in mid-March but did not report that expenditure and that the report also failed to list any payments or accrued expenses to Shallman’s firm.
Additionally, the complaint suggests that Trutanich violated the spirit and the letter of the law by maintaining over $86,000 in outstanding bills so that his campaign could claim a larger total of cash on hand.
Shallman denied that any of Weiss’ allegations were true, adding that Trutanich’s treasurer had sent an amended report addressing the discrepancies.
“It’s not uncommon for reports to be incomplete because they’re waiting for vendor information,” Shallman said.
He accused the Weiss campaign of filing the complaint as “a diversion,” insisting that an ethics complaint by Weiss “is about as credible as a fraud complaint from Bernie Madoff to the SEC.”
The complaint is “incredibly hypocritical” Shallman said, explaining that Weiss’ constituents had lodged an ethics complaint against him in 2007 alleging he had accepted laundered campaign contributions for the City Council race and that Weiss has been found guilty of 32 separate ethics violations as a councilmember.
Weiss’ campaign consultant Ace Smith said that “the fact they’re throwing stale mud to cover up their own misdeeds is just the surest sign of desperation.”
Smith said “we caught them in the most blatant deceptions…now they’re scrambling to cover their tracks shows that we caught them, caught them red handed.”
As for the amended report, Smith said “they fixed one deception” regarding the polling expenses, but he insisted “that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” maintaining that the rest of the discrepancies noted by the complaint had not been addressed.
“How somebody can run for the chief legal office of Los Angeles and attempt to mislead the voters is beyond me,” Smith said.
Trutanich and Weiss emerged as the top two vote-getters in the primary election, garnering 27.44 percent and 36.24 percent of the vote, respectively.
Deputy City Attorney Michael Amerian finished third in the primary with just over17 percent of the votes, followed by Deputy City Attorney David Berger, who carried almost 14 percent of the voters, and Marina Del Rey attorney Noel Weiss, who received 5 percent.
The next round of campaign finance statements will be due May 7, and the election is May 19.
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company