Monday, January 14, 2013

Mayor Sam blog accuses City Attorney candidate Mike Feuer of accepting illegal campaign contributions

The Mayor Sam Blog has exclusively revealed that termed-out State Assemblyman Mike Feuer has accepted seemingly illegal campaign contributions from executives at Bet Tzedek for his campaign to become City Attorney.

Those contributions are apparently in violation of campaign finance laws prohibiting organizations who contract with the City of Los Angeles from making campaign contributions to elected officials and candidates for elected office. Bet Tzedek currently contracts with the City of Los Angeles to provide over $800,000 in  legal services to the Department of Aging.

Bet Tzedek currently has two contracts with the City of Los Angeles
well in excess of the $100,000 limit established by Measure 'H'
In March 2011, voters overwhelmingly passed Measure 'H' in an effort to end the perception of 'pay to play' paybacks. Measure 'H' bans organizations who benefit from city contracts in excess of $100,000 from making contributions to elected officials. It also bans candidates for elected offices, such as the Mayor, City Attorney and Controller, from accepting such contributions.

After passing by 75%, Measure 'H' became part of the City Charter at Section 470(c)(12). The Mayor Sam Blog has identified contributions from '19 Bet Tzedek associates' who 'have donated a collective sum of roughly $18,950' to Feuer's campaign to become City Attorney.

The '19 Bet Tzedek associates' who have been identified by Mayor Sam as contributing to Feuer, include Sandor Samuels, Bet Tzedek's President and C.E.O.

Samuels appears to be a 'principal' of Bet Tzedek, specifically banned from making contributions under City Charter Section 470(c)(12)(F) which provides that 'For purposes of this subdivision, a principal of a person who is a bidder, proposer, or subcontractor means the person's board chair, president, chief executive officer, chief operating officer, or the functional equivalent of those positions... '

The remainder of the Bet Tzedek 'associates' appear to be Board Members who may not be specifically prohibited from making contributions, unless those contributions where solicited by Bet Tzedek, which is prohibited under City Charter Section 470(c)(12)(C) which provides that 'The following persons shall not engage in prohibited fundraising for any elected City official, candidate for elected City office, or City committee controlled by an elected City official or candidate as further provided by ordinance: (i) A person who bids on or submits a proposal or other response to a contract solicitation that has an anticipated value of at least $100,000 and requires approval by the City Council; (ii) Subcontractors that are expected to receive at least $100,000 as a result of performing a portion of the contract obligations of a person defined in subparagraph (i); and (iii) Principals of persons defined in subparagraphs (i) and (ii).' 

Whether some sort of fundraising event took place to solicit contributions based on Feuer's past association with Bet Tzedek (Feuer is a former Executive Director of Bet Tzedek) is a matter that will doubtless have to be investigated. Any investigation might be assisted by evidence supplied by Feuer himself. Feuer recently posted this picture of himself on his Facebook page where he appears with other Bet Tzedek executives, including current President and C.E.O. Sandor 'Sandy' Samuels.

In a comment to the photograph, Feuer say that 'it was great getting together last week,' a reference, perhaps, to some sort of event organized by Bet Tzedek. If that 'getting together' was organized by Bet Tzedek to solicit support for Feuer from Board Members or other Bet Tzedek 'associates,' then that would appear to violate the City Charter Section 470(c)(12)(C).

The Mayor Sam exclusive is particularly timely. Monday night sees the candidates for City Attorney debating at Temple Israel of Hollywood. The topic, 'How do Values and Ethics Inform the Job of City Attorney,' will likely lead to some awkward questions for Feuer based on the perception that he has accepted campaign contributions which appear to directly violate Measure 'H'.

It will likely take an investigation by the City Ethics Commission to determine whether any or all of the Bet Tzedek contributions are illegal. However, based on the spirit of Measure 'H,' Feuer's acceptance of so much money from Bet Tzedek clearly creates the appearance of impropriety. That is surely something a prospective City Attorney should avoid at all costs. However, Feuer's understanding of ethics may be subject to some question. Last week Feuer accepted an endorsement from Mayor Villaraigosa, the man who holds the dubious record of having been fined the largest amount ever LA's history for ethics violations. That may well lead to questions being asked as to why a candidate for City Attorney would ever want an endorsement from someone with a 'rap sheet' for ethics violations?

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