GLENDALE — Nearly 60% of the money raised to support passage of the $270-million school bond in the April 5 election has come from companies that have a financial stake in the measure's passage, records show.
Of the roughly $160,000 raised in support of Measure S, $93,500 came from firms or their representatives that could benefit from the work generated by the bond, according to the latest campaign finance disclosure forms filed with the city clerk's office.
The contributions included $25,000 from Royal Bank of Canada Capital Markets; $25,000 from Los Angeles-based investment firm E.J. De La Rosa & Co.; $15,000 from Jones Hall, a San Francisco-based law firm that specializes in bond counsel; $10,000 from the chief executive officer of a Chino-based architecture firm; and $10,000 from a Newport Beach-based architectural firm.
There also were dozens of lesser contributions from local businesses, teachers and community members.
Supporters of the measure, which will essentially extend property-based fees that were put in place for the $186-million Measure K bond approved by voters in 1997, acknowledged that major donors had a financial stake in its passage.
Royal Bank of Canada Capital Markets and E.J. De La Rosa & Co. have already been contracted as the underwriters for the bond, said Eva Lueck, chief business and financial officer with the Glendale Unified School District, who is volunteering her expertise for the bond campaign. And San Francisco-based law firm Jones Hall is providing legal counsel.
All three firms are working on a contingency basis, meaning they will be paid only if Measure S passes, she added.
In addition, Lueck said that using traditional vetting processes, the district has selected four architecture firms that would be awarded work contracts should the bond pass. Two of the firms have donated to Measure S, records show.
Other construction firms may be donating in the hope that they will be tapped for Measure S-funded projects, officials said.
"Giving us money does not impact what decision is made, because they all have to leap through the same hoops to do business with the district," said school board member Mary Boger, who is serving as co-chair of the "Yes on S" committee while running for re-election to the board.
But the fact that a majority of the funds raised in support of the bond measure comes from those who stand to benefit if the measure passes raises questions about who really wants the $270-million bond, said Tami Carlson, president of the Glendale Teachers Assn., which opposes the measure.
"Their money is not coming from community members and teachers, they are coming from big financial corporations and construction companies," she said.
Still, campaign finance experts say the donations are legal.
While Glendale campaign finance reforms placed a $1,000-limit on contributions to candidates, the City Council did not impose any such limits on ballot measure committees, said Glendale City Atty. Scott Howard.
And Dave Demerjian, head of the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Public Integrity Division, said the donations fall within state campaign finance regulations.
Vendors were selected prior to the fundraising efforts to avoid any conflict of interest issues, supporters said.
"Many of them did work on Measure K, many will do work when Measure S passes," said Harry Hull, who also co-chairs the "Yes on S" committee. "But again, they were selected prior to any contributing to Measure S. They were selected solely on their ability to do the job."
Jessica Levinson — director of political reform for the Center for Governmental Studies, a Los Angeles-based nonpartisan think tank — said the key is making sure the public is aware of where the money is coming from.
"I think in this case, it's just a smart business decision to try to help fund the passage of a measure that will financially benefit those businesses," she said. "I don't think there is something inherently evil about it. I just think it's important for the people to know."