Valley's State Legislators Spent $3 Million in '84 Campaigns

Times Staff Writer

State legislators representing the San Gabriel Valley raised and spent about $3 million on political activities last year, according to year-end campaign statements filed with state and county election officials.

The contributions, mostly from special interest groups, were 5%--or $150,000--more than the valley's 15 legislators raised in 1982, the previous election year, according to Legi-Tech Corp., which tracks political donations.

The money went to eight assemblymen and three state senators, all of whom won reelection by margins of at least 2 to 1, and by four state senators who did not face election last year, because they were in the middle of four year terms.

Only one incumbent, state Sen. H. L. (Bill) Richardson (R-Glendora), had a well-financed opponent in the November general election. Richardson outspent his Democratic rival, Diana Monaghan, an Apple Valley businesswoman, by more than 2 to 1.

Richardson's two campaign committees reported combined expenditures of $482,436. Monaghan raised $46,000 and benefitted from $115,000 worth of mailings and political services supplied by the Democratic Party leadership.

Democrats thought they might have a chance against Richardson because reapportionment had pushed most of his district out of his home base in the San Gabriel Valley into San Bernardino and Inyo counties. But Richardson won easily, gaining two-thirds of the vote.

Monaghan was the only non-incumbent to raise more than $30,000. Most raised less than $10,000.

The disparity in campaign finances between incumbents and their challengers was illustrated in the 31st State Senate District, where incumbent William Campbell, a Hacienda Heights Republican who has been in the Legislature 16 years, raised $288,105, more than 100 times the $2,761 raised by his Democratic opponent, Stan Caress of West Covina, a professor at Cal Poly Pomona.

Campbell received $12,500 from a single donor--the Irvine Co. And in just the last 10 weeks of last year, his campaign committee received donations of $2,000 or more each from an insurance company, an association of beer wholesalers, a building contractors group, the Summa Corp. of Las Vegas and six other associations and corporations.

The Campbell Campaign Committee's spending statements for the year showed payments of $24,677 to Campbell's chief of staff, Jerry Haleva, for expenses, $4,000 to Haleva for consulting work and $42,439 to Haleva's corporation, Sergeant Major Associates, for professional services. Haleva said the payments were for political work he performed for Campbell apart from his chief-of-staff job.

Lynn Montgomery, spokeswoman for the state Fair Political Practices Commission, said legislative staff members can work on campaigns and be paid from campaign funds if the work is separate from their state duties.

Montgomery said state law prevents candidates from dipping into campaign funds for "personal" use, though the line between a political and a personal expense is sometimes difficult to draw.

One example might be taken from the Campbell Campaign Committee. Haleva said the committee is a heavy purchaser of tickets to sporting events, and the committee's spending statements for last year list $2,000 to the Los Angeles Raiders football team and $5,840 to the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team. Haleva said if Campbell used tickets only for himself and his family he would receive a personal benefit, but it is a legitimate political expenditure because he hosts his campaign supporters. It is a way, Haleva said, to show appreciation to donors.

Similarly, Haleva said, Campbell cannot use campaign funds to dine alone, but he can use money to buy dinner for himself and political supporters.

Montgomery said cars are one of the few campaign expenditures addressed specifically in state law. A candidate cannot use campaign funds to buy a car for himself, but his campaign committee can lease or even buy a car for the candidate's use as long as title remains with the committee. The campaign committee of Sen. Ruben Ayala (D-Ontario) spent $17,183 for a "campaign van" last year.

Incumbents were so rich in campaign funds last year that many passed on funds to charities. Ayala, for example, listed $400 worth of "gifts to the poor," and other candidates gave money to boys clubs, high school bands, scholarship funds and community groups.

Candidates cannot pay themselves directly from campaign funds, but they can hire their own companies to perform campaign work, Montgomery said, and Sen. Richardson did so last year. Richardson owns Computer Caging Corp., which he said is one of the West's largest companies dealing in computerized mailing for political causes. Computer Caging Corp. billed the Richardson campaign for $37,492 worth of work in the November election.

Richardson said any financial benefit to himself would have been slight because his campaign represented only a tiny part of Computer Caging Corp.'s business. He hired his own company, he said, only because "they're the best in the state."

He added that he started Computer Caging Corp. not to make money but to give him access to direct mail and computer expertise.

Richardson loaned some of his campaign funds to a nonprofit organization, Gun Owners of California, Inc., which publishes a quarterly magazine to fight gun control. At year-end, Gun Owners owed one of Richardson's campaign committees $25,000.

Eugene Hill, assistant attorney general, said the state elections code has no specific provisions regulating campaign fund loans. Campbell and state Sen. Joseph Montoya (D-El Monte) are among those who have loaned campaign funds to their associates for business purposes. Hill said his office regards such loans as acceptable if the money is repaid at a reasonable interest rate.

Campbell loaned a total of $90,000 in 1981 and 1982 to a housing development company partly owned by his Legislator's Contributions Upcampaign treasurer, Kenneth J. Rammell, a Covina accountant. Rammell said the money was borrowed at 15% interest for a low-cost manufactured housing project, and most of the money has been repaid. Campaign statements filed last year showed repayment of $70,231 of the principal and $34,768 in interest.

Montoya in October loaned $10,000 to his political campaign manager, Leonard Talbert of Valinda, and $5,000 to Tom Cunningham, who produces newsletters and lives in San Diego. Montoya said he loaned the money at prevailing interest rates and can call in the loans at any time.

Montoya has introduced a state constitutional amendment to limit campaign contributions. The measure would require that half of any contribution above $2,000 go into the general fund.

Would Discourage Big Donors

Montoya said the measure would discourage large contributions and thereby slow the escalation of campaign costs. He said legislators are under increasing pressure to raise funds not for their own use, but for transfer to other candidates and causes.

Assemblyman Richard Mountjoy (R-Monrovia) said, "You come up here (to Sacramento) and they want to turn you into a fund-raiser. Pretty soon you're spending half your time on the phone trying to raise money. That's not what I came up here for."

Assemblyman Frank Hill (R-Whittier) said a move is under way in Sacramento to put an initiative on the ballot to prohibit fund transfers. Hill transferred $35,000 of his funds to one Assembly candidate and loaned $10,000 to another last year, but he still derides the practice. If funds could not be transferred, the pressure to raise money would ease, he said.

'Arms-Race Mentality

"It's an arms-race mentality," he complained. "I'm in one of the safest Republican districts in the state. The only way I can get hurt is if (Democratic Assembly Speaker) Willie Brown of San Francisco comes in with $200,000 and decides to blitz me."

Hill said both Democratic and Republican legislative leaders have access to large campaign funds and look for incumbents who have neglected to raise money for a major campaign and could be overwhelmed by a high-spending media assault the week before an election.

So, Hill said, he has to raise money to discourage opposition, and the fact that he has money means other candidates will seek his help.

Sen. Richardson said he sees nothing wrong with transferring funds and those who would seek to impose such limits must "hate freedom." Instead of complaining about the Assembly Speaker's campaign funds, Richardson said, Republicans should get out and raise money for their own cause. Richardson said he has given his campaign funds to political allies for years and never had a single complaint from a contributor.

Richardson and Assemblyman Pat Nolan (R-Glendale), the new Republican leader in the Assembly, were the leading fund-raisers among valley legislators last year, followed closely by Assemblyman Richard Alatorre (D-Los Angeles).

Nolan raised more than $425,000 and spent more than $500,000, transferring about $200,000 to other candidates and causes.

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