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Molina Starts Race With Money Edge--Says She Won’t Use It : Election: The councilwoman, one of four major rivals in the campaign for supervisor, can use funds left from council races. Opponents doubt her pledge not to.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Gloria Molina begins the race for the 1st District seat on the county Board of Supervisors with access to the largest campaign fund of any candidate, thanks to a court ruling that permits the transfer of political funds from one campaign to another.

It remains to be seen, however, whether the councilwoman will take advantage of her initial funding advantage. Molina campaign officials said they will not tap her City Council coffer in the run for supervisor, but opponents have doubted that claim.

Nine candidates who filed by Nov. 30 for the supervisor’s seat--in a district that stretches from El Sereno and Lincoln Heights east to Irwindale and La Puente and southeast to Santa Fe Springs--will file their first campaign finance reports Thursday for the Jan. 22 special election.

But the four big-name candidates in the race--Molina, state Sen. Charles M. Calderon (D-Whittier), former supervisorial aide Sarah Flores and state Sen. Art Torres (D-Los Angeles)--already have collected funds for previous campaigns.

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State and local campaign officials have told the candidates that a federal court ruling last year permits them to use the money raised for one office in a campaign for another. Fund transfers between campaigns had been prohibited until the court overruled parts of the 1988 campaign reform initiative, Proposition 73.

Although campaign reports for the supervisorial candidates are not up to date, previously filed reports give an idea of how much money the opponents hold as fund raising begins in earnest. Campaign observers estimate it will cost at least $500,000 to run a winning campaign for the supervisor’s seat. That includes the cost of a Feb. 19 runoff between the two leading candidates if, as many observers anticipate, no one wins more than 50% of the vote in the Jan. 22 election.

The previously filed campaign reports show that:

* Molina’s four City Council campaign committees had a total of $100,818 cash on hand as of June 30. Molina has had little cause to spend money since then, since her next city election would not be until 1993.

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* Torres, reelected handily to the Senate last month, had $64,678 cash on hand when he filed his last statement Oct. 20. That amount had been reduced to $30,000 by the end of his reelection drive last month, campaign spokeswoman Dee Dee Myers said. She said $20,000 of that has been transferred to the supervisorial campaign as “seed money.”

* Flores had $15,813 in cash as of June 30. About the same amount remains in her account going into a $500-a-plate dinner today 2that is being sponsored by several elected officials, including supervisors Deane Dana and Mike Antonovich, Flores campaign consultant Eric Rose said.

Flores raised her money for a June primary in the 1st District and an anticipated November runoff, but those races were nullified when U.S. District Judge David V. Kenyon ruled that the county’s previous district boundaries illegally diluted the voting strength of Latinos. The January special election will be held in a new 1st District drawn under Kenyon’s order. By a slim margin, the majority of the district’s registered voters are Latino.

* Calderon had $13,467 in campaign funds as of Oct. 20, after an April special election that elevated him from the Assembly to the state Senate. The candidate said he has transferred $5,500 of his Senate money to his supervisorial campaign fund.

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Molina aides said they are pleased they can use their large treasury, but plan to start their fund raising from scratch.

“Obviously it’s a blessing, because it gives us a pool of money to start out,” Molina press secretary Robert Alaniz said. “Any time you have to raise half a million dollars within a short period of time . . . the fact we can transfer money over creates a great boost for us.”

But Alaniz said Molina wants to use the City Council campaign funds only as a last resort, preferring to keep the money in her council campaign treasury.

Torres’ campaign officials, however, doubted that Molina would forsake her store of money. Myers, the Torres spokeswoman, claimed that Molina is merely downplaying the importance of the funds because the money explodes an image that she is trying to cultivate.

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“They are trying to bill Gloria as a grass-roots politician, who is out there pounding the pavement,” Myers said. “And $100,000 is a big war chest. You don’t associate that with grass-roots candidates.”

A representative of another campaign, who requested anonymity, suggested that Molina might try to benefit from her council funds indirectly. Since 25% of the voters in the 1st Supervisorial District also live in Molina’s council district, the theory goes, she could boost her run for supervisor simply by sending council-related mailers to her current constituents in the city of Los Angeles.

Molina campaign officials insisted, however, that they do not intend to spend the $100,000, either for mailers within the City Council district or for any aspect of the 1st Supervisorial District campaign.

Keeping the money in her council accounts would benefit Molina, the source suggested, because the amounts already collected would not be subject to campaign limits that will be enforced during the county campaign.

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By not transferring the money to her county campaign account, for example, Molina would be able to return to the same donors who have given to her in the past and ask them to contribute up to the maximum of $1,000 for the supervisor’s race. If she transferred her council money to the supervisor’s race, however, she would have to declare the names of the donors, and their previous contributions would be deducted from the maximum they could give Molina now.

Contribution limits that affect the supervisor’s race were ordered last week by the state Fair Political Practices Commission. The commission voted unanimously Tuesday in Sacramento that, for all special elections statewide, individuals and corporations can give a maximum of $1,000, and political action committees $2,500.

The limits are the same as those approved by the voters in Proposition 73.


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