A behind-the-scenes look at Orange County's political life : Umberg Won't Gamble With Tainted Money, Returns Contribution

Compiled by Times political writer Gebe Martinez, with contributions from staff writers Eric Bailey and Frank Messina

Cashing out: Assemblyman Tom Umberg of Garden Grove, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, recently did what no self-respecting politician likes to do--give back campaign money.

Umberg returned a $40,000 contribution from a Palm Springs casino owned by the Morongo Indian tribe after he learned that the operation's outside management team was served with federal indictments for allegedly operating illegal slot machines and skimming off the tribe's profits, said George Urch, Umberg's campaign manager.

No tribe members were indicted by federal officials, and the Morongo Indians are considering making another donation to Umberg from a tribal bank account not connected to the casino.

Umberg has received about $85,000 for his attorney general campaign from Native Americans in California unhappy with incumbent Republican Dan Lungren's attempts to regulate gambling on tribal lands, which are under federal jurisdiction.

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Standing by their man: Some Orange County Republican legislators have been among the spectators cramming into a Superior Court hearing room in Sacramento to watch the trial of Assemblyman Frank Hill (R-Whittier) on bribery and political corruption charges.

Assemblymen Bill Morrow (R-Oceanside), whose district includes a large swath of South County, and Ross Johnson (R-Fullerton) have been regulars, and state Sen. John R. Lewis (R-Orange) was spotted in the audience one recent day.

For the local legislators, it's been a chance to provide some moral support to Hill, whose district included a part of Orange County until reapportionment shifted the boundary lines at the beginning of the decade.

Johnson and Lewis have been legislative colleagues of Hill's for more than a decade. Morrow, who has spent nearly every day at the trial, has known the embattled senator since both were freshmen in college.

"He's as close to a brother as I can have," Morrow said. "He's family and he needs support. I think anyone else would do the same thing."

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Run again? Heck no!: Incumbency hasn't been rewarding for Mission Viejo politicians in the six years since the city incorporated. And now, two of the three incumbent council members eligible for the November city election say they won't seek another term.

Council members Sharon Cody and Robert D. Breton say they will not be running again, leaving Mayor Susan Withrow as the only incumbent campaigning for reelection.

Of the eight incumbents who could have sought reelection in the last two races and the one coming up, six opted out. Another incumbent, former Councilman Norman P. Murray, was defeated at the ballot box in 1990.

What gives? Cody and Breton cited the demands placed by the job on their family lives. But they probably would have faced heavy criticism from potential campaign rivals and Councilman William S. Craycraft for allegedly overspending city funds on projects such as the city animal control shelter and the soccer training center used by the USA World Cup team.

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Gaddi-gate: Orange County Supervisor Gaddi H. Vasquez is finding out he may never live down the "purple pin" caper.

Vasquez caused a brouhaha at the recent funeral of former President Richard Nixon when his colleagues discovered Vasquez had secured invitations to the funeral for 94 of his closest friends and workers, and he also had been given a purple lapel pin that gave him entry to a private reception with the Nixon family.

The controversy was not forgotten last week at the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace. Following a speech by former Vice President Dan Quayle, library director John H. Taylor quickly introduced a couple of elected officials in the audience.

"As always, because he's wearing his purple pin, our 3rd District supervisor, Gaddi Vasquez!" Taylor announced.

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No comment: After considering cross complaints filed by candidates Marilyn Brewer and Thomas G. Reinecke in the 70th Assembly District Republican primary, the GOP's local ethics committee decided it didn't have jurisdiction over most of the charges. The complaints alleged that the candidates had misrepresented themselves in their campaign mailers, but the committee only reviews statements made by one candidate against another.

The committee did consider one minor complaint by Brewer about a Reinecke brochure that claims: "All (of the GOP candidates) tried, but only Tom Reinecke won the endorsement of the California Republican Assembly." Brewer said she didn't seek the conservative group's backing.

The ethics committee ruled both of them were right: Brewer did not follow through in asking for the endorsement, but Reinecke "may have reasonably believed" Brewer was seeking the endorsement because she attended two candidates forums sponsored by the group.

UPCOMING EVENTS

* Tuesday: The two Democratic candidates for the 41st congressional district seat held by Rep. Jay C. Kim (R-Diamond Bar) will hold their only debate before the June 7 primary at Cal Poly Pomona, University Union Lecture Room, at 6 p.m.

* Wednesday: The Democratic Club of West Orange County hosts candidates for Municipal Court judge, including incumbent Daniel Charles Dutcher, Harry S. Brown and Caryl Lee, at Fidelity Federal Bank Building, 19900 Beach Blvd., 7:30 p.m.

* Wednesday: Candidates for the Board of Supervisors' 2nd District seat meet at a forum sponsored by the American Assn. of University Women and the League of Women Voters, at the Huntington Beach City Council Chambers from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.

* Wednesday: The Republican-based National Policy Forum sponsors a discussion on violent crime with former U.S. Atty. Gen. William Barr and state Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren at Cal State Fullerton, Titan Pavilion C, 800 N. State College Blvd., at 7 p.m.

* Friday: United We Stand America hosts candidates for governor and other state offices at the Irvine Ranch Water District, 15600 Sand Canyon Ave., beginning at 7 p.m.

Politics '94 appears every Sunday.

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