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Hungry for the Mother’s Milk of Politics? Call a Cash Cow

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

NO FUN FUNDS: Dialing for dollars is the name of the game in the Capitol political arena these days, with the primary election only days away and campaigns in overdrive.

It’s possible, in fact, that some members of the Legislature are getting a mild case of cauliflower ear from the constant application of a telephone receiver to the ear.

Try to reach a lawmaker these days and often you’ll get a staff member explaining that the boss is “across the street” or “out making calls.” Those are two common euphemisms used when lawmakers hoof it over to their hired fund raiser’s office--or to party leaders’ rented quarters--to phone key contributors.

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Nearly everyone, it seems, is beating the bushes for legal tender nowadays. Many speak freely about how much they hate it, too.

The practice was a rude awakening, for example, for former Glendale Municipal Judge James E. Rogan, who arrived in Sacramento last month after winning a special election to fill the seat of his friend, Assemblyman Pat Nolan (R-Glendale), who resigned to serve a prison sentence on federal political corruption charges.

Rogan, who as a judge refused to let lawyer friends buy him lunch, said telephoning potential supporters for money has been “the hardest part” of adjusting to life as a legislator.

“Every time I have to make a fund-raising call, my stomach starts to churn. There’s got to be a better way to run the airline,” the new assemblyman said. “I just don’t know what it is.”

But it didn’t take long for some political action committees to sense a sympathetic vote in the antiabortion, conservative Republican. Among those pitching in to help Rogan through the primary and general elections is the National Rifle Assn.’s Political Victory Fund, which sent a check for $3,000.

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DOUBLE WHAMMY: Another who, despite decades of practice, still cringes at having to raise campaign funds is longtime state Sen. David A. Roberti, who took on the double duty of a state treasurer’s bid amid the heat of a recall battle over his Van Nuys district seat.

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Roberti reports that, somehow, it was a lot easier to call people to support his recall fight against gun-rights groups retaliating for his assault-weapons ban. A public alarmed with the proliferation of guns was responsive, apparently more so than in the race for the ho-hum treasurer’s seat.

Still, Roberti has scraped up enough to pay for an 11th-hour blitz of 10-second TV ads that are so brief, the message comes across as nearly subliminal.

The net effect is blurred snatches of themes: “Roberti . . . assault weapons . . . smear campaign . . . don’t let the NRA win.” Viewers hardly have a chance to focus on the fact that he’s selling himself as California’s next top fiscal officer.

Meanwhile, Roberti’s opponent, former state Democratic Party Chairman Phil Angelides, on Thursday unveiled his fourth and latest TV ad in a $1.5-million statewide air-time buy.

This one departs from earlier barbed attacks of Roberti as a Senate leader in an era of corruption and extols Angelides’ attributes as a businessman and potential state officeholder.

Though the nod’s statewide appeal is limited, Angelides is fond of citing one local endorsement in particular: that of the Democratic Party chapter of the San Fernando Valley.

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Noting that the group wholeheartedly backed Roberti in the recall, chapter Chairwoman Carol Blad said that when it came to the primary, “this is a different race, with different issues.”

No one mentioned that Blad’s daughter works full time for the Angelides campaign. Except Roberti, of course.

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HOPING TO BE HIZZHONOR: One Valley-area state assemblyman who is not suffering from telephone-induced repetitive stress injury--and is happy about it--is Democrat Terry B. Friedman.

Friedman, who has represented Encino and portions of the West Side for eight years, is giving up his nearly daily commute to Sacramento in hopes of finding something a little closer to home and family.

Trying to capitalize on his expertise in the law, attorney Friedman passed up another run for the Assembly in favor of a bid for a Los Angeles Superior Court judgeship. An expert in tenancy law, he is the primary author of a 1,500-page reference book on the topic that earns him upward of $10,000 a year in royalties.

Campaigning for the bench is decidedly less costly and lower key, Friedman notes. “The fund raising has never been something I enjoyed,” he said. “It’s something I’m glad I won’t have to do anymore.”

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His opponents in the primary are trial attorney John L. Moriarity of Van Nuys and Robert Schirn, a prosecutor in North Hollywood.

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CELEBRITY BACKING: Short of a job change, it seems the only other way to avoid having to raise huge sums in campaign contributions is to be independently wealthy--a luxury enjoyed locally only by state Sen. Tom Hayden.

Thus the Santa Monica Democrat has limited individual contributions to no more than $94 for his unconventional run at the governor’s office.

So far, the maverick candidate has attracted about 1,200 contributions from people backing his alternative message, said Duane Peterson, campaign manager.

Even the well-heeled of the entertainment world are responding, Peterson says. Among those sending in checks are comedian Chevy Chase and his wife, Jayni Chase, singer Bonnie Raitt and former basketball star Bill Walton, who saw a Hayden ad in the New York Times, clipped the coupon and attached his $94 check.

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HAPPY TRAILS: After 20 years of working with the Legislature, Maeley Tom, Roberti’s longtime chief of staff during his reign as Senate president pro tem, is leaving the halls of government.

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Tom will remain in Sacramento to start up the West Coast offices of Cassidy & Associates, which specializes in government relations and public affairs. She was widely thought to be job hunting. But then, so is her boss, who will be booted from the Legislature in December by term limits.

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