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Fund-Raising Records Fall in D.A. Race

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Fund-raising in an increasingly bitter Ventura County district attorney’s race blew past the $1-million mark this month, fueled largely by huge sums pumped into prosecutor Ron Bamieh’s campaign by his wealthy father.

Nearly all of the $374,000 that Bamieh received in recent weeks came from San Mateo businessman Sam Bamieh. The elder Bamieh gave his only son $307,000 over a four-week finance reporting period that ended Feb. 16, and then funneled another $67,000 in so-called “late contributions” in the days after.

That brings the senior deputy district attorney’s fund-raising total to $912,000 since his campaign began last year.

Rival candidate Greg Totten, meanwhile, collected $91,000 from more than 200 contributors during the same four-week period and posted no late contributions. Despite a wider base of support, Totten has come nowhere close to Bamieh’s war chest, raising a total of $317,000.

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The two are vying to replace longtime Dist. Atty. Michael D. Bradbury in the March 5 primary.

The $1.2 million raised in the combined campaigns has already smashed records for a county seat and could exceed $1.5 million by the March 5 primary, a political analyst predicted. Money raised this election season far outstrips the previous record of $427,500 raised during the contest two years ago between Supervisor Steve Bennett and his defeated opponent, Ventura Councilman Jim Monahan.

Big money in Ventura County elections is usually reserved for congressional races in which candidates tap into the fund-raising bases of national parties and interest groups, said Herb Gooch, chairman of the political science department at Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks.

“That’s really quite extraordinary money,” Gooch said. “In a county with 750,000 people, it’s hard to raise that kind of money from the inside. In this case, it really goes back to Sam Bamieh, a single individual whose contacts are Bush proteges, Washington insiders and other out-of-state people.”

Totten renewed charges that Sam Bamieh, a frequent GOP contributor, is trying to buy the election for his ambitious son. The huge sums also point out the need for campaign contribution limits in Ventura County races, Totten said.

The county currently has no restrictions on how much a candidate can receive.

“It’s just the latest example of Sam Bamieh making good on his promise to make sure his son gets elected,” Totten said. “In any other race, whether it’s Congress, governor or the president, contributions of this magnitude would be illegal.”

Bamieh, 36, said huge spending is necessary to overcome Totten’s backing by a “huge political machine.” Totten, the No. 2 man in the district attorney’s office, is endorsed by Bradbury, Sheriff Bob Brooks, police and labor unions and four Ventura County supervisors.

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“They are using every trick you can imagine--they don’t mind destroying people’s lives with their negative campaigning,” Bamieh said, referring to a press conference Totten called this week to reveal that a 72-year-old Bamieh backer had been convicted on drugs charges 13 years earlier. “In order to combat that and fight on an even level, it requires resources,” he added.

Contributions in the contest to replace retiring county Supervisor Frank Schillo also have surpassed the Bennett-Monahan record.

Businessman Randy Hoffman and Thousand Oaks City Councilwoman Linda Parks have raised a combined $486,000 since their campaigns began. Hoffman, an entrepreneur with the backing of Thousand Oaks business owners, investors and developer-business magnate David Murdock, accounts for the vast majority, having raised $379,500.

Parks, who is limiting contributions to $500, has raised a total of $106,000. Her contributors are teachers, retirees, homemakers and professionals from across the county. In the latest filing period, she raised $32,239.

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Hoffman widened his fund-raising lead by taking in $167,750 for the reporting period. His contributions include $25,000 from Beverly Hills investor Louis Gonda, $10,000 from the union representing county sheriff’s deputies, a $10,000 loan from Assemblyman Tony Strickland (R-Moorpark) and $5,000 from Camarillo resident Edward Atsinger, who runs a string of Christian radio stations.

Murdock, who has given Hoffman $91,000, did not make any contributions during the latest reporting period.

Parks called Hoffman’s mounting campaign chest “obscene” and said his acceptance of money from developers shows that voters cannot trust him to hold the line on urban sprawl--a significant issue in the Thousand Oaks-based 2nd District.

Hoffman countered that the business community is backing him because it thinks he is more responsive to its concerns than Parks.

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“They are quite frankly fed up with Linda Parks’ divisiveness and lack of responsibility,” Hoffman said.

Contributions were more moderate in Supervisor Judy Mikels’ campaign to win a third term in the Simi Valley-based 4th District.

Mikels raised $27,000 during the latest filing period, bringing her total to $101,808. Contributors included business owners in her district, developers, Los Angeles law firms and quarry operators.

Her opponent, Moorpark fraud investigator John Lane, raised $31,000, including a $10,000 contribution from the county deputies’ union. Lane has raised a total of $89,000.

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Law enforcement unions have been Lane’s biggest financial supporters, but he also picked up donations from individuals who think Mikels is too friendly with developers. Richard Francis, coauthor of the county SOAR growth-control laws, gave Lane $500.

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Times staff writer Margaret Talev contributed to this report.


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