Umberg Says Illegal Alliance Is Hurting His Senate Campaign

Times Staff Writer

Orange County Assemblyman Tom Umberg charged Monday that the president of the state Senate was behind questionable campaign tactics benefiting Umberg’s opponent, Lou Correa.

Umberg (D-Anaheim) asked the Fair Political Practices Commission to stop the activities of Californians United, which has distributed two mailers critical of him.

His complaint names as defendants Senate leader Don Perata (D-Oakland); Correa, an Orange County supervisor running against Umberg for Senate on the June 6 ballot; and Perata’s campaign consultant, Sandra Polka.


Umberg’s attorney, Jennifer Keller, cited state law forbidding candidates to coordinate or influence the activities of independent committees.

Umberg said Perata recruited Correa to run for the Senate seat, then arranged for Correa’s campaign and Californians United to use the same fundraiser and pollster, coordinated through Polka.

“The evidence speaks for itself,” said Umberg, an attorney who served in the Assembly from 1990 to 1994 and was elected again in 2004.

Perata couldn’t be reached for comment Monday. Correa said he was unaware of the complaint and declined to comment until he could read it.

Paul Hefner, who works for Polka Consulting, said no one at the company was working with either the Correa campaign or Californians United.

“It’s hard to say that we’re coordinating something we’re not involved in,” he said.


He called Umberg “a desperate guy chasing an empty ambulance.”

A state elections lawyer said Umberg would have a tough job convincing the FPPC to investigate before the election. The remedy he seeks “is rarely sought because it’s even more rarely given,” said Ben Davidian, a former chairman of the FPPC. “Political speech is the single most protected thing we have in this country.”

In his complaint, Umberg said virtually all of the contributors to Californians United were donors to Perata.

The father of Perata’s spokesman was listed in March as president of the group, which also paid expenses for a campaign paraphernalia company owned by Perata’s son, Nick, the complaint alleged.

The complaint also alleged that Correa recruited the district resident featured in one of the “hit pieces” sent by Californians United.