Some California politicians are ridding their campaign coffers of cash from a Los Angeles venture capitalist who has pleaded guilty to bribing pension officials in New York.
Elliott Broidy, who had California government contracts worth tens of millions of dollars, showered his personal fortune on officeholders and candidates. Over the last decade, Broidy and his wife, Robin Rosenzweig, have made nearly $900,000 in campaign contributions in California, including $57,000 to candidates and ballot measures in the city of Los Angeles.
Candidates for governor, state attorney general and other offices declared Monday that they would return tens of thousands of dollars received from Broidy, who on Friday admitted in court that he paid $1 million in bribes in New York to land $250 million in pension fund business.
Broidy faces up to four years in prison. His business with pension funds in California is under investigation by state and federal authorities.
Tom Hogen-Esch, a professor of political science at Cal State Northridge, said Broidy’s confession to bribery taints the donations.
“If somebody has admitted to a crime, anyone receiving money from him in large sums should consider donating it to charity or some other action, to protect the political process itself,” he said. “The appearance of corruption is quite obvious.”
Among the recipients of Broidy’s largess was state Insurance Commissioner and GOP gubernatorial hopeful Steve Poizner, who until four months ago had Broidy on his campaign’s steering committee. A spokesman for Poizner said Monday that the commissioner is giving away the $34,000 that Broidy and Rosenzweig contributed to his campaigns. About $22,000 of the money will be given to charity, and the remainder returned to the contributors. “Steve did not feel it would be appropriate to accept the funds and felt the money would be best served by Toys for the Troops’ Kids,” said Jarrod Agen.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa plans to donate to charity the $2,000 that Broidy gave him. “It simply would not be appropriate or right” to keep the money, said spokeswoman Janelle Erickson.
Michelle Steel, a Republican who serves on the Board of Equalization, which sets state tax policy and presides over tax disputes, said she was also donating to charity the $6,000 Broidy gave her. “Because there is that level of impropriety with that donor, it’s important we not spend that money on the campaign,” said Steel spokesman Tim Clark.
Rocky Delgadillo, a former L.A. city attorney who is a candidate for state attorney general, is giving to charity the $3,000 he received from 2002 to 2006. Assemblyman Van Tran (R-Garden Grove) said he plans to donate to charity the $1,800 he received.
Not all politicians are divesting themselves of Broidy’s cash. A spokesman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who received at least $86,000 from Broidy between 2003 and 2005, said the money is gone.
“This is money that was donated and spent years ago from campaign committees that no longer exist,” said Schwarzenegger press secretary Aaron McLear.
Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles), who received a $3,200 contribution from Broidy in 2004, said he was in the same predicament.
The state Republican Party did not respond to queries about the $79,000 Broidy pumped into its Victory 2006 campaign fund. There was no comment, either, from the offices of state Sen. Tony Strickland (R-Thousand Oaks) and Assemblywoman Audra Strickland (R-Thousand Oaks). The couple got $8,500 combined from Broidy. Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich did not return calls about his $2,000.
The United Food and Commercial Workers, which accepted thousands of dollars from Broidy for its political committee, also did not return calls seeking comment. The donation was made about the time Broidy was lobbying a top union official who served on the state pension board for a major investment contract.
Times staff writer David Zahniser contributed to this report.