It's obvious why he filed so late. Follow the money!
PUBLISHED: March 5, 2018 at 4:44 pm | UPDATED: March 5, 2018 at 5:07 pm
San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael A. Ramos said he knows that his strongest challenger in the June primary election is being funded heavily by the vindicated Colonies corruption case defendants and their supporters.
“I know they’re upset, and I also know they’re coming after me, and I also know they’re going to fund a candidate,” Ramos said during a recent interview at his office.
Ramos was referring to Jason Anderson, a 17-year veteran county prosecutor who became a defense attorney in 2014. Anderson announced his candidacy last month.
“He’s their candidate. They would love to have their puppet in here,” Ramos said of Anderson. He said the former Colonies defendants already have sought more than $100 million from the county in legal claims since the trial, and are now pooling their resources to fund Anderon’s campaign.
“They’d love to have a D.A. in here that would support them and open up that checkbook. And that’s Jason,” said Ramos, the county’s top prosecutor since 2002 who is seeking his fifth term in office.
Ramos’ candidacy comes in the aftermath of one of the biggest bungled corruption cases in county history, costing perhaps tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer money. The nearly decade-long criminal investigation and 8-month trial ended in acquittal for three of the defendants and dismissal of all charges against a fourth defendant last summer. But the exact cost may never be known. The District Attorney’s Office maintains it does not keep a record of such figures in the cases it prosecutes.
The vindicated defendants — Rancho Cucamonga developer Jeff Burum, former county supervisor Paul Biane, former assistant assessor Jim Erwin, and Mark Kirk, former chief of staff to former county supervisor Gary Ovitt — have taken legal action.
Rancho Cucamonga investor group Colonies Partners, of which Burum is co-managing partner and was a focal point in the criminal case, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the state and county on Thursday, March 1, seeking $80 million in damages, $60 million in general damages and $20 million in punitive damages.
Anderson denied that he is the “Colonies candidate,” but noted the defendants have a right to exercise their First Amendment rights and back the candidate of their choice.
“I’ve got no commitment from anybody. I didn’t pull my papers until the beginning of February. So am I the Colonies’ candidate? No!” Anderson said.
Defense attorney and former San Bernardino County prosecutor Jason Anderson is challenging incumbent Mike Ramos for District Attorney in this year’s election.<br />(Stan Lim, San Bernardino Sun/SCNG)
He said he was also unaware that Erwin and Kirk formed a political action committee last month supporting his candidacy. As of Monday, Business Leaders for Fair and Ethical Government already had raised $307,600. Burum contributed $149,100 to the PAC on Thursday, March 1, according to the PAC’s finance records.
“Do I suspect that people that are involved with Colonies and are supporters of those people that went through what they went through — are they going to come and support me directly? Perhaps they will, I mean I have to get my message out, right?” said Anderson. “And so there are people with resources that are going to, if they want to donate to me, then they can do that.”
Anderson said he has his own campaign committee, Jason Anderson for District Attorney, that is limited to contributions not exceeding $4,400, the maximum allowed per county ordinance.
Anderson, a former Ontario councilman and planning commissioner, said he is relying on support from his friends and colleagues in the legal and law enforcement communities. He acknowledged he’s friends with Kirk.
To illustrate the role Burum and his friends and/or business associates are playing in Anderson’s campaign, Ramos pointed out contributions made to the Inland Empire Taxpayers Association PAC on Dec. 5, 2017. On that day, Burum and several friends and/or business associates contributed more than $50,000 to the PAC, then on the same day purchased four slate mailers for Anderson’s campaign, according to Ramos. Burum himself donated $27,000 to the PAC, according to campaign finance statements.
“Now you tell me that’s not money laundering. They’re getting away from the campaign limits and they’re using these different ways of doing it,” said Ramos. “If that’s who the public wants as their District Attorney, then the voters are going to vote, and they’re going to say that’s who they want.”
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