LOS ANGELES – A lawsuit filed against city attorney candidate Mike Feuer by a community activist alleging illegal campaign finance tactics is a “transparent political gimmick,” a spokesman for the Feuer campaign said today, heating up an already contentious campaign.
“This is a phony lawsuit filed by a phony group on behalf of a desperate candidate,” Feuer spokesman Dave Jacobson said, pointing to a recent ABC7 poll that indicates Feuer is leading incumbent City Attorney Carmen Trutanich by 18 percentage points.
Jacobson’s comments came in response to a lawsuit filed Wednesday by activist Laura Lake and comments by Trutanich strategist Rick Taylor, who called Feuer “morally unfit to hold public office.”
Lake, a member of the nonprofit Fix the City, filed suit against Feuer accusing the former assemblyman of cheating the public out of $300,000 in matching funds. Trutanich’s campaign filed similar complaints earlier against Feuer with the city Ethics Commission.
Lake contends a scheme between Feuer and his campaign strategist, John Shallman, allowed the candidate to receive free services without disclosing that they were worth $250,000, an amount that also breaks laws limiting campaign donations to a maximum of $1,300 a person.
Lake’s lawsuit claims that Feuer, by not disclosing the true worth of Shallman’s services, attempted to defraud the public out of $300,000 in taxpayer-funded matching money, which is given to candidates who spend below $1.2 million.
Shallman, who typically charges a $20,000-$25,000 fee, gave his services for free to Feuer as part of a “win bonus” arrangement in which Feuer would only pay Shallman if he wins the May 21 runoff against Trutanich, according to the lawsuit.
Taylor said the agreement gave Feuer an unfair advantage in the race and tainted the results of the March 5 primary election, which ended with Feuer receiving 44.1 percent of the vote and Trutanich with 29.7 percent.
“This is undoubtedly the biggest, most outrageous election scam ever perpetrated in the city’s election history,” Taylor said.
Jacobson said the payment agreement with Feuer was permitted by the city Ethics Commission.
Former Assemblyman Bob Hertzberg also came to Feuer’s defense, attacking Trutanich’s integrity.
“It doesn’t matter that respected legal experts say he’s wrong. If it serves his political interests to lie, he (Trutanich) will again and again and again,” Hertzberg said.
“He uses the law as a self-serving political weapon — rather than a tool to do good,” he added. “He has embarrassed the office and is unfit for duty.”