By Mark Gutglueck
The Sentinel has received a report that district attorney Mike Ramos this morning made an overture to the president of the county’s public attorneys’ union, requesting that the union coordinate an independent expenditure from its political action committee with his current reelection campaign, an act which some members of the union believe constitutes a criminal conspiracy.
This year, Ramos, who was first elected district attorney in 2002 and was reelected without opposition in 2006 and handily reelected in 2010 and 2014, is facing the most serious challenge of his political career in the form of the candidacy of Jason Anderson, a former prosecutor with the district attorney’s office under Ramos and Ramos’ predecessor as district attorney, Dennis Stout. Anderson, who has electoral experience as a one-time member of the Ontario City Council, is putting on a spirited campaign effort, having raised more money than Ramos, who in years past used his power of incumbency to bank funds and preclude his opponents from convincing donors to back them. Anderson, however, in embarking on his current effort quietly assembled commitments of crucial support from a host of donors, many of whom represent the business community on the county’s west end, including firms, businesses and investors in Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga, Upland and Chino Hills. Meanwhile, the political machine that Ramos has relied upon throughout his career, one that is comprised primarily of business interests based in or residing in or around Redlands, has atrophied, with many of its members having moved into retirement, passed on or lost interest in politics in general.
At the beginning of the year, Ramos had $120,236 in his political coffers. Since that time, through April 21, he spent $88,567.99, including payments to his campaign consultant Dave Ellis for his services, to do polling, and for signs. Since January 1, Ramos has raised $28,154 in donations, and as of April 21 had $59,822.01 on hand to move forward with the rest of his campaign.
By contrast, Anderson who had no money in his campaign account on January 1, raised $140,176 through April 21. In that same timeframe, he spent $46,911.75. As of April 21, some six weeks before the election, he had $93,264.25 remaining in his political war chest. Additionally, credible reports are that an independent expenditure committee, Business Leaders for Fair and Ethical Government, which is active in this year’s election cycle oriented against Ramos and favorable toward Anderson, has already raised $587,000, a substantial portion of which has been spent on signs, mailers and newspaper ads. Donors have made commitments to endow an $860,000 budget for that committee, including the money that has already been donated.
In recent weeks, Ramos has seen growing indications of the political juggernaut he is up against, as high propensity voters throughout the county have been receiving mailers both in support of Anderson and assailing Ramos’ performance in office and his character.
This morning, the Sentinel is informed, Ramos summoned the president of the San Bernardino County Public Attorneys Association, Doug Poston, to the district attorney’s office’s executive suite on the sixth floor of the county building at 303 West Third Street in Downtown San Bernardino. Using desperate terms that were both pleading and demanding, Ramos called upon Poston to use a sizeable chunk of the $750,000 available through the public attorneys’ union’s political action committee to form an independent expenditure committee to fund an attack mailer campaign against Anderson. The request was an audacious one, since by law, independent expenditure committees are prohibited from coordinating with the candidates they support or the campaigns of the candidates they support in making such independent expenditures. In addition to Ramos, the sixth floor suite is occupied by the district attorney’s executive staff, two assistant district attorneys, the office’s deputy chief district attorneys, the office’s top investigator and the office’s public spokesman. All of those employed there are sworn to uphold the law. A request such as the one made to Poston, who holds the position of lead deputy district attorney with the district attorney’s office’s consumer and environmental protection unit, could qualify as an element of a conspiracy.
The San Bernardino County Public Attorneys Association is the bargaining unit for the county’s deputy district attorneys and the county’s deputy public defenders.
Efforts to reach Poston and Ramos by press time were unsuccessful.