Burum Unequivocally Back As County’s Primary Political Patron

The 2022 election cycle has seen the further progression of Jeff Burum toward what he sees as his rightful position as the preeminent political patron in San Bernardino County. Easily recognizable were a dozen political campaigns that he had a prominent, indeed what in several was by some measures the most prominent, role in advancing. Of note is that in all but one of those, the measure or candidate he backed won.
Burum and Dan Richards were two of and the most dynamic of the four managing principals in the original 21 investors in the Colonies Partners, which developed 440 acres of what had formerly been water recharge and flood control property owned by the San Antonio Water Company in northeast Upland. In undertaking that project, Burum and Richards boldly asserted themselves and the entity they headed as the most prolific political donors in San Bernardino County in the early 2000s, donating in excess of $1 million to a variety of political candidates and political causes in a four-year time span.The way in which those political donations were applied, however, as well as the action some of those politicians took both before and after receiving that money raised questions, followed by suspicions. Thereafter, criminal charges resulted that required the better part of a decade to fully play out, ultimately sending the politician who had been the largest recipient of Burum’s and Richards’ largesse, Bill Postmus, to prison.
For nearly a decade beginning in 2008, Burum on his own initiative and upon the advice of his attorney discontinued his prodigious generosity toward San Bernardino County’s politicians. In 2011, Burum, Supervisor Paul Biane, Mark Kirk and Jim Erwin were indicted by a county criminal grand jury. Biane in 2006 had joined with Postmus in approving a $102 million settlement relating to flood control issues at the Colonies at San Antonio residential and the Colonies Crossroads commercial subdivisions. Kirk had been the chief of staff to Supervisor Gary Ovitt, who provided the third vote to approve that settlement. Erwin, a former president of the county’s sheriff’s deputies union, was one of Postmus’s political associates and a consultant who had worked for the Colonies Partners in lobbying for the settlement. The four were charged with various combinations of conspiracy, extortion, bribery, conflict of interest, fraud, misappropriation of public funds, political funding disclosure violations and perjury relating to four donations of $100,000 each that Burum and his business partner Richards had made to political action committees set up and/or controlled by Postmus, Biane, Kirk and Erwin all within 7 months after the $102 million settlement was reached. The prosecution, consisting of the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office and the California Attorney General’s Office, alleged those $100,000 political donations were bribes.
That criminal prosecution and several related to it ended in Postmus, his associates Rex Gutierrez, Greg Eyler and Adam Aleman being convicted. Burum, Biane and Kirk were acquitted during a marathon trial in 2017. Erwin’s trial ended with a hung jury on all counts. Charges that had been lodged against another Postmus associate, John Dino DeFazio, were dismissed by the prosecution.
In 2018, after a hiatus of nearly a decade, Burum, who had been under advisement by his legal team to desist in any sort of political activity involving donations because of the way in which prosecutors had interpreted that at least some of the donations he and his company had provided to politicians were bribes, was no longer under any such restriction. He self-reactivated as a major political donor, and together with his associates in the Colonies Partners put up the lion’s share of the $259,055.70 in funding used by one-time Ontario City Councilman and former San Bernardino County Deputy District Attorney Jason Anderson to campaign against and defeat District Attorney Mike Ramos in that year’s election. It was Ramos whose office, in conjunction with then-California Attorneys General Jerry Brown and Kamala Harris, had prosecuted Postmus, Eyler, Aleman, Burum, Biane, Kirk, Erwin and DeFazio.
With Burum backing him, no one emerged to challenge Anderson for the district attorney’s position in this year’s election.
The 2018 election and its outcome served as a signal that Burum was back, writing checks – large ones – to those vying for political office. He was active in the 2020 election, as well. This year, Burum has emerged as the linchpin in what is again the largest consortium of business interests in the county underwriting political campaigns.
Indeed, Burum has in multiple instances donated money to individual candidates for public office or electoral causes in amounts that exceed the annual take-home pay of an average worker in San Bernardino County.
Based on the currently available campaign accounting documentation, which does not include, presumably, several examples of last-minute spending by some of this year’s crop of candidates, Burum has spent over a quarter of a million dollars on the 2022 election cycle.
He made a major, though not his largest, monetary commitment to his own brainchild, what became Measure EE on the November 8 ballot.
A demonstration of Burum’s influence as a campaign donor was in evidence with the manner in which the county board of supervisors acted with alacrity to Burum’s call – made at the eleventh hour on July 26 – for the county to consider withdrawing from the State of California. While virtually anyone else who had proposed that San Bernardino secede from the Golden State would have been laughed out of the board chamber at the county administrative headquarters where the meeting was held, the board moved with utmost haste to formulate Burum’s suggestion into an actual initiative, which was carried over to the San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters office prior to the August 11 deadline to get it onto the November 8 ballot. Another item that went before the voters was what was designated as Measure D. Measure D called for upping the pay grade of the supervisors to an amount in the neighborhood of $280,000 annually from the $60,000 in total annual compensation – salary and benefits – that had been specified in the voters’ better-than-two-thirds-margin passage in 2020 of the never-enforced Measure K. As of this week, Burum had donated $49,900 to People United for Fairness in support of Measures D & EE. His wife, Kellie Burum, had also donated $49,900 to People United for Fairness in support of Measures D & EE.
A vehicle that Burum and his associates created by which he and those of like mind can make contributions to the politicians and political causes he favors is the independent expenditure committee known as Business Leaders for Ethical Government. Under the rules set up by the California legislature, candidates for office can be subject to limitations as to how much their political campaign committee can receive from an individual donor. Independent expenditure committees, however, are not limited as to what they can spend to support or oppose a candidate or initiative if they make certain gestures to maintain their independence from the campaigns for those candidates or ballot measures/initiatives/propositions they are supporting. Business Leaders for Ethical Government has been used this way by Burum, who has been the major donor to that entity over the years since it was originally set up in 2018 with the intent of preventing Mike Ramos from being reelected as district attorney.
In 2020, Burum gave Business Leaders for Ethical Government $77,000.
This year he gave Business Leaders for Ethical Government $49,900.
This year, in the primary election, Burum and his associates, through Business Leaders for Ethical Government, provided $45,524.26 in support of Fourth District San Bernardino County Supervisor Curt Hagman in his run for reelection. Business Leaders for Ethical Government also used $49,900 to oppose State Senator Connie Leyva, who was running against Hagman. Hagman prevailed in the June 7 primary, thus avoiding a runoff on November 8. Burum also provided $2,900 directly to Hagman’s campaign.
Also contested in this year’s primary election was the open Second District seat on the board of supervisors. The incumbent Second District supervisor, Janice Rutherford, is to be termed out of office next month after having served the full limit of three four-year terms. Running for the post were former Fontana City Councilman Jess Armendarez, Cucamonga Valley Water District Board Member Luis Cetina, Nadia Renner, Dejonae Shaw and Eric Coker.
Business Leaders for Ethical Government during the primary campaign expended $23,743.63 in opposition to Cetina and $21,582.23 in opposition to Renner in an effort to boost Armendarez. Business Leaders for Ethical Government spent $20,066.32 in opposition to Coker.
Business Leaders for Ethical Government spent $6,418 10 in support of Armendarez during the primary election.
Cumulatively in support of Armendarez in the 2022 election cycle, Business Leaders for Ethical Government provided $41,524.26
Burum directly contributed $2,500 to each of the reelection campaigns for Ontario Mayor Paul Leon and Ontario City Councilman Alan Wapner. Business Leaders for Ethical Government also expended $31,172.32 in opposition to Ontario City Councilman Ruben Valencia’s campaign for mayor against Leon.
Burum provided Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren with $4,500 toward her 2020 reelection campaign.
Burum provided $1,000 to Rudy Zuniga in his run for reelection to the position he holds as the District 4 representative on the Upland City Council.
Business Leaders for Ethical Government spent $3,042.28 in support of Zuniga’s 2022 reelection campaign.
Business Leaders for Ethical Government provided Jim Breitling, who challenged Upland City Councilwoman Janice Elliott in this year’s District 2 race, with $1,390.97.
Business Leaders for Ethical Government provided cumulative to date a total of $8,625.03 that was used to prepare and send by mail fliers in opposition to Janice Elliott’s reelection.
Burum provided $1,000 for the campaign in favor of Measure L, the sales tax measure that went before Upland’s voters in the November 8 election.
Business Leaders for Ethical Government underwrote the cost of sending text messages to Upland voters in favor of Measure L.
In addition to money he himself provided to Business Leaders for Ethical Government and the causes and candidates it supported, Burum was instrumental in getting his associates, including James Previti, Dan Richards and Chris Leggio, to provide support to the independent expenditure committee and the candidates’ and initiatives’ campaigns that he supported.
Mark Gutglueck

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