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Sunday, May 22, 2022

Shelley’s Travails Present Dilemma for Area Democrats

Two L.A.-area Democrats are at the center of the storm created by the growing scandals surrounding fellow Democrat and California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley.

State Sen. Debra Bowen, D-Marina del Rey, has announced she is seeking Shelley’s post in 2006, while Assembly Speaker Fabian Nu & #324;ez, D-Los Angeles, faces a key decision in the coming weeks about whether to launch legislative hearings that could lead to Shelley’s removal.

The saga began two months ago when allegations surfaced that a state grant was diverted, perhaps illegally, into Shelley’s 2002 election campaign. Shelly said he was unaware of the origins of the campaign contributions and that he has returned the money to the state.

Further allegations contend that Shelley steered federal voting aid dollars to Democrat-leaning political organizations, prompting a warning from the Federal Elections Assistance Commission that voting aid dollars to the state could be cut off.

Much of the federal aid stems from the Help America Vote Act, passed by Congress in the wake of the Florida debacle in the 2000 presidential election. Those funds are earmarked for conversions to electronic voting machines and other measures designed to reduce problems at the polling booths.

He denies any wrongdoing with regard to the voting aid funds.

Nonetheless, eight separate federal and state probes are under way, including a legislative audit that’s supposed to wrap up in December or early January. Calls have mounted, mostly from Republicans, for Shelley’s resignation.

Last month Bowen announced she would seek election to Secretary of State in 2006, despite the fact that Shelley isn’t termed out until 2010. Bowen had been preparing to file for the state treasurer’s post, which will be open in 2006 when Phil Angelides is termed out. But she has said that Shelley’s difficulties prompted her to switch her focus.

Meanwhile, pressure is mounting on the Democratic leadership to hold hearings on the Shelley matter when the Legislature reconvenes in December, just as they did when former Republican Insurance Commissioner Charles Quackenbush faced ethical questions three years ago.

Quackenbush resigned before the hearings could progress to a possible impeachment trial.

Democrats are in a jam because if they force Shelley’s resignation, Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger would presumably appoint a Republican to serve out his term through 2006.

The decision to hold hearings on Shelley will largely be up to Nu & #324;ez and the likely Senate President-pro-tempore, Don Perata, D-Oakland.

Chamber Post Goes Political

With the recent hiring of Robyn Ritter Simon, the traditionally low-profile post of Century City Chamber of Commerce president has suddenly taken on political overtones.

Simon, who ran unsuccessfully for an L.A. City Council seat four years ago, said one of the reasons she applied was to boost her profile on the Westside in preparation for another run in 2009. “The political profile of the position certainly was in the back of my mind,” Simon said.

She was one of 11 candidates who ran for the 5th District L.A. City Council seat in 2001. At that time, she was known primarily as the founder of Beverlywood Moms, a parental support group for local public schools.

Simon failed to make the runoff, which was ultimately won by prosecutor Jack Weiss, who had the backing of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

Shortly after her defeat, Simon joined the L.A. Chamber as its marketing and communications director.

Earlier this year, there was a game of chamber musical chairs, starting when the chief executive of the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce left for a job on the East Coast. That prompted longtime Century City Chamber of Commerce president and chief executive James Lynch to apply for the Beverly Hills chamber post, which he got. In turn, an opening was created at the Century City chamber.

Being a chamber president gives a candidate local stature that can be helpful when several candidates are vying for a spot.

Hertzberg’s Color Alert

For L.A. mayoral candidate Robert Hertzberg, the city of Los Angeles is on code “red.”

It’s not a terror warning but rather Hertzberg’s take on L.A.’s status as a high-cost city for businesses.

In making his case for business tax reform, he adapted the findings of the Kosmont-Rose Institute Cost of Doing Business Survey, which uses dollar signs to signify which cities have the highest taxes and fees. For each of the last 10 years, L.A. has ranked as the most expensive city, with either four or five dollar signs.

Instead of the dollar signs, the Hertzberg campaign decided to use the national “terror alert” color codes. That’s how L.A. ended up with the “severe” or red rating in an e-mail blast sent out last week.

“Bob (Hertzberg) wanted to come up with something that would make a more powerful statement about the impact of the cost of doing business on jobs,” campaign spokesman Matt Szabo said.

On his campaign blog, Hertzberg said L.A.’s status is reason to junk the entire gross-receipts tax system. “If we’re going to bring new jobs and businesses to Los Angeles, we must end the gross receipts business tax as we know it,” he said.

Staff reporter Howard Fine can be reached at (323) 549-5225, ext. 227, or at


Howard Fine
Howard Fine
Howard Fine is a 23-year veteran of the Los Angeles Business Journal. He covers stories pertaining to healthcare, biomedicine, energy, engineering, construction, and infrastructure. He has won several awards, including Best Body of Work for a single reporter from the Alliance of Area Business Publishers and Distinguished Journalist of the Year from the Society of Professional Journalists.

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