Developers and Politicians

This story appeared in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune recently. It suggested that contributions and meals might sway the decisions of city staff and politicians.

My initial reaction was to wonder where these stories were when Wal-Mart's consultant (Mike Lewis) was buying Councilmembers Taylor and Imperial drinks and appetizers every Wednesday evening at Denny’s for about two years. My second reaction was to think that there was something misleading about this story. For example, it notes that "The conditions for a fourth project, which is located on one parcel owned by Eric Lee and Bob Nguyen, was approved by the City Council after it was originally denied by the planning commission."

The thing is, Lee and Nguyen don’t actually own the same parcel. Nguyen owns the Rosemead Supermarket and shopping center property, while Lee owns the Universal Bank property that’s immediately southeast of the parcel. They’re business rivals who can not agree on the time of day, never mind any conditions for redeveloping their two parcels. When the condition noted in the article came to the city council, Nguyen argued for the condition, while Lee was opposed. Both sides made contributions totalling $7000 to council members. So if money speaks, these two sides just canceled each other out.

Thousands of dollars versus drinks and appetizers at Denny's

Do you really believe food and drinks at Denny's has the same impact as thousands of dollars in campaign contrbutions?  The comparison seems a little stretched. 

Also, did you see the blog entry at Foothill Cities blog regarding the all of the political contributions made by Arnold Alvarez-Glasman and his employees?  (See  Alvarez-Glasman contributed money to Mayor Tran in 2004 and Councilmember Polly Low in 2007 and is now (at least according to the SGV Tribune article) a front-runner for the redevelopment attorney position with Rosemead.

Thousands of dollars versus drinks and appetizers at Denny's

Do you really think that a few thousand dollars in campaign contributions from both sides of a controversy has the same impact as HUNDREDS of thousands of dollars in campaign expenditures from Wal-Mart?  The drinks and appetizers and weekly meetings were just the tip of the iceburg, my friend.

If you want to feign offense at a few thousand dollars given to both sides (and to council members, both old and new), along with an occasional dinner, then you ought to have gone positively nuclear when one side was dumping 30 or 40 times that amount to support just one side of a controversy and meeting with a majority of the city council virtually every week.  Yet, surpringly, I don't remember you posting about how horrible it was that one corporation was trying to buy an election.

Would you like some whine to go with your double standard?

Also, regarding the story you reference in
Yes, I have read it. It's pretty much the same information I provided in this comment:

and in the stories I linked.

The thing is, an attorney does what his client asks. If he doesn't do that, no amount of campaign contributions is going to get someone appointed city attorney (or Community Development Commission attorney). And if he does do as the client asks (and assuming the client is not asking the attorney to do anything illegal or unethical, and not paying an attorney more than he or she is worth), then I'm not sure if I care who he gives money to. It's a free country.


    If (as you state) we are to assume that Wal-Mart's campaign expenditures were an effort by "one corporation [] trying to buy an election", then what should we assume is the motivation for  out-of-town attorneys to make substantial contributions to the campaigns of candidates for the Rosemead City Council?   If we use your logic, then should we assume that such campaign expenditures are an effort by the attorneys to buy a job representing the City?

   It is indeed a free country...however, there are two real issues with your second argument regarding the selection of an attorney.  First, how can an attorney do what a client wants him or her to do BEFORE the client selects the attorney as his/her attorney?  Second, your argument regarding the selection of an attorney has to be substantially discounted because of the huge caveat that you included ("and assuming the client is not asking the attorney to do anything illegal or unethical, and not paying an attorney more than he or she is worth").  Your stated exception appears to swallow the rule that you are trying to articulate.


     Let's not assume.  Let's have you address the first issue I raised:  If you think city decisions are affected by a few thousand dollars in contributions, then what's the effect of over $500,000 in campaign expenditures?

     There's no point in trying to address your second paragraph until you give a straight answer to the $500,000 question.

I have been out of

    I have been out of pocket for a few days so here is my response to your last post....

    Did the substantial contributions from Wal-Mart probably help the two councilmembers survive the recall in 2007?  Most likely, yes.  It is also true that 2 councilmembers were ousted in March 2005 that supported Wal-Mart, one additional councilmember who supported Wal-Mart was ousted in March 2007, several courts refused to stop the opening of the Wal-Mart, the Wal-Mart has now opened and a number of out-of-town people (other than Wal-Mart and those affiliated with Wal-mart) have given substantial campaign contributions to current members of the City Council in what is most likely an effort to gain favor....

    If this blog is to remain relevant to the issues facing Rosemead beyond Wal-Mart, then we need to look at the CURRENT issues facing the City and work to address those issues.  I hope that this blog (and those people who contribute to it and read it) are willing to look beyond Wal-Mart and work to ensure that the City Council and the City administration run and operate the City in a manner that will make us proud.


I have been out of

Maybe there needs to be an explicit editorial policy to open up the blog to more people, so that there's a way to get stories onto the front page. (Right now, it's pretty ad-hoc.)

I have been out of

Wal-Mart is still the 500,000 pound gorilla in the room. Pretending they're just like any other interest in the city is ahistorical.
I don't understand why you can't get beyond saying that $500,000 "probably help(ed)" the incumbents stay in office. That amount is completely out of proportion to what any other group or individual has contributed to our elected officials. And the fact that they're still here in town, spending thousands of dollars on phony mailers makes me question the motives of anyone who now says that we should "look beyond Wal-Mart." It also looks an awful lot like a double standard, to me.
By the way, Alvarez-Glasman also contributed money to Wal-Mart frontman Jim Clouet. Do you think giving money to political opponents of Tran and Low also helps to "grease the wheels"?
Lawyers hand out $1000 contributions like most other folks hand out business cards. It doesn't disqualify the lawyer. As to whether it should disqualify the recipient of that $1000 from voting on a new CDC lawyer, that's a question for the city attorney.

Moving On ...

You appear to have missed the point of the previous post.  I agreed that Wal-Mart's money most likely had an impact in the last recall electon.  It is unlikely, however, that Wal-Mart is playing a big financial role in the City now that its store is open--they have their store.  I am not aware of Wal-Mart spending any substantial sums in the City of Rosemead now--or even much smaller amounts.  It also does not appear that Wal-Mart made substantial contributions in the March 2007 election in which Polly Low received the most votes and was elected to the City Council.

The issue of campaign contributions in the post-Wal-Mart erea is relevant and is of greater importance than you are willing to admit.  The issue of whether a campaign contribution should disqualify a councilmember from voting on the selection of a new attorney or consultant is only part of the equation.

Do you really want the City Council to select their next attorney or consultant (for whatever issue) or support a new development project because the attorney, consultant or developer gave them a fat campaign contribution?  Or would you prefer that our City Council selects an attorney or consultant or approves a development project based upon the qualifications of the attorney or consultant or the merits of the development project?

Moving On ...

     1.  You're still putting in meaningless disqualifiers.  There's no maybe or even a most likely when it comes to over $500,000.  It's curious that you keep trying to avoid saying what is indisputable.

     2.  Who do you think paid for the phony "John Tran wants to tear down your front wall" mailers?  I'll give you a hint--starts with a "W."

     3.  You end with a false dicotomy.  If we disqualified everyone who made political contributions to elected officials, there'd be no qualified lawyers or consultants available for selection.  Or don't you think folks affiliated with Wildan contribute money to elected officials?

It is unfortunate...

It is unfortunate that you have such a cynical viewpoint of the world that you believe that all consultants and attorneys get and keep their jobs through "pay to play".  That is simply not true.  There are a number of qualified consultants and attorneys who actually don't get their new clients by writing $1000 (or more) campaign contribution checks to members of the City Council or those running for the City Council. Our City Council should select and retain consultants and attorneys for the City based upon their qualifications, not on their ability to write checks.

As to the issue of Walmart, your posts show that you clearly want to continue to paint them as the omnipresent bad guy as a way to avoid meaningful discussions about some of the other issues the City and the City Council are facing--issues that are above and beyond the WalMart that is now operating in our city.  Believe it or not, Walmart is not the only issue in town; indeed, now that it is open, it is important that we (collectively) work together to address other important issues that our City faces. 

It is unfortunate...

. . . that you never answer a direct question.  Let's try this again:

     1.  Why can't you admit that $500,000 places Wal-Mart in a completely different league from every other player in the city?

     2.  Why did Wal-Mart pay for the phony hit piece against John Tran?

     3.  Doesn't the fact that they did pay for that hit piece at least force you to retract your earlier assertion that you were "not aware of Wal-Mart spending any substantial sums in the City of Rosemead now--or even much smaller amounts."  They are.  That doesn't make them omnipotent, but it does mean that they're still playing politics in Rosemead.  Why are you trying to tell people otherwise?

     4.  Did you just forget about that mailer, or were you hoping that no one would be able to remember something that happened less than two months ago?

It is also unfortunate...

that you have conveniently sidestepped any meaningful discussions regarding the possible/likely impact of campaign contributions on the selection of attorneys and consultants in the City of Rosemead and other cities in Southern Californa.  (For the other readers of this blog, the Foothill Cities Blog has provided a convenient summary about one individual who has made substantial campaign contributions to current members of the Rosemead City Council -- see  the A-G Report at this link:  Why can't you respond to the important issues raised by the impact of substantial campaign contributions by those non-residents who want to become attorneys and/or consultants for the City?  Do you want the City Council to select its attorneys and consultants based upon merit--or to those who simply write big campaign contribution checks?

Instead, you gravitate back to WalMart's prior involvement in Rosemead elections.  Did Wal-Mart make substantial campaign contributions (in-lieu or direct) in the past.  Absolutely. (Because I have not seen the campaign disclosure forms, I can't verify the amount, but I understand it was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for last year's recall campaign.)   However, as I previously stated, even with Wal-Mart's participation, two incumbant City Council members who supported Wal-Mart were defeated in 2005 and one who support Wal-Mart was defeated n March 2007.

As to the flyers, given that it is almost two years until Tran and Nunez are up for re-election, it is unclear how a flyer on fence heights could properly be considered a campaign piece.  I also have no knowledge regarding the level of Wal-Mart's involvement (if any) in the flyers that were distributed in the City regarding the height of fences.  Based on these two points, I am not prepared to retract any statements that I previously made.

Finally, as my last post stated, we should address the important issues that the City is currently facing.  Your focus on Wal-Mart allows you to conveniently sidestep or ignore important issues the City is facing. 


It is also unfortunate...

. . . you dodged my questions, again.  Don't worry; I"ll answer them for you.  What RosemeadGuy should have written above was:

     1.  Yes, Zebra, you're absoulutely correct.  Wal-Mart spent over $500,000 fighting the recall election, and that level of involvement in Rosemead is unprecedented.  That's also 250 times more than Alvarez-Glasman contributed to current city council members, so it's really pretty hypocritical to get my shorts all tied in a knot over the latter when I won't condemn the former.

     2.  Yes, Zebra, you're absolutely right:  Wal-Mart paid for the hit-pieces because they know that you don't just try to create election issues out of whole cloth.  Particularly if you need to rely on hit pieces rather than grassroots campaigning, you need to keep riling up your base.  If you wait to election day, it's too late to try to make people think about something like fence heights.  If you have a deep pocketbook, you can afford to start undermining your opponents now, and then spend the election period just reminding (rather than "educating") voters why they should hate the other guy.

     3.  Yes, Zebra, you're absolutely right.  I DO need to retract my inaccuracy.  There's no doubt (except by those who are beyond reason) that Wal-Mart is still funneling its money through Mike Lewis and his latest creation, so-called "Rosemead Partners," to try to undermine the current city council majority.  I'll go to city hall and look at those campaign disclousre forms myself, and I'm sure when I finally do, I'll have to admit that you were right and I was wrong.

     4.  Well, Zebra, you're right, again. But now that you have pointed out the error of my ways, I'll stop making demonstrably false statements on this blog.




     By the way, you keep saying that we should talk about the "important issues the City is facing."  You keep using the plural (issues).  Yet you only post on this one very narrow issue.  I think that's very curious. 

     I also think it's curious that the only thing you seem to have against Alvarez-Glasman is that he contributed $1000 to two city council members.  As I've noted previously on this thread, if you're going to disqualify all lawyers and contractors who contribute money to city council candidates, there won't be anyone left to do the job.  Read those thefcblog posts more carefully and see what they say about this.  Or take a look at the last ten years or so of campaign disclosure forms in city hall and see which past and current city contractors have contributed against the recall and/or for Clark, Taylor, Imperial, and the rest.  Until you're willing to apply the same standard to all councilmembers, it looks like you don't actually care about any important issues facing the city so much as you care about scoring cheap political points against your political adversaries.


I did answer the questions (both with my previous and earlier posts)...but just not with the answers that you wanted to hear.

The so-called "answers" that you provided for me in your previous post are YOUR perspective on the issues.  Let's label them as such and move on.

Finally, if you have actually read some of my earlier posts, I indicated that there were a wide range of issues beyond Wal-Mart that this blog should address in order to remain relevant.  While the issue of "pay-to-play" is one of them (and, contrary to what you state, there are a number of consultants and attorneys who get their jobs based on the experience and expertise, not their check writing ability), there are many issues that this blog should address and is starting to do so. 


. . . You keep *saying* there are "many issues" besides this one, but  you still haven't brought any to the table.  You keep *saying* you are answering the question, but you keep changing the topic back to your same single issue.  You keep *saying* that Alvarez-Glasman is somehow unqualified, but beyond having contributed to several city council candidates (including an opponent of Low and Tran), you haven't brought any evidence to the table that he is unqualified.

     I don't know if I've said this yet, but I don't have any opinion on whether Alvarez-Glasman is more or less qualified than the other applicants for the CDC counsel.  As for you, the only disqualifcation you have (repeatedly) presented is that he contributed a modest amount of money to several council candidates.  That's not illegal, it's not unethical, and it's not any different from the behavior of many current and former individuals and firms who have contracted with Rosemead or with many other neighboring cities.  I know this to be true because I have seen copies of the campaign disclosure forms sitting in city hall.  You say you  haven't.  So on what basis can you say that the case of Alvarez-Glasman is any different from what we have seen in the past?

     That Alvarez-Glasman contributed money to council candidates should be the beginning of a discussion on his qualifications, not the end.  So when are you going to say something beyond the obvious?


My July 9, 2007 entry provides a summary of the issues:

“If this blog is to remain relevant to the issues facing Rosemead beyond Wal-Mart, then we need to look at the CURRENT issues facing the City and work to address those issues. I hope that this blog (and those people who contribute to it and read it) are willing to look beyond Wal-Mart and work to ensure that the City Council and the City administration run and operate the City in a manner that will make us proud.”

As to possible issues about Mr. Alvarez-Glasman, the readers of this thread should review and consider the substantial information provided by the Foothill Cities blog at and draw their own conclusion as to whether this information (including information regarding his substantial campaign contributions) indicates that he would be the best choice.


     Your high-minded language you quote was just to dress your narrow opposition to Alvarez-Glasman in fancy clothes.  And your request to read thefcblog to decide if Alvarez-Glasman would be the best pick is meaningless, because there's nothing there about any of the other firms that have applied for the CDC counsel job.  Do you even know who the competing firms are?  Do you know if any of them have made contributions to city council members or candidates in the past?  Do you know who their clients have been?  Have you read the competing applications to see what services they're offering Rosemead, and at what price?

     If you don't know the answers to those questions, then it's time you got off your high horse and did some research of your own.


According to articles in the LA Weekly, and what some folks are saying online, there are some law firms that have connections to different political machines. So if a city hires that firm, it's because someone's part of that machine, or wants to be. The attorneys know how to run recall elections to punish their rivals. They can run roughshod over communities where people aren't alert, informed, and participating in the political process.

The fact that they would give political donations to try and get an edge in getting a contract is a given. Pretty much every business does that. Local businesses donate to get access to politicians, who influence local development. More distant businesses that are looking for contracts give donations. It's how the system works, and if I were looking for government gigs, I'd be doing the same. (BTW, I am not... but I would appreciate if the CoR would post RFPs on their website, and help local businesses bid for contracts!)

The real issue, to me, is how deeply do these people get involved in politics. Attorneys are almost like a special case, because many of them are like politicians. If you look at the Senate, you find that most of them are lawyers. Local pol Andre Quintero is a lawyer, for example.

So, the question is this: is Glasman connected with a political machine, and if so, which, to what degree, and does he have a history of using the political process to destroy rivals?

From the comments on that linked blog, it doesn't look like A-G is NOT a good guy to hire. He sent a letter threatening that blog! That's so mid-1990s. Nobody does that anymore, do they? Alvarez-Glasman should probably have counseled the Pomona city manager to deal with criticisms with diplomacy rather than threats of legal action. Better yet, he should have told the girlfriend to get a job elsewhere. (The controversy is that the City Manager of Pomona hired his (much younger) girlfriend for some job in the City.)

Watch out Zebra - if you support A-G, he might come after you, too!

PR-CTIPPER says that Glasman's helping Pico Rivera's questionable mayor keep secrets. That Mayor in Pico is dirty -- lots of lawsuits against him, and allegations that he covered up for a tagger in Montebello. (No wonder Montebello gets bombed regularly.)

I have an idea for the pols: how about 1. not hiring the person slobbering on your genitals for *any* job within your city, 2. not covering up for local lawbreakers, even if they are nice people who happen to be related to you, 3. don't get totally loaded when you go out, just chill and hit the bottle/bong at home, 4. be decent people.


     I think I'm safe from any cease and desist letter.  Besides, after the fallout from his last letter, I doubt he'll be going back to that well.

     But it does illustrate that lawyers will do what their clients ask of them, even if it's a dumb idea.  That's the American way.

Two more posts...

    The Foothill Cities Blog had several more interesting posts. See:  See also

Two more posts...

     Your first link isn't working.  The second one is playing "guilt by association."

     Look, I don't like the idea of a city attorney trying to shut down a blog.  But if that's what his client wants him to do (write a letter), it's his duty to write that letter.

     Conversely, I don't blame thefcblog for going off on this vendetta against Alvarez-Glasman.  That's their right.

     But legal representation is not just for the pure and innocent.  Lots of slimey folks go to court.  I don't hold the attorney responsible for the acts of his/her client.  And I don't hold the attorney responsible for the acts of the clients of his/her co-workers.


     Just as a quick comment, I think it's obvious that the politically expedient choice would be to pick someone OTHER than Alvarez-Glasman.  In fact, I'm still not quite convinced whether we need a separate CDC counsel.  In particular, it looks funny because now you'll need to pay two different people to drive out from where ever they are to attend consecutive meetings in Rosemead.

     I am open to being persuaded that it is penny-wise but pound-foolish to be worried about paying the "portal-to-portal" cost, however.

     Also, regarding some of the issues that have been raised by the posts below, I would note that the city attorney in Alhambra (from Burke, Williams, and Sorensen)  has contributed to at least one Alhambra council member, while an attorney who works redevelopment in Los Angeles (for Kane, Ballmer & Berkman) has made a number of contributions to city council members in Los Angeles.

     I don't have time to actually track down the contributions of all of the 150 or so lawyers that work for (Burke Williams, & Sorensen), (Kane, Ballmer & Berkman), (Richards, Watson & Gershon), or (Best, Best & Krieger) [the four firms competing with Alvarez-Glasman for the Rosemead CDC contract) to figure out which ones have contributed to which cities that they currently represent.  But I would suspect (as thefcblog notes) that the overlap is pretty large.

Oh, and one other thing I discovered in poking around the internet: Andre Quintero (mentioned in the previous post) is an attorney with Best, Best & Krieger. Those law firms really are a hotbed for both political candidates and political contributions.

Campaign contributions

To add to the discussion, an article in the San Gabriel Valleyon July 19 stated:

 "Among the firms, he [Alvarez-Glasman] is the only one to have given campaign contributions to existing council members, according to campaign finance records: $1,000 to Tran in 2004, and $1,000 to Low in 2007." 

This was also reported in the Foothill Cities Blog.  See

Campaign contributions

Hmmm... That's not too much money. It's not a whole lot compared to what the elections cost, and compared to what they get from other organizations (or from their own personal funds). It's peanuts to get your foot in the door to get quarter-mil contracts.

Campaign contributions

That's what I've been saying.  You don't want someone to get a contract *because* they made the contributions, but the numbers we're talking about are not so large that his firm should be automatically disqualified because of them. 


I agree with you that someone should not get a contract because they made a campaign contribution to one or more members of the City Council.

Blog power

I think blogs (such as this great blog) can have a substantial impact.  Thought you would like to see what two other blogs are saying about the impact of the discussion about Alvarez-Glasman may have been been/will be.; and

Here is the quote:

"The power of local bloggers has even surprised me. Besides the effect on hot button issuses, they now appear to be having more influence in areas that get very little attention from the media. For the first time, a local official told me that this type of discussion about Arnold Alvarez-Glasman has had an effect. Glasman is city attorney for a host of SGV cities. But according to this person, "the local bloggers may have did him in" from getting hired as an attorney for a local city or agency. Now, that may be overstating the case, but it's the first time I have ever heard of a purely local blog-driven discussion having that much effect."

The Long Tail

The web just removes space constraints that are inherent to a printed paper - every niche can have a publication. The trade-off is that it also removes the capital constraints that allow a handful, or one, paper to dominate a market. So a strong press release with a big event won't be seen by as many people, because people are busy reading the blogs.

Another thing that's happening, at least to A-G, is that people are demanding a level of transparency that, frankly, has never really existed in this country (or any other). We have expectation of how people should behave honestly, particularly leaders, that are quite high. They're fueled by the myths about the nobility of powerful people that the people in power have told about themselves.

So, we're in a golden age of sorts. People can be encouraged to smash the walls of power, not out of resentment, but out of hope for a better, cleaner way to do politics. The information infrastructure exists to help make it happen.

Developers and Politicians

I guess there's got to be a relationship between people who practice law, and those who make laws. Likewise, note that political orgs that lobby also produce politicians. And our current federal administration are composed of big business interests - Bush and Cheney are unabashed business-lovers, and the locals tend to be dominated by small business interests. There's an absence of "grassroots" or popular groups with power. If LA is any indication, even the long-standing, trusted NGOs can be swayed by the right combination of specific Democrats and developers. The west SGV is a somewhat unusual situation, because we have academics in office like Chu and Romero.

Developers and Politicians

Yeah, for a number of years, we were represented in Sacramento by two PhD's.  I've got to suspect that's a first.