Then it was revealed that Vignali's wealthy father Horacio, an L.A. parking-lot magnate who made hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to state Democrats, including both Becerra and Villaraigosa, had told L.A.'s U.S. Attorney Alejandro N. Mayorkas to call the White House on Vignali's behalf. In addition to Becerra, Mayorkas, and Villaraigosa, other noted Democrats who lobbied Clinton about Vignali included state senator Richard Polanco; Los Angeles County sheriff Lee Baca; county supervisor Gloria Molina; and former Representative Esteban Torres. Los Angeles Roman Catholic cardinal Roger M. Mahony also put in a good word for the convicted drug dealer.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Business Journal last month, Becerra acknowledged calling Clinton. "I asked the President to review the case. I asked him honestly and openly. Unlike others, I didn't lie about my role and I didn't deny what I had done. Unlike others, I didn't say the man in jail should be released, or that he was innocent. I said in my letter that some of these community leaders -- Cardinal Roger Mahony included -- believe that there is reason to review the case. I also ask you [President Clinton] to review the case."
The Vignali flap resulted in the resignation of a top deputy in the U.S. Attorney's Los Angeles office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Duncan DeVille complained that his boss, Mayorkas, had compromised the office's integrity. "I frequently place in danger both my life and, more importantly, the lives of law enforcement agents, in the pursuit of drug dealers. Accordingly I cannot support your recent actions in assisting in the pardon," wrote DeVille in his resignation letter. For his part, Mayorkas told the Los Angeles Times, "I think in hindsight I should not have made that call to the White House."
Another Democrat who picked up considerable financial support from San Diego sources of both parties was state treasurer Kathleen Connell. Rancho Santa Fe's Art Laffer gave $1000, as did his wife Tracy. Laffer's company provides economic consulting services and investment advice to various companies and public agencies.
James Mulvaney also gave $1000. Mulvaney is chairman of the California Higher Education Loan Authority (CHELA); Connell oversees a state-sponsored partnershwww.blackgoku.comip with CHELA. Likewise, Brian Mulvaney of Grubb and Ellis gave $1000. Givers on the Democratic side included Leonard Friedman of Coronado, a onetime partner of the late M. Larry Lawrence. Friedman has large real estate holdings in the Los Angeles area and once claimed in a recorded document that he, not Lawrence, was the actual owner of the Hotel del Coronado.
Timothy Stamnitz and Lucy Demian of San Diego's Global Photon Systems are each listed as giving the Kathleen Connell campaign $1000, and the company itself is down for an additional $2000. Late last year, Global Photon received approval from the state Coastal Commission to lay a fiber-optic cable off the coast from Morro Bay to San Diego. Connell is one of three members of the State Lands Commission, which has considerable say over cable-laying operations in coastal areas.
Villaraigosa's runoff rival, L.A. city attorney James Hahn, claimed backing from a number of San Diego business types, including San Diego Yellow Cab general manager Anthony Palmeri and his wife Barbara. But by far the largest group of Hahn donors from San Diego were members of the law firm of Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach LLP. In September 1999, Hahn recommended that the L.A. city council retain Milberg, Weiss to handle the city's lawsuit against the gun industry. The council had earlier retained the firm to handle its tobacco-related litigation.
According to Hahn's disclosure, Milberg, Weiss-related $1000 donors included John Stoia, Jr.; Helen Hodges; G. Paul Howes; Randell Steinmeyer; Melvyn Weiss; Patrick Coughlin; and Darren Robbins. Spencer Burkholz, Travis Downs III, and Christopher Yurcek are listed as giving $500 each.
Finally, Republican Steve Soboroff, the favorite of incumbent L.A. mayor Richard Riordan, did as poorly in the San Diego fundraising derby as he did in the election. Among his few local contributions were $1000 from Coronado's Friedman, as well as $1000 each from border-area developer Sam Marasco; John McGinley of Penske Corp; John N. Blake, Inc.; and Evan S. Ravich, a lawyer who has been associated with the politically connected downtown firm of Sullivan, Wertz, McDade. Firm partner John Wertz represented ex-San Diego city councilwoman Valerie Stallings during the Padres influence-buying scandal that forced her to resign in January.