San Diego With less than a week to go until the June 6 primary, last-minute money continues to roll into local campaign coffers. Among the more notable contributors, Rancho Santa Fe's Robert Spencer Douglass. Douglass owned the state's biggest bailbond operation until he was nabbed by Riverside County authorities who alleged that he had schemed to pay off jail inmates in exchange for referring bail business to his companies. Striking a June 2004 deal with prosecutors to avoid a felony conviction, Spencer pled guilty to 123 misdemeanor counts of illegal solicitation, agreed to pay $425,000 in penalties, and served 93 days of house arrest on the grounds of his lavish estate. He also gave up his California bail bond license and was barred from doing bail business anywhere else in the country.
Last Thursday, according to federal campaign disclosure records, Douglass gave $2100 to Democratic congressional candidate Juan Vargas, who is seeking to unseat incumbent Bob Filner in the 51st District primary.
Since getting out of stir himself, Douglass has established Liberty Lawyers, a criminal defense firm where he is managing partner. Featured on the firm's website is a video clip of Douglass urging potential clients to contact him: "We can save you money on the bail. If the bail amount is a low amount, we can put you with bondsmen who can give you discounts because you've hired a lawyer. If you're a union member, you can get discounts from some bondsmen because you're a union member. This is important money, and you should save it. If the bail is set too high, we can save you money with bail-reduction motions.... It is absolutely a disgrace that people have to spend their hard-earned dollars on bail amounts that are way too high." Reached by phone, Douglass declined comment.