Padres owner John Moores, no stranger to legal scrapes himself, has given $25,000 to the legal defense fund of state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, a longtime buddy. State voters approved legal defense funds for incumbent politicos back in 2000; the original purpose was to defray costs resulting from civil, criminal, and administrative actions against officeholders. Unlike regular campaign committees, which are limited to collecting $3600 from each contributor, legal defense funds can collect cash gifts in any amount, allowing special interests like Moores to write really big checks.
Lately, money collected for the funds has been used for such far afield activities as tee fees, chartered jets, and paying fines levied for campaign violations. So last November, the state Fair Political Practices Commission voted to close the loophole, banning expenditures for mailers, dinners, and political consultants and limiting the use of the funds to legal defense expenses.
Of course, Oakland’s Perata needs the cash for its intended purpose. He’s under FBI investigation for possible corruption; in November, a federal grand jury heard testimony and subpoenaed Perata’s business partners and government agencies regarding Perata’s activities. The government is reported to be especially interested in road and other infrastructure bond-issue campaigns that Perata championed, based on suspicions that contributions might have made their way back to his personal accounts. He has denied any wrongdoing.
All of the money collected by Perata’s legal defense fund has paid for lawyers and private investigators. In addition to Moores’s contribution, Sacramento developer Angelo Tsakopoulos and Folsom-based builder Thomas Winn each gave $50,000 to the defense fund. Moores previously gave $200,000 to the Perata-supported “Rebuilding California” committee. Then a University of California regent, Moores denied accusations that he was trying to get Perata to sidetrack a university-related bill, calling the charge “the mother of all stretches.” Moores has since resigned his position.