Former San Diegan, ex–congressional candidate, and onetime Jerry Brown aide Byron Georgiou set out with high hopes and a sizable cash war chest from wealthy La Jolla Democrats earlier this year when he attempted to win a U.S. Senate seat in his adopted state of Nevada. That was before Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid forced him out of the primary in favor of the local Democratic establishment’s favorite for the job, Congresswoman Shelley Berkley.
Reid had appointed Georgiou to the federal government’s Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, where he received lots of favorable publicity investigating the Wall Street meltdown. But after Georgiou got into the senate race, Reid said he wished he’d never made the appointment. Others cited Georgiou’s history as a securities litigator with Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd, which represents big pension funds in cases against Goldman Sachs and other banks targeted by the commission. The roots of the law firm grew from the downtown San Diego practice of Georgiou’s old friend and legal associate, La Jolla lawyer Bill Lerach, who ended up copping a plea and doing time in federal prison on a client kickback rap. “Given Byron Georgiou’s financial history, and the ethical concerns raised regarding his tenure at the FCIC, Senator Reid regrets appointing him to the commission,” a Reid spokesman said in June. State union leaders launched a separate front, claiming that Georgiou had invested in a company that made products in China. The Las Vegas Review-Journal called it all a “smear campaign,” but after some brief resistance, Georgiou dropped out in August. (Berkley has since run into problems of her own. An investigation by the New York Times over the summer questioned her close involvement in proposed legislation that would affect her physician husband’s troubled kidney care program at University Medical Center in Las Vegas.)
As we reported in June, before Reid opened fire, Georgiou had collected $1,073,907, $500,000 of which he donated himself. Lerach’s wife Michelle Ciccarelli, an attorney who runs La Jolla’s trendy Cups cupcake shop, contributed, as did Georgiou’s old congressional foe, ex-congresswoman Lynn Schenk and husband C. Hugh Friedman. Even after the going got tough in Nevada, Georgiou was raking in money from his rich La Jolla base and beyond. In late June, Robert Cunningham of Cunningham Development and Tim Kelleher of Silver Canyon Partners, both of Rancho Santa Fe, each gave $2500. Georgiou also received sizable support from Greek Americans and fellow lawyers in various other parts of the country.