By Amanda Biers-Melcher
In the interest of transparency, California law requires that candidates for public office disclose certain financial information in filings which are available for review by the public.
Candidates running for a seat on Burbank’s City Council are required to file scheduled financial reports disclosing any contributions over a hundred dollars, loans made to their campaign and any expenditures on CA Form 460.
Candidates must also disclose any financial interests so voters can be made aware of any potential conflicts of interest on CA Form 700.
I reviewed both of these forms for each of our council candidates to see what I could learn about them. If you’d like to do the same, you can see both the 460 for the quarter ending 6/30 —and 700 forms filed earlier this month — here.
Who’s ahead in the money race?
With $25,183 in his campaign coffers (including a $7,000 loan from the candidate himself), Assistant District Attorney Nick Schultz edged out two-time council candidate Konstantine Anthony — who reported $15,473.
In third place with $6,733.74 was Tamala Takahashi, the only candidate to score a star-studded contribution (with Mayim Bialik of “Blossom” and “Big Bang Theory” fame pitching in the maximum allowed amount, $500). Fifteen hundred of Takahashi’s take was a loan the candidate made to her own campaign.
Only three other candidates reported contributions: Linda Bessin added $6,019.72 to her war chest; incumbent Tim Murphy posted $2,770; and, while real estate developer Paul Herman did not collect any contributions, he did loan his campaign $2,500.
(Note – donations of under $100 are not required to be itemized on Form 460 – although some candidates did include them and I counted them in their totals).
Take it to the Limit
By law, donations to campaigns from any individual — including the candidate himself — are capped at $500. The two financial front runners — Nick Schulttz and Konstantine Anthony showed themselves a little love last quarter, kicking in the $500 maximum contribution.
Linda Bessin. . .took things one step further.
If you take a look at page 4 of her CA Form 460, you’ll see the top line of Schedule A indicates the candidate made a $1,500 contribution to “Friends of Linda Bessin” on 4/29/2020.
That’s three times the allowed amount which is . . .strange.
Burbank Municipal Code says “ No person shall make to any candidate and/or the controlled committee of such a candidate and no such candidate and/or the candidate’s controlled committee shall accept from a person a contribution or contributions totaling more than five hundred dollars ($500.00) for each election in which the candidate is on the ballot or is a write-in candidate.”
Hmmmm. . . Very interesting
By law, every elected official and public employee who makes or influences governmental decisions is required to submit a Statement of Economic Interest, also known as the Form 700.
The Form 700 serves two purposes — it provides the public with enough information about an official’s personal financial interests to police that official and make sure they’re acting in the public’s interest and not their own — and identifies potential conflicts of interest so the official can recuse him or herself when necessary and abstain from making discussion or decision-making.
In Burbank City Council races — at least in recent years — these forms are typically short and reveal few surprises. They list the candidate’s source of income — usually from a job or business — both theirs and their spouse’s — and maybe a few stock or mutual fund holdings.
The exception, in this race, is the Statement of Economic Interest filed by Linda Bessin.
You can look at it Here
Not only is it a whopping thirty-six pages long, it lists investments in an impressive array of stocks and, most significantly — a partnership stake in a New York City-based hedge fund, Bloom Tree Fund Q.P, L.P.
According to the hedge fund database whalewatcher.com, shares in Amazon make up the largest percentage of this fund’s portfolio. Bessin’s partnership in the fund nets this self-described retired claims adjuster more than a hundred thousand dollars a year (although we can’t determine, from the disclosure form, how much more).
Now, there’s no shame in savvy investing, and Amazon certainly seems like a smart investment given its record-setting profits as of late.. But, in my opinion, voters should be cognizant of the fact that the behemoth online bookseller may soon become a major player in the Burbank landscape as the company solidifies plans to lease most of the Avion complex adjacent to the airport and use it as a distribution center.
Add to that Amazon’s stated intention of boosting its Amazon Air delivery service, to compete with FedEx and UPS, and the fact that such a business plan would likely seek to capitalize on the proximity of its distribution center to Burbank’s soon-to-be-expanded airport. — and you can see why this particular financial arrangement could become problematic.
More Money Matters
According to the City Clerk, only one city council candidate took advantage of a provision in the law that allows him or her to postpone payment for the cost of printing and mailing Candidate Statements — a $3,200 expense — by requesting a waiver on the basis of indigence.
The clerk granted this relief to Konstantine Anthony — who, on his Form 700, reported his rideshare business and money derived from work as an In-Home Supportive Services Provider each provide him with less than ten thousand dollars in income. He is still, according to the Burbank Municipal Code, responsible for paying the money after the election and may use personal or campaign funds to do so.
It is interesting to note that in months prior to requesting that taxpayers front him thirty-two hundred dollars, Anthony’s financial position allowed him to make a nine thousand dollar loan to the Burbank Tenants Rights Committee, according to the ballot committee’s disclosres.
Also, according to his campaign manager’s claims on social media, the candidate has accumulated more than $20,000 in campaign contributions — if you also count those under one hundred dollars and not reported on a Form 460 — and has his sights set on collecting forty to forty-five thousand dollars by November 3rd.
To make her determination, however, Burbank Municipal Code required the City Clerk to review only a “Statement of Financial Worth” — on which the candidate must disclose his income, personal property and real estate holdings and pending financial obligations — and the most recent federal tax statement, without investigating further.
Konstantine Anthony was required to sign a promissory note with the city and agree to a payment plan for reimbursing taxpayers for the expenditure on behalf of his campaign. In other words, it is a loan, not a gift.
Does “Dark Money” belong in Burbank politics? We investigate how tclose financial ties between a candidate and a non-profit that can legally keep its donors secret might play a role in the City Council race.