Steinberg: “I don’t know the guy who donated 1.3 million to my political campaigns”

Posted on November 29, 2013


I wouldn’t exactly call this roaming off the range as what happens in Sacramento tends to affect local courts. There are a few tie-ins that concern us. The main tie-in that concerns us is this paradigm of using nonprofits and law firms to funnel cash to politicians (and their judicial branch operatives) as an end-run around campaign finance laws and conflict of interest statutes.

What mainstream media is beginning to find out and pay attention to is all of the non-profits that exist for allegedly charitable or for advocacy purposes that are run by politicians themselves or are very closely associated with politicians as being run by family members or close associates. Diversity PAC is a PAC that has been in business for six years and has collected more than 1.2 million dollars from some of the biggest names in state lobbying. But because their sizable (usually corporate) donations don’t fall under the umbrella of actual campaign contributions they escape the scrutiny that they deserve. The money itself can be used for just about anything by a pol or their operatives as it is not directly associated with a politician as a straight up campaign donation.

Ten special interest groups effectively circumvented state campaign finance limits by transferring more than three-quarters of a million dollars to Diversity PAC, which, in turn, Calderon used to pay for private jets, five-star hotels, elite golf courses and extravagant meals at the country’s finest restaurants. These same special interest groups that funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to a political action committee under Calderon’s control benefited from bills introduced by the state senator and repeatedly earned his vote on legislative matters, an analysis of campaign finance and legislative records has found. – See more at:

In most cases, accepting a judicial appointment does not necessarily mean the gravy train has to stop which is why we’re concerned with the lack of form 700’s being filed by judges and being publicly available. Their non-profits continue to accept special interest contributions which you and I know DOES influence legislation and it’s a fair bet that it might influence legal outcomes as well.

So when we see that a politician (or even a judge) or a family member might be a paid member of just one or even a more brazen dozen or more non-profits while representing the people, it’s entirely fair to question whom they really represent. If they’re getting paid for this activity or even having their learjet rental expenses and expensive meals at world class restaurants being reimbursed, they’re being paid in-kind. If someone were paying me for my weekly outings to Morton’s steak house or for my kids college tuition or a spring break vacation, it’s hard to imagine that these acts of laundering money through non-profits or law firms might not have a detrimental effect in both the legislative or the judicial arena.

Sure, a donor may not always see their advocacy issues come to fore much like the FBI did not get their fictional film credits for their 50K donation. Most of us know that the feds would have to have made several such donations for most politicians to take on such advocacy causes because California is a big money politics state and the feds donation did not even fall in the top ten for Diversity PAC. Yet what’s becoming clear is that the top ten benefited from legislative advocacy. This is especially troubling when you realize that in the judicial branch, many of the chiefs top lieutenant appointees, several of whom are former politicians, also play this game as do some AOC directors and senior employees.

This all brings us back to Mr. Steinberg and the “Of Counsel” designation he was given by a law firm that paid him up to 100K per year. This would be the same law firm that represents Michael R. Drobot, a medical executive whose father is named in the FBI affidavit obtained by Al Jazeera America.

Earlier this month Mr. Steinberg resigned his post “Of Counsel” in an attempt to distance himself from the growing scandal and his lack of knowledge of people and events. But Steinberg apparently isn’t going to be able to shake the tiger on his tail of knowing the Drobots because a Michael D Drobot (mentioned in the FBI affidavit) has donated more than 1.3 million dollars in campaign funds to Mr. Steinberg over the course of the last thirteen years.

Does anyone believe for a moment that Mr. Steinberg has no knowledge of a family that religiously donated 1.3 million dollars to his campaigns and causes over the last thirteen years? Apparently, as one of Tani’s closest allies, Mr. Steinberg has suddenly come down with a case of amnesia…..

Personally, I would like to see some serious campaign reform that deals specifically with non-profits and law firms. I know as a voter, I would prefer to double the salaries of legislators than to see them set up or have an arms distance from non-profits and law firms. I’d like them to steer clear of dark money politics, yet our legislators are expected to live on salaries that are smaller than many of their staff. And it isn’t just state legislators that are influenced by dark money politics as the same thing happens on a federal level, though at the federal level, the judiciary is far less involved.

As for the federal investigation it appears to be ongoing. We’d hope to see it broadened and we’d hope to see some really high level federal convictions. This would help demonstrate how broken our state systems are when it comes to protecting the taxpayers at the state level and hopefully lead to some badly needed change. As things stand today, the law firm / non-profit gravy train is far too enticing to resist.