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Keeping Up Appearances : A note to Lungren on fund raising: High office demands high standards

November 01, 1995

As the top law enforcement official in California, Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren inarguably needs to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, both for legal and political reasons. But two recent situations related to fund raising suggest at the least that his office gives insufficient attention to details that matter.

Involved are political donations to Lungren by businessmen under investigation or with matters pending before the attorney general's office. Pleading ignorance, aides to Lungren strenuously maintain there is no way to keep track of the business affairs of every fund-raiser host or political donor. But couldn't a stronger effort have been made?

For example, the travails of William Shubin were well-publicized. As the head of a Fresno-based industrial waste hauling firm, Shubin had been investigated for illegal dumping and storage of toxic chemicals in Fresno and Tulare counties. At the same time that Shubin was negotiating a final settlement in the case with the attorney general's office--a settlement in which he admitted no liability--the businessman was favoring Lungren with a $2,500 pledge to buy 10 meals at a coming dinner honoring the attorney general. At another fund-raiser, as the company was running into trouble with state and local agencies, Shubin and his wife donated $1,500 to Lungren's 1994 reelection campaign.

In another example of questionable judgment, the host committee for a $500-a-plate Lungren fund-raiser in Fresno last year included several developers who were under FBI investigation and an applicant in contact with Lungren's office over a pending casino license.

It's unclear whether any of these cases drew the official attention of the state Fair Political Practices Commission. But clearly they are the sort of connections that an officeholder must avoid. Typically, blame for these sorts of political miscues is laid at the feet of campaign functionaries who didn't take the time to properly check backgrounds of fund-raising hosts or contributors. But Lungren should insist on better advance work. The stature of his office demands it.

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