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Bustamante Is Urged to Cancel Ads Involved in Fund Dispute

A GOP lawmaker calls on the candidate to withdraw any spots paid for with donations that are under a legal cloud.

September 24, 2003|Dan Morain | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — A day after a judge found that Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante's fund-raising practices violated state law, a state senator wrote to Bustamante's lawyers demanding that he cancel any remaining advertising paid for with disputed donations.

"To fail to do so is open defiance of the judge's order" that the money in question be returned, said the letter sent Tuesday by state Sen. Ross Johnson (R-Irvine), whose lawsuit led to the ruling.

Superior Court Judge Loren McMaster of Sacramento on Monday said Bustamante should not have spent funds that he raised in excess of current state limits, although the money went into an account created before the limits took effect. Bustamante's violation was in moving the money to a new account and then spending it on the ads, McMaster ruled.

The judge issued a preliminary injunction that forbids Bustamante to transfer any more of the disputed money to his current campaign.

Bustamante campaign strategist Richie Ross said the money, as much as $4 million, had been spent. The ads it paid for were in opposition to Proposition 54, an initiative that will share the Oct. 7 ballot with the recall measure.

On Tuesday, Ross said the ads paid for by the disputed money will expire Thursday, and commercials airing as of Friday will be paid for by money that is not a focus of the lawsuit.

"We're going to obey the court's order," Ross said. "We will do that to the letter."

Bustamante accepted donations of $100,000 to $1.5 million in the old account from labor unions and Indian tribes. He then established the new fund to oppose Proposition 54, the initiative that would restrict government's ability to collect some racial and ethnic data.

The anti-Proposition 54 ads he paid for were taped at a Bustamante-for-governor campaign rally and feature him denouncing the initiative. Johnson contended that the ads were an integral part of Bustamante's campaign to replace Gov. Gray Davis if he is recalled.

Bustamante began airing the commercials last week. The cost of airing television ads statewide is about $2 million per week.

Johnson said that if Bustamante refuses to cancel the remaining ads and obtain refunds from television stations, he will ask McMaster to hold Bustamante in contempt of Monday's order.

"They have an obligation to say when and where and how they've spent that money, and whether it is irretrievable," Johnson said.

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