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Opinion: Maloney and Mejia's campaign coffers are flush with cash from developers and moneyed interests

In the run-up to the Alhambra city council elections, questions have been raised about campaign contributions some candidates have received. The Alhambra Source presents three opinion pieces on this issue. This is Sean McMorris' op-ed. Read city council candidates Jeff Maloney and David Mejia's responses to McMorris' piece as well.

All four city council candidates – Jeff Maloney, Mark Nisall, David Mejia and Ken Toh – have spoken out about over-development, transparency, and establishment politics in Alhambra. Yet campaign finance records from January 6 to October 10, 2016 (posted in full below) reveal which candidates are mostly likely to maintain the status quo of overdevelopment in Alhambra, and which candidates are less beholden to business interests.

Two candidates in this year's City Council race, Jeff Maloney and David Mejia, have amassed donations that are in large part from people or entities that I have identified as developers, city contractors, and current or potential business interests. What is more, most of Jeff Maloney’s and David Mejia's campaign contributions have come from people or business entities that reside outside of Alhambra. In contrast, nearly all of Ken Toh’s and Mark Nisall's campaign contributions have come from small donations under $99, family, or themselves. Furthermore, Toh and Nisall, as pledged, have taken zero dollars in donations from developers, city contractors, realtors, and large businesses with interests in Alhambra. 

At least one of Maloney and Mejia donors is involved in development in Alhambra. They both received a $5,000 donation from an Arman Gabay of West Hollywood, which Maloney and Mejia's 497 Forms list as "Owner: Excel Property Management Services." Arman Gabay is also the founder and co-managing partner of the Charles Company; a real estate development partnership that has the same phone number and address as Excel Property Management. Charles Company has documented interests in commercially developing land on Fremont and Meridian, which includes a high density residential housing project of anywhere from 313 to 200 units that would extend into Emery Park. Gabay discussed such a project at the March 18, 2013 and June 8, 2015 city council meetings.

Here are some other findings from all four candidates’ campaign finance paperwork: 

Money raised by self/family plus size of donations.

Ken Toh’s and Mark Nisall's campaigns are almost entirely financed by themselves (through loans), identified family members, and small donations, while Jeff Maloney and David Mejia's campaigns are almost entirely financed by donations over $99.

Donations from Business Interests/Developers/City Contractors

The vast majority of Jeff Maloney and David Mejia's campaign funds come from current and/or potential business interests (including identified developers and city contractors), most of which come from outside of Alhambra, while only one identified potential business interest (but no identified developers or city contractors) gave to Mark Nisall's campaign, and no identified potential business interests (and no identified developers and city contractors) have given to Ken Toh's campaign. 

Donors in/outside of Alhambra

The majority of Jeff Maloney and David Mejia's listed campaign contributions come from sources outside of Alhambra, while the majority of Ken Toh and Mark Nisall's listed campaign contributions come from donors within Alhambra.

Donations from city contractors and developers

Both Jeff Maloney and David Mejia have accepted campaign donations from identified developers and/or city contractors, while Ken Toh and Mark Nisall have not received donations from identified developers and/or contractors.

The concern is that there are two City Council candidates, Jeff Maloney and David Mejia, might face more pressure to take business interests into account as city councilmembers, while Ken Toh and Mark Nisall, might be able to act with more independence. But don't take my word for it. Look at the campaign finance records for yourselves and make up your own minds.

With two city council members terming out this year and the other three terming out in two years, Alhambra will have a entirely new city council after 2018. It is up to you, the voters to decide what type of city council you would like to have. This is a rare opportunity for Alhambra residents. Please vote in your local election on Nov. 8, 2016.

Campaign finance records for Alhambra city council candidates, Jan. 1 – Oct. 10, 2016.

David Mejia 

Ken Toh

Jeff Maloney

Mark Nisall

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13 thoughts on “Opinion: Maloney and Mejia's campaign coffers are flush with cash from developers and moneyed interests”

  1. Disappointed reader

    I wrote the following on Nov 10 but Alh Source never posted it. With the new Fremont development in view, I hope Alh Source has the professionalism to reconsider its previous decision.

    Temple City voters just passed Measure AA which bans members of the city council from receiving gifts and campaign contributions from developers and contractors because it could possibly lead to accusations of bribery, conflicts
    of interest, and appearances of impropriety. (http://templecity.us/DocumentCenter/View/6503) I salute Toh and Nisall for doing the right thing.

    1. According to this 2/6/2017 San Gabriel Tribune article entitled “West Covina intends to limit political corruption with this new campaign finance rule” (http://www.sgvtribune.com/government-and-politics/20170206/west-covina-i…), “the [W Covina] City Council has adopted an ordinance prohibiting city contractors from making campaign contributions to council members …” I think we need something similar to what Temple City and W Covina have done.

  2. Once again the people are the real losers in this. Shame on Maloney and Mejia. Campaign contributions as blatant as this reflect badly not only on the candidates and the city but the whole election process.

  3. I am most thankful to Alhambra Source for their courage to publish the truth against powerful people. It is wonderful that those who are computer literate have access to the truth. Wish that 100% of Alhambrans had access. Appreciation to Sean, in particular, for his time and effort in providing the results of his research.

  4. I would love to see the Alhambra Source pick up where this article left off. Every 6 months or so, just publish all donations to all sitting members of the city council, or anyone running for elected office. And then when big projects come up for votes, as part of the story, it seems essential that the public know if and how much money has been donated (by interested parties) to each city council member and how they voted. The premise is not that anything is wrong per-se, but it is clearly a part of any story that should ALWAYS be included and a clear indication to the elected officials that there is a constant, independent set of eyes that is always watching. This is really what transparency is all about, right?

  5. I’m not surprised at all. It’s the same ol-same ol’ story of our city…outside interests/big developer money that groom and finance our elected officials to go against the wishes of a VAST MAJORITY of Alhambra’s residents.

    Maloney and Mejia are just another pair of a long line of political lackeys who do only the bidding of their developer masters—while we residents continuously get the shaft.

  6. My opponent, Jeff Maloney, has spent tens of thousands of dollars on deceptive campaign mailers in an attempt to mislead the residents of Alhambra into believing he is against “irresponsible overdevelopment” and is committed to “smart responsible growth.” However, his record as Vice President of the City of Alhambra’s Planning Commission is evidence of the contrary.

    While on the Planning Commission, my opponent voted with the majority to approve the Midwick development project last year despite the objections of hundreds of local residents. He also voted to approve the Alhambra Place development project which includes a four story 260 unit luxury apartment complex near the intersection of Main and Garfield that will increase traffic congestion, use a lot of scarce water and fails to address the shortage of affordable housing in the City of Alhambra.

    Therefore, it is no surprise that Mr. Maloney has accepted large campaign contributions from the builders, developers and real estate interests who are financing his campaign.

    For example, Mr. Maloney received a $5,000.00 campaign contribution from Arman Gabay who is the Founder and Co-Managing Partner of the Charles Company in West Hollywood. The Charles Company currently owns the undeveloped parcel of land west of Fremont Avenue between Mission and Orange Street. Mr. Gabay has appeared before the Alhambra City Council on two occasions (2013 and 2015) to promote his proposed commercial and residential development project on this site and is committed to moving the project forward. With my opponent on the Alhambra City Council, Mr. Gabay could expect favorable consideration from Mr. Maloney when the Charles Company seeks final city council approval of their proposed development project on Fremont Avenue. Mr. Maloney has failed to comprehend that the $5,000.00 campaign contribution from Mr. Gabay (The Charles Company) has created an inherent conflict of interest and has compromised his political judgment.

    My opponent complains that my supporters and I have attempted to prove that he is “nothing more than a puppet for “developers” and will work against the interests of the people of Alhambra.” My response to this is that the facts speak for themselves.

    Mr. Maloney also takes issue with the fact that I spent $8,200.00 of my personal funds to finance my campaign. I contributed my own funds to avoid the conflicts of interest that would result if I accepted donations from the same builders, developers, real estate interests and city contractors who have contributed to Mr. Maloney’s campaign. Mr. Maloney claims that he could not afford to spend over $8,000.00 of his own funds on his political campaign. I admit to having no personal knowledge of my opponent’s financial condition. However, he is employed as the chief attorney for the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and his financial resources are far greater than mine. My opponent deserves no sympathy for his unwillingness to spend personal funds on his own campaign. I would also like to point out that Mr. Maloney’s campaign has outspent my campaign by a factor of five to one.

    Mr. Maloney created this problem for himself by accepting campaign contributions from companies and individuals who seek to influence his political judgment. He should have known better. This demonstrates a terrible lack of judgment on his part and now he has to deal with the consequences of his actions.

    Mark Alan Nisall
    Candidate for Alhambra
    City Council in the
    Third Council District

  7. I just recently made a comment, but I do not know if it went through. I am a dinosaur when it comes to computers. After I typed in the verification characters, I hit the SAVE sign rather than Return, at which point my comment disappeared. Could someone please email me as to whether or not my comment was sent to you. Thanks

    1. Your comment has been approved. Thanks.

  8. Here is another take on all the numbers and graphs in Sean McMorris’ op-ed, which suggests that Maloney and Mejia will be “bought off” by developers but that Nisall and Toh will not, because they are “independent.” Here are the undeniable numbers and facts. Maloney and Mejia have many more donors and much greater contributions than Nisall and Toh. One should ask perhaps the most important question, namely, why is that the case? I think the answer is fairly simple and clear. People know and trust Maloney and Mejia, because of how they personally present themselves and because of their clear past commitments and involvement in their community and city. People do not know Nisall and Toh because they have simply not been nearly as involved, and it is frankly harder to trust the unknown. In a very important related manner, people have therefore also had the opportunity to see that Maloney and Mejia are reasonable, practical, and workable people, qualities so often missing in our national body politic. So rather than suggesting that Maloney and Mejia might be “bought off,” what all these numbers and graphs really show us is that many people are simply “buying into” what these two good men stand for and offer!!

    1. You obviously either know nothing about politics, or you have a vested interest in the policies of the two candidates you praise.

      You also didn’t read the recent series of LA Times investigative pieces on how big money developers not only bribe city council candidates, but also how they funnel tens of thousands of dollars toward “individual donors” who then contribute that money toward the developer’s candidate(s) of choice.

      I spent 30 years in government and watched how this highly unethical but “legal” practice of bribery plays out.

      Maloney and Mejia are examples of the problem.

    2. Mr. Ward, you have a very novel take on what all of Jeff’s campaign contributions from moneyed interests means: that people are “buying in” to what Maloney and Mejia stand for? And what exactly do you think Aman Gabay of West Hollywood’s Charles Company who gave a $5,000 check to Maloney, and who also happens to have a stake in developing the vacant lot on Fremont thinks Maloney and Mejia stand for? The people of Alhambra? Increased park green space? Less congestion? Affordable housing? Preservation of Alhambra’s heritage and historical landmarks? I respectfully disagree with such an assessment Mr. Ward. In fact, I think that it is more than a stretch to ask people to come to such a conclusion.

      And I don’t deny that Maloney probably has a wider net of resources to pull from than Toh and Nisall do, but that does not negate the large sums of money that Jeff and David both took from developers, city contractors, and other verifiable moneyed interests. Maloney could have simply relied upon his large social and professional networks of non-moneyed interests to run his campaign and there would not be an issue here. But he and David did not do this.

      Even if you are not concerned about transparency, over-development, or the political status quo in Alhambra, I believe you should still be concerned about the discrepancy between Maloney and Mejia’s campaign rhetoric and the interests of the people and businesses they are taking large sums of money from to fund their campaigns. If you are not, then ask yourself, how often has someone written you a $5,000 check without wanting something in return? Then ask yourselves why developers and business interests would be giving such large sums to both Maloney and Mejia’s campaigns? Also ask yourselves why many of these same developers and business interests have consistently given to the current city council and what have they received in return (just check the current city council’s 460s if you don’t believe me)? Finally, ask yourselves, how many of you can write city council candidates thousand dollar checks, and should you have to?

      I’m sorry Mr. Ward, but you are asking the public to overlook too much. The proof is in the pudding, and the pudding is the candidates’ campaign finance records.

    3. Mr. Aman Gabay’s profile on the Charles Company website states, “he (Aman Gabay) has many valued relationships with numerous public and private tenant entities which has created a receptive tenant base from which the Charles Company operates.” What do you think that means, Mr. Ward? Do you think that Mr. gabay’s campaign contributions to “public tenant entities” contributed to the company’s proclaimed “receptive tenant base”?

      You can check out Gabay’s profile and what the Charles Company does at the following link: