Politics, government and public life for Southern California

What made this million-dollar candidate drop out of Congressional race?

James A. Graf

Friends of James Graf

James A. Graf withdrew from a crowded field of candidates for Congress after lending his campaign $1 million.

Candidates often jumpstart their campaigns with a personal loan, but James A. Graf supersized it. Seeking to replace retiring Westside Congressman Henry Waxman, Graf loaned his campaign a million dollars, analyzed his chances — and dropped out of the race.

Graf, 49, was one of 18 candidates running in the June 3 primary race to succeed Waxman in the 33rd Congressional District, which runs from Malibu to Palos Verdes and includes Santa Monica and Beverly Hills.

"From my startup company background, rule number one in picking a first time CEO is that CEO needs to be all-in," Graf said in explaining why he put so much of his own money into his nascent campaign.

Graf is a businessman who raised $300 million last year with former MGM Chairman Harry Sloan (Graf's brother-in-law) and Hollywood businessman Jeff Sagansky to buy entertainment companies.


What do Californians think about Congress?

Voters see clouds over Congress

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

The U.S. Capitol shrouded in clouds — reflecting the opinions held by California voters of the lawmakers who work inside the building

Congress has few fans these days among California voters. Just 13 percent give a thumbs up to the work of lawmakers overall. As usual, when it comes to a voter's own member of Congress, the numbers go up: 44 percent approve of their representative's work on Capitol Hill.

This latest Field Poll of Californians' attitudes about the U.S. Congress shows continuing negative feedback – a trend that’s lasted more than a decade.  The last time voters in the Golden State had a positive view of Congress was 2003.

The news could be bad for incumbents: less than half (46 percent) say they'd be inclined to vote for their current member of Congress. One in three (33 percent) say they're inclined to vote against the person currently occupying the seat. One in five (21 percent) say it depends on who's running or say they have no opinion.


Maven's Morning Coffee: LA gets neighborhood prosecutors, ex-Bell officials are broke, e-cigarette ban takes effect

LA City Attorney Mike Feuer

Brian Watt/KPCC

L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer is adding eight neighborhood prosecutors to his office.

Good morning, readers. Welcome to the Maven's Morning Coffee -- a listing of the important headlines, news conferences, votes and announcements you need to know to fuel up and tackle your day.

The Maven's Morning Coffee is also available as a daily email. Click here to subscribe.

Today is Friday, April 18, and here is what's happening in Southern California politics:


City Attorney Mike Feuer is adding eight neighborhood prosecutors to his office to address quality of life issues in various neighborhoods, reports the Daily News. "To the communities this is a very important symbolic step to deal with our concerns," said Jill Banks Barad, founder of the Valley Alliance of Neighborhood Councils.

Former Bell officials Robert Rizzo and Angela Spaccia are "penniless," which means residents are unlikely to ever recover the money the two misappropriated, reports KPCC.


City of Bell shouldn't count on being paid back by Rizzo, Spaccia

City Corruption

Nick Ut/AP

Former Bell city manager Robert Rizzo owes the city millions in restitution, but is "penniless."

There’s a good chance the City of Bell will never see the money misappropriated by its convicted former city manager Robert Rizzo and his deputy, Angela Spaccia. Prosecutors and defense attorneys agree the two former city officials are “penniless.”

A state court judge ordered both to pay nearly $9 million in restitution to Bell for illegally authorizing exorbitant salaries and loans to themselves and members of the city council. Five former council members also have agreed to plead no contest to corruption charges.

There’s a twist: it’s a joint debt.  Together, Rizzo and Spaccia were ordered to pay $8.8 million – the amount a judge determined was misappropriated. The judge likely will order the former council members to help pay too.

When Rizzo resigned four years ago, his annual salary in the tiny Southeast L.A. County city was about $780,000.


Money and the Congressional midterms: Who's got the most green?

Elan Carr Ted Lieu

Carr Campaign/Lieu Campaign

Republican Elan Carr, left, and Democratic State Senator Ted Lieu are two of the candidates in what is shaping up to be an expensive race to succeed retiring Congressman Henry Waxman.

You can learn a lot from sifting through the campaign spending reports filed quarterly with the Federal Elections Commission. The deadline to report donations and expenditures from January-March was April 17. Here's what we've learned about California's Congressional races:

1. Cheap Open Seats:

It's early yet, but if you wanted to run for Congress and didn't have access to a lot of money, this was the year to make a try. This quarter, four candidates running to replace George Miller in San Francisco's East Bay raised $158,000. That's the total for all four candidates. Compare that to the average campaign war chest this time of year for an incumbent in California of over half a million dollars.

The cheapest place to run in California this year is in the 35th district in the Inland Empire, vacated by Democrat Gloria Negrete McLeod. Two candidates in that race have together raised less than $65,000.