Former candidates wrap up campaign finances

DOWNEY - According to new campaign finance reports, submitted to the city clerk's office last month, former City Council candidates Lee Ann Sears, Alex Saab and Fernando Vasquez are bringing their campaigns to a close, paying off outstanding debts and donating the remaining funds to charitable organizations.The campaign statements, which encompass the period between Oct. 17 and Dec. 31, reveal that Saab and Sears raised $4,100 and $610 respectively during the remaining months of 2010 while Vasquez collected $10,150 in campaign donations, bringing his total amount of contributions to more than $45,000, which is nearly $10,000 more than his closest fundraising rival, Saab, who collected $32,365 during his campaign. Leading up to the election, both Saab and Sears received donations of $15 to $500 from mostly local residents and business owners, according to the reports. Saab's biggest contributors included pastoral associate Dianne Lumsdaine ($500), business owner Mireille Ayoub of Rolling Hills ($500), and Porto's Bakery co-owner Raul Porto ($500). Similarly, Vasquez's statements highlight a vast array of donations from various business leaders and local companies. He received donations from property management group Meruelo Enterprises Inc. ($1,000), Councilman Luis Marquez's 2010 Assembly campaign ($800), La Barca Restaurant ($600), South Gate-based Educational Group USA Inc. ($500), Jimmy Sandhu, vice-president of H.P. Tow Inc. ($500), Best Demolition & Recycling Co. of Granada Hills ($500) and Los Angeles-based Coatzingo LLC ($500). In December, Saab and Sears paid their campaigns' outstanding debts and the remaining campaign funds were donated to local, non-profit organizations, $407 to the Downey YMCA and $377 to the Downey Rose Float Association respectively. According to his financial statements, Councilman Vasquez has not yet been reimbursed for the more than $7,500 he loaned his campaign prior to the Nov. 2 election. Vasquez said he will collect donations until the loan is paid back. "It is not uncommon for a candidate to have a campaign debt following his or her election and to continue fundraising in order to pay off that debt," wrote Vasquez in an e-mail response. "To mitigate my campaign debt, my plan is to seek support from residents and others who wish to continue supporting me and my efforts on behalf of the city of Downey. After my campaign debt has been paid off, any remaining funds will be donated to Downey-based charities." In addition to submitted new campaign statements, Vasquez also amended two of his previous financial reports adding seven new campaign contributions totaling $3,250 during the Oct. 1-16 statement period. Nearly $1,400 in contributions was also added to the financial statement that spans from July 1 to Sept. 30. After initially reporting no campaign contributions from Oct. 1-16, Vasquez later added a $2,500 donation from Champion Dodge in a Dec. 8 amendment. Last month, Vasquez added seven more campaign contributions to the same report including donations from Downey Orthopedic Specialist ($500), Educational Group USA Inc. ($500), attorney Erick Solares ($500), Tacos El Gavilan Inc. ($500) and George Kirkorian, CEO of Kirkorian Premiere Theatres ($250). Vasquez also amended his statements from July 1 through Sept. 30, adding another seven donations that were previously unaccounted for in the initial reports. The campaign contributions included donations from CalMet Services Inc. in Downey ($500), Los Angeles-based Coca Coca Enterprises Inc. ($250), Rio Hondo Event Center ($150), Attorney Shireen Rogers of Irvine ($100) and the Hubert Humphrey Democratic Club of Cerritos ($100). Vasquez said that campaign contributions were not reported earlier due to a misinterpretation of campaign finance regulations. "The contributions at issue were publicly reported based on the date they were deposited into the campaign account, which is what we believed the law required," said Vasquez. "Once we realized our mistake, we amended our reports to reflect the date they were received." Interim city clerk Joyce Dole said such amendments are common and can be done for various reasons, therefore no fines would be warranted.

********** Published: February 17, 2011 - Volume 9 - Issue 44