Former aide helps Carole Migden retire legal debt

The Oakland-based Californians for a Democratic Majority PAC on Tuesday gave $100,000 to former state Sen. Carole Migden’s Legal Defense and Compliance Fund.

That’s a big chunk of change from a PAC that had only $149,156.47 in the bank at 2008’s end. But it’s an even greater boon for Migden’s legal fund, which finished 2008 with only $1,725.95 in the bank and $127,419.40 in outstanding debts. The only other big contribution the legal fund has received in 2009 was $5,000 back in January from Feysan J. Lodde of San Francisco, the founder and owner of Fairfield-based MV Transportation Inc.

So, who are Californians for a Democratic Majority? The group’s treasurer is Michael Colbruno of Oakland, who is Clear Channel Outdoor’s vice president of public policy; an Oakland Planning Commissioner; a Democratic activist (a delegate to the 2004 Democratic National Convention and an unsuccessful candidate for the Alameda County Democratic Central Commtittee last year); and Migden’s former legislative director. Lists of the PAC’s donors for the 2008 and 2006 election cycles show it has been funded by a variety of labor unions, Democratic officials and business interests.

Colbruno tonight said he’s one of three people who decide how the PAC spends its money; he declined to name the other two without consulting them first, but said they’d agreed it was “worthy to help her (Migden) out with her legal stuff.”

“She’s had a significant and heralded career doing some great work on environmental and civil rights and foster care work,” he said, adding many elected officials run up legal bills “as your opponents make charges against you, and sometimes you need help with those.”

“I suspect she’s still going to be in the game for a while, she was a great legislator,” he said.

It’s not the first time Colbruno has helped Migden out; in 2007, he helped get Clear Channel to donate a bunch of pro-Migden billboards in San Francisco as her re-election campaign was heating up.

Migden’s legal fund certainly has seen a lot of action. California’s Fair Political Practices Commission in 2002 fined her $16,000 for eight violations of campaign-finance law; in 2006 fined her $47,500 for 21 violations; later in 2006 fined her another $47,500 for another 22 violations; and last year fined her $350,000 for 89 violations – the largest single fine in the FPPC’s history. (Thanks to Calitics for the litany.)

Despite admitting all those violations, Migden sued the FPPC last year in federal court, claiming she should be allowed to use $647,000 from her 2000 Assembly re-election campaign for her 2008 state Senate re-election campaign; the FPPC claimed that money became surplus when she left the Assembly and couldn’t legally be used for the 2008 bid. The FPPC countersued, “seeking more than $9 million in damages for her consistent and deliberate failure to follow California’s campaign laws.” A judge issued an injunction letting Migden use the old funds, and the cases finally were settled in October with Migden agreeing to pay $40,000 to resolve allegations of campaign finance regulations.

Migden – who despite accessing her old campaign funds still lost her 3rd State Senate District seat last year to then-Assemblyman and former protégé Mark Leno – now serves on the California Integrated Waste Management Board that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is so hot to eliminate as wasteful (even though its current annual budget of $235.3 million comes all from fees, not the state’s crippled General Fund). Schwarzenegger appointed Migden to the $132,000-a-year board post in December.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • RR

    Nobody is going to confuse Carole Migden with Daniel Webster as a shining intellect, but the FPPC is a classic example of bolting the barn door after the cows have left. It deals in small potatoes and small infractions that nobody outside a charmed (but charmless) circle care about.

  • John W

    I’m a little tired of hearing we shouldn’t bother with stuff just because it’s not part of the general fund. It’s true that eliminating the aptly named board will not help the general fund. But getting rid of this kind of waste and patronage is symbolically very important. It’s tough to ask everybody to take big hits (pay cuts, job eliminations, service cuts etc.) while this crap continues untouched. Besides, those “fees” don’t fall from a Fee Tree. Somebody is being burdened with extra costs, which are likely being passed along to consumers. The board, and others like it, likely create all kinds of unnecessary red tape and bureaucracy for those they oversee. Is the fee-supported special fund going to pay for the unfunded retiree pension and health care obligations for the staff and board members? Fixing the general fund is the immediate priority. But, if we want to streamline government and make sure we’ve got our priorities right, we need to look at everything.

  • Paulo

    Good job keep spending your donors hard earned dollars on this “thing”. She is washed up.

  • Andrietta

    I understand why some groups give to politician’s legal defense funds, some are/have been targeted for purely political reasons & they are really stuck paying through the nose to defend themselves even if never charged. But Migden’s actions were on display and everyone knew she was guilty. Besides that, she is such an intolerant and horrible person that prison time would have been appropriate even if just for the way she treated her staff. If the public knew the horrific abuse suffered by most of her staff – the ones NOT connected to big business – they would put her back behind the wheel of her car and ENCOURAGE her to drive like a maniac again in hopes she’d hit a wall. She is the worst piece of garbage I’ve ever met.

  • Carole Migden? Is she driving? CLEAR THE ROADS!!!!!!

  • Qvato

    Migden is a horrible person. racist as hell. Treats people like cuhrap, unless they have big wallets.

  • Ender

    Migdon is a classic case of a politician who can’t/won’t let go and move on, but is keeping her snout firmly buried in the public through.

  • OMG-ponies

    Carole is insane.

  • Elwood

    The only way to rid ourselves of Migden would be to shoot her with a silver bullet and bury her with a stake through her heart.

  • Mary Jo


  • George

    The best thing that can be said about Migden is she can no longer harm the people of California as a member of the State Legislature.

  • Esmeralda

    I happen to know for a fact that Carole is a loving person not this monster you are all making her out to be! People make mistakes and we all have to live with the consequences of our mistakes, I do not see the need to bash a person for her wrong doing. It’s the past and that’s where it should stay, she is paying her debt to society and she in NOT racist! There are so many corporations/big guns in this world treating people far worse and I do not see anyone doing anything to help them. This is ridiculous, leave the small fish and go after the true criminals in the world!!

  • Try as we might, every politician has supporters, no matter what ills she may have done. MC has been through thick and thin with Migden; he’s paid his dues. If only he would practice some “tough love,” and let CM struggle to make due without help from others. Her ego has gotten too big; she needs to remember what it’s like to be a regular person. She needs to treat her staffers with respect and kindness. We hope she will not seek public office again. All the crud will have to be exposed…..