Vindicated Colonies corruption case figure Jim Erwin has formed a political action committee with former co-defendant Mark Kirk to back District Attorney Mike Ramos’s challenger, Jason Anderson, and other “good government” political candidates.

By Joe Nelson | jnelson@scng.com | San Bernardino Sun
Published: March 1, 2018 at 7:07 pm | Updated: March 1, 2018 at 7:11 pm

Vindicated Colonies corruption case defendants Jim Erwin and Mark Kirk have formed a political action committee to support “good government” candidates, including the challenger to incumbent District Attorney Michael A. Ramos, former prosecutor-turned-defense attorney Jason Anderson.

As of Thursday, March 1, the PAC, Business Leaders for Fair and Ethical Government, registered by the California Secretary of State on Feb. 8, had raised $114,500, already more than Ramos’ available campaign cash balance of $107,390.18.

And that was just the figure posted on the Registrar of Voters website. Erwin said contributions continued to roll in Thursday, and even bigger contributions were expected to come later in the night.

“We’re at $149,000 right now, and tomorrow we should be just under $350,000,” Erwin said in a telephone interview.

A former assistant assessor for the county and former president of the Sheriff’s Employees’ Benefit Association, or SEBA, Erwin anticipates the PAC will have $500,000 in contributions by the closing of the candidate filing period on March 9.

“We’ve been collecting checks like crazy,” said Kirk, former chief of staff for former county supervisor Gary Ovitt, in a telephone interview. He said all contributions being received by the PAC are being reported witin 24 hours.

A PAC is an organization that raises money privately from donors and uses the funds to support political candidates, ballot initiatives and/or legislation.

Although inspired by the dismissal of charges against Erwin and the acquittal of Kirk, former county supervisor Paul Biane and Rancho Cucamonga developer Jeff Burum in the epic Colonies bribery trial last summer, Erwin said the PAC will continue to operate beyond the 2018 election year, focusing on local elections such as those for school boards, countywide offices, and city councils.

“Anything considered below state level,” Erwin said.

Among the big contributions expected to be taken in by the PAC Thursday included one from Burum.

“All four of us – Paul, Mark, Jim and me – are among the many victims of District Attorney Michael Ramos. We are exercising our constitutional right to try to remove him from office and protect the countless others, both inside his office and across the county, whom he victimizes by his reckless abuse of power,” Burum said in a statement Thursday. “I encourage all business leaders to take a stand and take our county back. As for my part, today I am matching, dollar for dollar, every contribution that has been made to the PAC.”

District Attorney spokesman Chris Lee did not respond to repeated requests for comment Thursday.

“A few disgruntled rich guys bankrolling a criminal defense attorney for D.A. won’t fly with voters,” said Ramos’ campaign manager, Dave Ellis, in an email Thursday. He noted failed attempts by Burum and his supporters in 2014 to fund veteran prosecutor Grover Merritt’s bid for district attorney.

Regardless of money, Anderson will have a fight on his hands. Ramos has served as the county’s top prosecutor since 2002 and is seeking his fifth term in office. He is endorsed by the Rialto, Redlands, and Ontario police unions, San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon and Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff, as well as nearly a dozen local police chiefs. He also has the endorsement of the county Board of Supervisors, with the exception of Supervisor Josie Gonzales, and 18 other district attorneys across the state. And that doesn’t include members of Congress and the Legislature.

Anderson, who announced his candidacy on Feb. 3, said he is not affiliated with Erwin’s and Kirk’s PAC, and has spoken to neither of them regarding the PAC, its monetary contributions, and what candidates and causes it is supporting.

“I have never been individually told that that PAC was going to be done solely to support me,” Anderson said Thursday. “That’s going to be their choice.”

He’s perfectly willing to take the money. “If that group wishes to support me, I certainly would accept it,” Anderson said.

He said he is hosting a fundraiser this month in Ontario and has sent out invitations to mainly his friends and colleagues in the legal community, both defense attorneys and prosecutors at his former place of employment. But none of those invitations extended to Kirk, Erwin, Burum or Biane.

Anderson has acknowledged he has been friends with Kirk since his days serving on the Ontario City Council, where Anderson served with Kirk’s former boss, Gary Ovitt, on the council.

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