San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos at his office in San Bernardino, Calif. on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. Ramos, who served since 2002, is seeking re-election. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The San Bernardino Sun/SCNG)

By Joe Nelson | jnelson@scng.com | San Bernardino Sun
Published: May 15, 2018 at 5:37 pm | Updates: May 15, 2018 at 7:14 pm

San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos calls his challenger in the June 5 primary election a “puppet” — handpicked by his deep-pocketed adversaries he says are trying to “buy his office.”

Ramos’ opponent, former county prosecutor-turned-criminal defense attorney Jason Anderson, says he’s not for sale. What’s more, Anderson has said he has had no dealings with Ramos’ adversaries — real estate developers Jeff Burum and Jim Previti — since he announced his candidacy in February.

That said, documents show Burum and Previti are among the biggest contributors to Anderson’s campaign and among the most active players in the campaign against Ramos, who has been the county’s top prosecutor for 16 years.

“He can say what he wants about me,” Anderson said of Ramos. “This is a political response to a wrongful political prosecution, and I don’t know why anybody would expect anything less.”

Defense attorney and former San Bernardino County prosecutor Jason Anderson is challenging incumbent Mike Ramos for District Attorney in this year’s election.(Stan Lim, San Bernardino Sun/SCNG)

The alleged “political prosecution” Anderson is referencing is the Colonies public corruption case. The nine-year legal war ended last year with acquittals of Burum and two co-defendants and the exoneration of a fourth defendant, former Assistant Assessor Jim Erwin. The other two vindicated defendants are former county Supervisor Paul Biane and Mark Kirk, former chief of staff to former county Supervisor Gary Ovitt.

The vindicated defendants and their supporters are now fighting to replace Ramos in one of the most aggressive campaigns to unseat an elected San Bernardino County official in recent memory.

They have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for their cause. Erwin and Kirk formed a political action committee with the lengthy title, Business Leaders for Fair and Ethical Government to Support Anderson and Oppose Ramos for DA 2018. As of Tuesday, the PAC raised more than $754,000, and Erwin said he anticipates his PAC will receive another contribution of more than $30,000 this week.

Some anti-Ramos campaign money has already been used on hit mailers that accuse him of being a sexual predator (for allegedly having adulterous affairs with his subordinates), violating state campaign finance reporting laws (Ramos has been fined three times by the state Fair Political Practices Commission), and blaming him for an 18 percent decline in criminal case filings.

“Let’s set my horrific experience aside and focus on the numbers,” Burum said in a statement Tuesday. “Voters should be alarmed by the fact that although violent crime rates are up 27%, Ramos’ criminal filings are down by 18%….

“He’s great at chasing headlines, but he’s not protecting the people of San Bernardino County. These statistics only embolden criminals and underscore the fact that Mr. Ramos is failing at the job he was elected to do.”

Ramos denies the affairs (he was cleared of a sexual harassment accusation by one former employee), has acknowledged his campaign finance reporting mistakes, and says the reason criminal filings are down is because of Proposition 47, a law passed by California voters in 2014 that converted many nonviolent offenses, including drug and property crimes, from felonies to misdemeanors.

Ramos said he is worried by what the potential ramifications could be if Anderson is elected, saying Anderson would be indebted to his major donors.

“What scares me is to go backwards. These people – Jeff Burum, Jim Erwin – they want to buy and take over the District Attorney’s Office. And I don’t care what people say, Jason Anderson is their puppet. They selected him,” Ramos said during a recent interview at his office.

“I truly believe the people want an elected DA, not a selected DA,” Ramos said.

Ramos released a political mailer of his own last week warning voters that an “Upland developer” was spending $1 million to replace him. He said Burum and his former co-defendants were seeking $250 million from taxpayers in damages they incurred from the Colonies litigation.

Come June 5, the voters will decide whether Ramos will retain his post as District Attorney or if San Bernardino County will swear in a new top prosecutor. There is no third candidate, so whoever wins the June primary wins the election.

To read expanded article, click here.