Paul Biane

Race for supervisor turns negative
James Rufus Koren, Staff Writer
Posted: 04/28/2010 06:35:12 PM PDT

The campaign for San Bernardino County’s Second District supervisor seat became decidedly more contentious this week.

Incumbent Paul Biane went on the offensive in a campaign mailer, calling Fontana Councilwoman Janice Rutherford – his chief challenger in June’s election – a “big spender” of public dollars.

The mailer, which shows Rutherford’s face in the center of a “Taxpayers Express” credit card attacks Rutherford for voting to increase city spending.

“California is facing a budget crisis, but Fontana politician Janice Rutherford keeps on spending like there’s no tomorrow,” the mailer says. The mailer includes a quote from the San Bernardino County Taxpayers Association – a group founded by Biane’s chief of staff, Matt Brown – urging people vote against Rutherford.

Rutherford and Fontana Mayor Mark Nuaimi promptly criticized the mailer, saying Biane’s criticisms are nonsense aimed at deflecting attentionfrom the District Attorney’s Office investigation that has focused on Biane and other supervisors.

“Obviously, Mr. Biane is going to have a hard time convincing voters he can be trusted for another term,” Rutherford said.

Biane’s campaign stood by the mailers.

“Councilwoman Rutherford can run, but she can’t hide from her fiscally irresponsible record,” Biane Campaign Consultant Chris Jones said in a statement. “The fact that she has to hide behind Mayor Nuaimi demonstrates the weakness of her tax-and-spend record.”

Biane’s campaign has significantly more money than Rutherford’s. As of mid-March, Biane had just shy of $350,000 in his campaign account, while Rutherford had $16,322.

The candidate with the most money, said Claremont McKenna College political science professor Jack Pitney, typically doesn’t fire the opening shot in a negative campaign.

State and local prosecutors allege Biane accepted a $100,000 bribe from Rancho Cucamonga developer Colonies Partners in return for his vote favoring a $102 million legal settlement with the developer. The alleged bribe came in the form of a contribution to a political action committee prosecutors say was secretly controlled by Biane.

Biane has not been charged with a crime and has said he voted to settle because it was in the best interest of county taxpayers.

“Sometimes, smart, rich people know that underdogs can win, so they try to stop the challenge before it starts,” Pitney said. “The best defense is a good offense, and if you’re the target of a corruption investigation, you need a heck of a good defense.”

The mailer targeting Rutherford focuses on spending increases in Fontana over the last decade. To be sure, Fontana’s budget has increased substantially during Rutherford’s 10-year tenure on the city council, but the city’s population increased dramatically in that time as well.

“Has our budget increased? Sure,” Rutherford said. “But our population nearly doubled. We’ve added police officers. … Of course we’ve spent more.”

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