CAOC Backs Away From Capitol Feud

Don’t blame the Consumer Attorneys. That’s what an odd letter circulated recently among Capitol politicos says.

It seems the Consumer Attorneys of California got caught up in a simmering feud between state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, and Assemblyman Tom Umberg, D-Santa Ana. The CAOC supports Umberg, a litigation partner at Morrison & Foerster, in his bid for state Senate. The trial lawyers are also tight with most Senate Democrats, led by Perata.

But a nebulous independent expenditure committee called Californians United recently attacked Umberg in two campaign mailers. Umberg complained to the Fair Political Practices Commission that his primary opponent, Lou Correa, and Perata improperly plotted with Californians United on the mailers. Umberg says Perata encouraged Correa to run against him; representatives of Perata and Correa have said the politicians weren’t involved with the mailers.

Apparently Perata then asked the CAOC brass to disavow Umberg’s complaint — even though the group’s ranks don’t include a whole lot of election-law wonks. But to some, a lawyer is a lawyer and on Friday, excerpts of a letter from CAOC appeared in the Capitol Morning Report, a daily newsletter read widely by the legislative community. “We wish to make clear that CAOC was not consulted about nor was involved in the filing of the complaint,” said the letter reportedly signed by CAOC President Frank Pitre, President Elect Ray Boucher and John Montevideo, head of the group’s political action committee.

No one’s talking publicly about the PR maneuvering, so it’s hard to say what its impact is. But the ultimate result comes June 6 with the primary election.

Cheryl Miller

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