The race to replace termed out First District Councilman Ed Reyes has refocused attention on the spending habits of one of the top candidates: State Assemblyman Gil Cedillo. Not surprisingly, the issue was raised by Cedillo rival Jose Gardea, Chief of Staff to Reyes, in a mailer that arrived in voters’ homes in recent days. The black and white mailer, a copy of which was provided to The Eastsider by a Highland Park resident, proclaims:
Gil Cedillo has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign money from banks, insurance companies, casinos and drug companies seeking his vote to support his lifestyle. For example, he spent more than $7,000 from special interests on clothes at Nordstroms. He spent $77,000 on restaurants around the world—including a twelve hundred dollar meal at a downtown L.A. restaurant.
The Cedillo campaign did not dispute those figures. But in the past Cedillo has said he has never spent campaign funds for personal reasons.
The information in the mailer is based on public records featured in a 2009 L.A. Times story, which was also excerpted in the Gardea mailer. It’s not unusual or illegal for state lawmakers like Cedillo to spend unused campaign contributions as long as they are spent on “a political, legislative, or governmental purpose,” according to the story. Cedillo, in the story, said none of those funds were ever used for personal reasons:
“None of it’s for me,” Cedillo said in an interview this week at his campaign headquarters in El Monte. All of the purchases were gifts for staff, legislators and “other people who are important to my campaign and my office,” Cedillo said.
When asked to respond to the Gardea mailer, Cedillo’s campaign staff instead redirected attention to Gardea’s impact, or lack of impact, on the district he is trying to represent. Cedillo consultant Derek Humphrey said in a statement:
It’s not surprising that lifelong City Hall bureaucrat Jose Gardea has opened his campaign by attacking Gil Cedillo. Gardea has worked for 20 years in a council district that has seen a larger decline in job growth than any other district in the city and also has one of the highest crime rates.