Double the Money:
San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis lags in fundraising among legal professionals

San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis lags in fundraising among legal professionals

KPBS radio speaks with inewsource’s Joe Yerardi about this story

Key Points

  • Among individuals listing attorney, lawyer or general counsel as an occupation, Brewer outraised Dumanis four-to-one.
  • Several deputy district attorneys — whose union endorsed Dumanis — made contributions, with all three candidates receiving some money from DDAs.
  • Two sitting San Diego County Superior Court judges contributed to Dumanis’ re-election campaign, actions that one legal ethicist called “inappropriate.”

As San Diego County District Attorney, Bonnie Dumanis may fairly be called the top lawyer in the county. But local legal professionals aren’t backing the three-term incumbent with their wallets.

According to an inewsource analysis of campaign contributions, challenger Bob Brewer is drawing far more money from local attorneys.

Among contributions from individuals who listed attorney, lawyer, general counsel or some variation of those as their occupation, 78 percent went to Brewer and 21 percent to Dumanis. One percent went to former federal prosecutor Terri Wyatt, who is also running in the June 3 primary election.

INTERACTIVE: Click here for a searchable database of contributions in the San Diego County district attorney’s race.

As of March 17 — the closing deadline for the last campaign statement — Brewer’s campaign and a pro-Brewer/anti-Dumanis independent committee named San Diegans for Better Justice had raised a combined $519,845. Candidates’ campaign committees are subject to a $1,400 per person limit — $700 for the primary and $700 for the general election (though individuals may give the entire $1,400 during the primary so long as the campaign sets aside anything above $700 for the general election). Individuals may contribute unlimited sums to independent committees.

Dumanis had raised $400,854. Wyatt had raised $15,803.

For all candidates, those figures include non-monetary contributions and exclude loans made by Brewer and Wyatt to their own campaigns.

To find out how inewsource analyzed contributions in the race, see the end of this article.

In terms of cash on hand as of March 17, Brewer’s campaign and San Diegans for Better Justice had a combined $362,597. Dumanis’ campaign had $245,193. Wyatt’s campaign had $33,122. Those figures include loans made by Brewer and Wyatt to their own campaigns.

Law firms source of much Brewer cash

Law firms are well represented among companies with employees who’ve donated the most in the race. As such, that gap explains a great deal of Dumanis’ overall fundraising disadvantage vis-a-vis Brewer.

Of the 10 organizations whose employees contributed the most money in the race, six are law firms.

Employers Whose Employees Contributed the Most Money
Employer Total Contributions from Employees Contributions to Brewer Contributions to Dumanis Contributions to Wyatt Contributing Employees
Cushman & Wakefield $20,700.00 $20,700.00 $0.00 $0.00 1
Jones Day $15,950.00 $15,950.00 $0.00 $0.00 33
Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd $8,250.00 $6,850.00 $1,400.00 $0.00 14
County of San Diego $8,099.00 $1,899.00 $4,700.00 $1,500.00 23
Veros Credit LLC $6,300.00 $0.00 $6,300.00 $0.00 9
McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP $6,050.00 $4,350.00 $1,700.00 $0.00 13
Higgs Fletcher & Mack $5,727.79 $4,527.79 $1,200.00 $0.00 13
Angelos Towing $4,900.00 $0.00 $4,900.00 $0.00 4
Latham & Watkins $4,650.00 $4,650.00 $0.00 $0.00 8
Procopio Cory Hargreaves & Savitch LLP $4,400.00 $3,650.00 $750.00 $0.00 10

And Dumanis’ gap in support among all legal professionals becomes more pronounced when measured by contributions just from those firms — some of the most prestigious practices in the San Diego area.

Employees of those six law firms have favored Brewer over Dumanis by a margin of nearly eight to one — $39,978 to $5,050.

Brewer campaign spokesman Alex Roth said the reason is clear.

“He’s very well-known in the legal community. He’s well respected. He’s got an impeccable background,” Roth said.

“He’s got impeccable legal credentials and skills,” he said, “and the people who know him the best on a professional level and the people who know Bonnie the best on a professional level are by and large inclined to support Bob over Dumanis.”

Dumanis campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Tierney dismissed Brewer’s success among private sector attorneys as much ado about nothing.

“I think it shows he has ties to his fellow attorneys and that’s really it,” Tierney said.

Among law firms, employees of Jones Day were the most generous, pouring $15,950 into the race. Every penny of that amount was in support of Bob Brewer.

That shouldn’t come as a big surprise. Prior to running for district attorney, Bob Brewer was the partner-in-charge of the firm’s San Diego office and is still an attorney-at-law for the firm and maintains an office in their building.

Karen Hewitt, who succeeded Brewer as partner-in-charge, has known Brewer for more than 20 years.

“When he asked for my support, I gave it to him,” said Hewitt, who donated $700 to Brewer’s campaign last June.

Hewitt wasn’t surprised by Brewer’s strong showing among local attorneys.

“He’s an attorney who has a fine reputation in the San Diego area and presumably individuals are lending support to him,” said Hewitt, who stressed that Jones Day neither encourages nor discourages employees to contribute to particular political campaigns.

Of course, Dumanis is far from completely shut out in the local legal community.

Five hundred dollars of Dumanis’ haul has come from Steve Wall, a partner at McKenna Long & Aldridge‘s downtown office.

Wall has known Dumanis for more than three decades — since their time volunteering with the State Bar Conference of Delegates (now the Conference of California Bar Associations).

“She became a friend and someone that I trusted and respected,” said Wall, who’s supported Dumanis in her previous campaigns for judgeships and district attorney.

“I think she’s done an excellent job as our district attorney,” Wall said.

When asked about Dumanis’ lack of financial support from the legal community, Wall pointed to Brewer’s long career in local private practice and the personal relationships that career has forged.

“I believe Bob is well known in the legal community,” said Wall. “I certainly have a lot of lawyer friends who are supporting him.”

And while Wall makes clear that he’s rooting for Dumanis to win, he also thinks highly of her challenger.

“Bob Brewer is a wonderful man and I don’t think the public can lose in this election,” Wall said. “The public is going to win one way or the other.”

Next page: Contributions from judges called “very unusual”

We'll let you know when big things happen.

About Joe Yerardi

Joe Yerardi is an investigative reporter and data specialist at inewsource. To contact him with questions, tips or corrections, email joeyerardi@inewsource.org or call (619) 594-5321.