Already, former Board of Supervisors chairman Bill Postmus admitted accepting a $100,000 bribe from Colonies executive Jeff Burum. Prosecutors allege that the Colonies Partners’ lobbying strategy manipulated the San Bernardino County Taxpayers Association, the San Bernardino Young Republicans, and other bribes were made in connection to the settlement. Although he has not been charged with a crime, the FBI raid on Brulte raises questions about his role as lobbyist working for Colonies Partners. The Contra Costa Times reports:
Former state Sen. Jim Brulte is suspected of arranging a 2005 trip to China between Burum and Postmus in which prosecutors allege the conspiracy to settle the Colonies was hatched.
In an April 2009 search warrant directed at Erwin, a confidential informant told district attorney investigators that Burum promised both Brulte and Erwin more than $1 million each from the $102 million settlement. Brulte and Erwin deny the allegation.
According to reports, Brulte also helped negotiate the terms of the allegedly fraudulent settlement.
Notably, FBI agents only raided Brulte’s California Strategies office in Fontana, California. ThinkProgress has discovered that during the time of the allegedly corrupt Colonies Partners settlement, Brulte conducted his lobbying business out of a suite owned by a sitting member of the legislature. In 2004, Brulte founded the Inland Empire office of California Strategies. Until last year, that lobbying shop operated out of an office space owned by current Republican Senate Leader, state Sen. Bob Dutton.
According to documents obtained by ThinkProgress, Brulte’s lobbying business shared the same office owned by Dutton’s consulting businesses at 10681 Foothill Blvd. Suite 340 in Rancho Cucamonga, California. In December 2004, shortly after Brulte finished his last term in the legislature, he began work for California Strategies at Dutton’s business address. A representative from California Strategies told ThinkProgress that the firm moved its Inland Empire office from Dutton’s office to the current location in Fontana last year “in April or May.”
Dutton, who now occupies Brulte’s seat in the legislature, has an ownership stake in a number of companies operating out of the same office suite in Rancho Cucamonga:
– From December 2004 until April or May in 2010, Brulte’s California Strategies lobbying office was located at 10681 Foothill Blvd. Suite 340 Rancho Cucamonga, CA.
– Dutton is a partner in a business called West End Investments, which is located at 10681 Foothill Blvd. Suite 340 Rancho Cucamonga, CA.
– Dutton is a partner in a firm called Dutton & Associates, which is located at 10681 Foothill Blvd. Suite 340 Rancho Cucamonga, CA.
– Urban Advisors/School Facility Advisors, a consulting firm owned by Bob Dutton’s father Ted is located at 10681 Foothill Blvd. Suite 340 Rancho Cucamonga, CA. Ted’s businesses provide consulting services to school districts applying for government money.
According to disclosures, Dutton’s “West End Investments” and his other firms have generated over a million dollars in income for the senator, although it is not clear what the firms actually provide in terms of business other than “real estate.”
Since he left elected office for work at California Strategies, Brulte has been rated almost every year by Capitol Weekly as one of the top “influence peddlers” and “power brokers” in the state. With Postmus accepting a plea bargain and speaking openly with prosecutors about what he knows, and the FBI raid on Brulte’s office, Brulte’s lobbying connections may soon open a new front in the case.
Dutton, presently the most powerful elected Republican in California, has avoided taint from the scandal so far. Although he has accepted $25,000 from the allegedly crooked developers in the Colonies Partners deal, Dutton hasn’t been directly associated with the scandal. However, this new information that Brulte lobbied out of Dutton’s personal office may change all of that.
Repeated calls to Dutton’s office from ThinkProgress have gone unanswered. A spokesman for California Strategies, Jason Kinney, says Brulte never “had any direct connection to any improper activities.”
State Sen. Dutton wrote to ThinkProgress with the following response:
We do not comment on ongoing investigations. But for the record that is not my office. Brulte did sublet an office from my father when he first left the Senate. But neither my father nor I have any business interest in Jim’s consulting company. There are too many errors in your assumptions regarding my busy dealings to comment but there is no “family business”.
As Dutton’s disclosure forms (view Dutton’s financial disclosures from 2005-2011 here) make clear, he has multiple businesses, along with his father’s business, operating out of the same office space. Brulte’s lobbying firm, as Dutton mentions, rented the same space during the 2004-2010 period.