Capitol Alert

Sen. Wright spent $129,000 on legal bills through June, filing shows

The legal defense fund of state Sen. Rod Wright, who was convicted earlier this year of felony voter fraud and perjury, spent $129,000 on attorneys and related costs from January through June, according to a new state filing.

With Monday’s report, Wright’s legal defense fund has spent nearly $205,000 since last year. That includes $100,000 to Los Angeles law firm Strumwasser and Woocher and $46,000 to Sacramento lawyer William Portanova.

Prosecutors accuse Wright, D-Baldwin Hills, of lying about where he lived when he ran for the then-25th Senate District in 2008. A jury convicted Wright in January but his sentencing has been postponed twice. He is now scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 3. Wright’s lawyers want the judge to not enter, or ratify, the jury’s guilty verdicts and to grant Wright a new trial.

Wright, who was re-elected in 2012, was suspended in late March along with two other Democratic senators in legal trouble, Leland Yee and Ron Calderon. All three lawmakers continue to receive their pay, with legislative attorneys concluding that the state constitution does not allow the Senate to cancel the pay of state lawmakers without expelling them.

Wright’s legal defense fund raised $62,700 since January, which includes a $40,000 loan from his campaign committee for a possible candidacy for the state Board of Equalization in 2018. In addition, the fund received $1,000 from Assemblyman Steven Bradford, D-Gardena; $2,500 from Assemblyman Isadore Hall, D-Compton; and $1,000 from William Burke, the chairman of the South Coast Air Quality Management District. The committee also received $13,000 from the California Job Development Committee. The bulk of that group’s money came from Californians for Jobs and a Strong Economy, which supports business-friendly Democrats.

Wright’s Board of Equalization committee reported another $27,000 in expenses this year. That included about $18,000 in credit card charges, with almost $4,800 in fundraising-related expenses, $3,600 for lunch and dinner meetings, and $637 in book purchases.

Editor’s note: This post was updated at 3:45 p.m. July 28 to list additional donors to the senator’s legal defense fund.