Developers own the “Space Commander”

Gustavo Arellano, over at the O.C. Weekly’s Navel Gazing Blog, has discovered yet another conflict of interest involving a Santa Ana Council Member – this time it is Carlos “Space Commander” Bustamante. Here are a few excerpts from Arellano’s latest post:

There are political hacks, and then there is SanTana councilmember Carlos Bustamante, the Orange County Republican Party’s Great Brown Hope and a man who seemingly never met a political donation he didn’t accept and subsequently vote for his donor’s interests. Seriously, people: I’ve read through hundreds of campaign-finance records and tracked multiple politicians in my years at the Weekly, but Bustamante is one of the hackiest of the hacks I’ve encountered.

We were going to limit our mini-investigation of Bustamante to two posts, but the ever-vigilant Orange Juice! clued us into something. Tomorrow, the SanTana City Council will decide on whether to loan C & C Development nearly $9 million to acquire and renovate properties in the city’s Townsend neighborhood. It’s almost a near-certainty: in March of last year, the SanTana Housing Authority helped C & C head Barry Cottle secure a $15 million tax-exempt bond for another project in the city. Not only that, but Bustamante owes Cottle something. On Dec. 21, 2006, Cottle and his relative Mary Cottle each donated $249 toward Bustamante’s failed 2007 First Supervisorial run, neatly evading SanTana campaign finance rules which state councilmembers can’t vote on projects for 12 months involving anyone who donated $250 or more “to the councilmember or to any campaign committee controlled by the councilmember.”

Even if the Cottles did give Bustamante $250, he’d still be able to vote on C & C’s request since more than a year has passed since the Cottles’ donations. Interestingly enough, the original vote on the project was scheduled for Dec. 3 but postponed an extra 30 days per a city council vote.

It looks like the Space Commander is bought and paid for…as is his vote.

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