$500 John Duran Campaign Donor Says He’s Never Heard of WeHo Councilmember

Koreatown carpenter puzzled by his “donation” to a campaign six miles away.

In a City Council campaign dominated by donations from real estate interests outside of West Hollywood, at least one person listed as giving the maximum donation professes ignorance about that donation, the candidate and the campaign.

Jose Medina, a carpenter from Cali, Columbia, whose modest home on Kenmore Avenue on the fringe of Koreatown sits five miles from West Hollywood, was perplexed when WEHOville asked him about the $500 contribution he allegedly made to the campaign of Councilmember John Duran. WEHOville interviewed Medina Saturday as part of research it is conducting into the origins of donations to the West Hollywood City Council campaign, many from distant sources with no obvious connection to the community.

Medina, who has worked for 12 years as a carpenter for Huntington Holdings, a major real estate investor, said he had never heard of Duran and was unaware of the West Hollywood City Council campaign. His wife, present during the interview, suggested that the donation probably was made in his name by Jack Corwin, CEO of Huntington Holdings, a Beverly Hills firm that is an investor in commercial rental properties, vacation properties and high-end residential renovation projects. Corwin also has made the maximum donation of $500 to the Duran campaign. WEHOville also contacted Halina Foltyn, a housekeeper for Huntington Holdings who lives in a modest apartment in Sherman Oaks and who, like Medina, also is listed as having made a $500 donation on Jan. 9 to the Duran campaign. Foltyn refused to respond to WEHOville’s questions.

Jack Corwin told WEHOville that he has not made contributions in the names of his employees, although he noted that he had made a donation of $500, in his own name, to the Duran campaign. When asked about the Medinas’ assumption that the donation in Jose Medina’s name was made by him, Corwin said: “It’s absolutely not true.” Corwin declined to speculate on how or why lower-level workers for his firm who live well outside of West Hollywood would make such relatively large donations to a City Council candidate.

Gary Winuk, Chief of the Enforcement Division of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, said that a donation made in the name of another person without that person’s knowledge or not involving that person’s money constitutes “campaign money laundering.” That is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $5,000.

Duran did not responde to calls from WEHOville seeking comment on Jose Medina’s contention that the donation made in his name didn’t come from him. Duran’s campaign consultant Steve Afriat said that if there was found to be wrongdoing on the developer’s part, Duran would return the money.

The donations by Huntington employees are among a number of contributions unearthed by WEHOville in its continuing review of finance reports from the 2011 and 2013 City Council campaigns that show creative and possibly illegal ways around the city’s donation limit. That limit is $500 from any individual or entity to any particular candidate in a city political campaign, a reduction from the $1,000 limit in place until 2009.

For example, the city ordinance permits “bundling,” a practice in which campaign fundraisers or friends or supporters of a candidate encourage others to contribute to the candidate. That practice is legal so long as the donors use their own money and don’t channel money through their accounts from other donors who have hit their donation limit. Several residents involved in local politics, however, mention having been approached and asked to make donations for which others will supply the cash. Each said that he declined.

The city ordinance also permits a spouse or children aged 18 or over to make a contribution of up to $500 in his or her own name without running afoul of the limit previously met by a parent or husband or wife. The result in that campaign finance reports list “homemakers” and “students” in distant cities who donate the max to local candidates despite having no evident connection to them. In many cases, research by WEHOville shows, they are children or spouses of someone with business interests — usually real estate — in West Hollywood who already has met his or her maximum donation. They almost always donate to incumbents.

For example, there’s the contribution of $500 from a “homemaker” in Rancho Palos Verdes to John Duran’s campaign. A little digging identifies her husband as an executive with a billboard company with interests on Sunset Boulevard who already has reached his $500 limit to the Duran campaign. Then there’s the aging socialite in Dallas, some 1,300 miles away, who gave $500 to Duran. Her son is a local real estate developer who already had reached his donation max.

Such donations, all legal, aren’t exclusive to the Duran campaign. The Mani brothers, who live in Beverly Hills but have significant real estate holdings in West Hollywood, had their wives chip in $500 each to Abbe Land’s 2011 council campaign after they reached their own legal limits. Four members of the Soroudi family, whose patriarch, Behnam, has extensive real estate interests through his Ruby Group, Harper Enterprises and other companies, donated $500 each to the 2011 election campaigns of incumbents Lindsey Horvath, John Heilman and Land and a total of $1,500 to challenger John D’Amico, who defeated Horvath. For the 2013 campaign, they’ve donated $2,500 to Duran, enlisting a fifth family member, Rachel Soroudi, a student at USC’s Marshall School of Business who is set to graduate in 2016. To date, the Soroudis have given Jeffrey Prang $1,000.

Then there is the establishment of campaign committees to support a particular candidate that ostensibly operate separately from the candidate’s own campaign, also perfectly legal and a way for donors to give beyond the individual donation limit. An example is the recently announced committee to support John Duran that is funded with $10,000 from BMB Investment Corp., which is working on a controversial development project on Melrose Avenue supported by Duran, and by W.H.B.T., owner of Micky’s, the gay bar in Boystown, near to which  have been staged the city-sponsored Go Go Dancer Appreciation Day and Mayan End of the World festivals, both championed by Duran.

Through Jan. 19, the last date for which donations have been reported, the nine candidates for two seats on the West Hollywood City Council have amassed $217,727 in donations. The largest recipient is Duran, with $89,885 (which includes the $10,000 independent committee donation). Seventy-three percent of his donations are from sources whose addresses identify them as being outside West Hollywood, and 48 percent are from real estate interests.

Mayor Jeffrey Prang ranks second, with donations of $55,550, 54 percent from outside of WeHo and 30 percent from real estate interests. Ranking third in donations from others is challenger Sam Borelli, with $20,358 in donations, 52 percent from outside WeHo. Borelli has booked no significant real estate donations. Fourth is Christopher Landavazo, whose $26,151 war chest includes a loan of $9,000 to himself. Forty-five percent of his donations come from outside WeHo and few are from real estate interests. Challenger Steve Martin reported $21,118 in campaign funds, including loans of $13,700 to himself, with minimal contributions from outside WeHo or from real estate interests. Challengers Nick Garzilli, Tristan Schukraft and Tom DeMille did not report independent contributions of more than $1,000.

  1. Holy mackerel! What the hell is going on in this city? Why aren’t the feds involved? These people who waste our money are keeping food out of the mouths of and roofs from over the heads of the homeless here in The Creative City! Creative at what, stealing and concealing?

  2. yes chloe, i just saw this info on whoownsweho:

    Over the past few years, the City has paid out:
    · More than $800,000 in legal costs tied to Laurel Park due to the lack of a community process and resident communication.
    · More than $1,200,000 for an employee settlement arising from a code compliance and employee communication matter.
    · More than $250,000 to correct light and sound errors in our new City Council chamber.
    · More than $1,000,000 for architect drawings tied to an affordable housing project proposed for Laurel Park.
    · More than $1,500,000 for a failed City Council and staff driven renovation of Plummer Park that had little support by the Park community and surrounding residential neighborhood.

    Who Benefits?
    Steve Afriat Consulting is being paid to run the campaign of Councilmembers John Duran and Jeff Prang.
    Steve Afriat Consulting is being paid to gain the vote of Councilmembers John Duran and Jeff Prang.

  3. And FYI – illiterate comment writers – the word “jive” is not the same as the word “jibe” – although I would posit you may have gyred and gimbled in the wabe.

  4. Here is another take on the March 5th dog and pony show at the polls in West Hollywood.It was the CC who spent $4,750,000 on not done, never looked at or simply wrong projects. That a nice piece of change to waste on nothing. Is this city so damn wealthy we have a spare nearly $5Mil to squander.

  5. @Rudolf, I was just thinking the same thing; that Miss Martin and Rudolph the red nosed, sound exactly the same and with some irony, they sound just like John Duran, who has said from the council dais that the lunches provided and paid for by “us” is no big thing. I also, resent having Mike Jenkins, our City Attorney, represent Councilmember Duran on our dime. Perhaps, Mr. Jenkins will lose this case as well, however, not unlike the case against Mayor Duran for his antics in Oregon. Didn’t that cost the City (aka the taxpayers) $30,000.00? Or had I been to the dispensary when I read that in the news?

  6. Ya Rudolph or um Steve please I guess it’s 5 pm somewhere in the world. And let’s have the Weho Ville look at Steve’s previous decade in office. Can we look at his donation list too? Me think he Protests Just a Little too Loudly….. That is the problem when a life long politician starts quacking too much. And ya what a joke that 11 years in the office he got voted out of he is now The term limitnator. lol. Nice try misfits….

  7. THE EDITORS: This comment has been removed because it was posted under a different name by another commenter on this story. Our terms of use require a commenter to use only one name so as not to mislead readers as to how many people are speaking out on a particular story or issue.

  8. THE EDITORS: This comment has been removed because it was posted under a different name by another commenter on this story. Our terms of use require a commenter to use only one name so as not to mislead readers as to how many people are speaking out on a particular story or issue.

  9. since “anonymous” brings it up but is ignorant of the facts: the LA County district attorney is currently investigating John Duran for possible misuse of city funds regarding $ 7,000.00 of meal expenses charged to the city. as allegra says, the DA’s office just confirmed that the investigation has NOT been dropped. criminal charges have not yet been filed so they could hardly have been dropped, could they?

    that investigation has nothing to do with the possible money laundering by the Duran campaign that this article reveals. and it certainly has nothing to do with steve martin whose supporters are actual weho residents, which seems to make some people nervous.

  10. Anonymous, what does this article have to do with Steve Martin?
    Talk about a not being sober, running to the dispensary and a Vendetta!!!
    You’re the only one who seems angry and out of control here.
    Well, you & Miss Martin…

    Steve Martin didn’t write this article or even comment….but you’re going after him as if he did.
    Obviously, you have a problem. There’s illegal activity with John Duran and you’re going after Steve Martin who has nothing to do with it? Really?

    The Patch takes articles/blogs from any person or candidate & they’ve made that perfectly clear.
    Jeff Prang has written posts and John Duran is welcome to do the same.
    Two weeks ago the DA told the press that the investigation has not been dropped.
    If you have proof to the contrary, great. Show it.

    Weho is so well run that 3,500 people signed the petition for term limits.
    Maybe you’re right…We should just vote them out of office instead.

  11. omg anonymous that isn’t fair play calling Steve Martin angry and implying he is drunken thisisn’t the direction we want to take this. I also second your point about his numerous terms in office that doesn’t jive with his term limit gimmick, but lets keep this fun not nasty. I also agree about the Patch could abstain from his articles to stay non partisan and professional. But that isn’t Steve’s fault.

  12. THE EDITORS: This comment has been removed because it was posted under a different name by another commenter on this story. Our terms of use require a commenter to use only one name so as not to mislead readers as to how many people are speaking out on a particular story or issue.

  13. Why I do believe, Miss Martin, you sound like John Jude. He too, would have us believe the “DA stuff” aka misuse of the City credit card has been dropped, but according to the District Attorney’s office the investigation is on going. Meanwhile, all of that is costing taxpayer money to defend him. Endearment? it’s hard to think of anything about Mr. Duran as being endearing. We can only hope he will be able to live in Simi soon.

  14. Oh Rudolf, that is an endearment not an insult… what is wrong with being different. Isn’t there a song about being ‘green’. My point remains the same. Give the whole story, and stop with the murdock inferences and key words. This reminds me of that batty person from the Patch who wanted to tie all the latinos in weho with latinos in Bell, and make a comparison. You all wasted a lot of hot air about that and the DA stuff and now its been dropped…. Got Life? Misfit Toys and Conspiracy Theory, gotta love them. Whats next Duran lives in Smi Valley and Prang in SF and they are not actual residences?

  15. thank you for this follow-up rant, “miss martin”. if that’s the best response a $90,000.00 campaign can come up with then maybe we can stop worrying about outside special interest money being laundered into our small city council campaign.

    lashing out at the publication for doing some actual investigative journalism does not address the issue at hand. neither does calling people ‘misfit toys’ when you don’t even have the courage to speak for yourself.

  16. If you look at John Durans campaign statement, it says Jack Corwin, Huntington Holdings.
    It doesn’t say Jack Corwin APLA. If you google Jack Corwin Huntington Holdings, you get the rundown on him.
    If you google Jack Corwin, APLA, you get that he’s a co-chair and a page of stuff about Huntington Holdings.

    Are you, Miss Martin, saying that if Corwin is a developer and also on the board of APLA, it’s okay that he did something illegal?

    As for the housekeeper and carpenter, what ordinary person can afford to give a $500 donation that’s not tax deductible?
    Now, Mr. Corwin may have to end up paying fines of up to ten thousand dollars.
    Otherwise, where would they return the money? To the carpenter who didn’t know he donated it?

    Nobody from the campaign questioned why a carpenter or housekeeper from outside the City
    would donate $500 each until there’s a news story…because everybody does it?
    This campaign money game has been going on for years.
    When a person decides to run the first question everybody asks is “how much money can he/she raise?”

    What do you want to bet, that poor Jose Medina has just lost his job?
    The housekeeper will probably get a raise for keeping quiet.

    This airing of dirty laundry, will change election campaigns in the future of West Hollywood.
    Clean laundry smells a lot better.

  17. and impeach Obama along the way because the Pres, Hill, Nancy, Difi, Boxer all take contributions that come from multiple sources bundled together. Lets not get silly. OK folk drinks on me… The London Hotel, (my little baby) come join the dark side, be bought off, free trips to Vegas, free car service, lets go, come on you know you want it…

  18. Here is the point Rudolf… first we’re all Martins here so love it. You are twisting in the wind almost as badly as your response. You and your band of misfit toys want to link everything negative you can against Duran. Of course the article called him a developer, they failed to mention that he doesn’t own property in Weho, and is board member of APLA. But of course since it is the ‘misfits hour’ I was citing the silly Murdock like tactics of taking one piece out of Corwin’s bio dip it into tea party tactics, and put some sort of smear on the individual as some developer with West Holly wood interest. Why didn’t the article focus on the APLA part. Why not make a connection there? Why waste a lot of time on sleaze and smear and not elevate to fully developed journalism.
    As for my attacks on Martin, my comment of referring to him as a her was out of line. I Apologize to Mr. Martin. But the centerpiece stands, he has already in office multiple years, got voted out, and is now returning as the term limit born again? PLEASE, tell me that isn’t talking out of both sides of his mouth now is it?

  19. to the person hiding behind “Miss Martin”: the jump from your ill-defined confusion to the shrill accusation of ‘sloppy journalism’ is difficult to follow. please elaborate: you ‘don’t understand the link to being a developer’? do you mean that you don’t understand how ‘the CEO of a Beverly Hills firm that is an investor in commercial rental properties, vacation properties and high-end residential renovation projects’ could be considered a developer? please clarify your confusion! and what exactly would you like retracted? what ‘link’ are you even talking about?

    and what does your personal attack on Steve Martin have to do with John Duran’s campaign finances, the subject of this article?

    if you know the players involved (as you claim) why don’t you fill in the blanks for us? and please tell us who you really are so we can put it all in perspective?

  20. Hey wait a minute if this is the Jack Corwin that I know he is former board chair of APLA. I know him well, decent man but not a property owner in Weho so don’t understand the link to being a developer. I think Weho Ville better issue a retraction or do a source check. I am all for community based journalism that micro targets our issues but please remember MICRO TARGET should be ACCURATE and on target. I certainly hope that the ‘term limit’ queen herself Steve Martin, who only got termed out because he lost, and is now running for what his fourth or fifth term after serving consecutive terms in office is not behind this sloppy journalism. He has already single handedly discredited the Weho Patch for any honest journalism.

  21. poor john didn’t get his way for once, so he cries like a big baby….soooo immature!!!….hmmmm, people from outside of weho?….now that’s RICH, as almost all of your campaign donations are from outside of weho and many from developers….here’s the video with sound:


  22. Thanks for a very interesting eye opener on how West Hollywood council members obtain their illegal campaign funds.

  23. Wow, great job WEHOville in doing the digging to uncover this.

    This is the perfect example of why we need term limits. It is amazing how the troublesome cycle of special interest money we see on the national level, is alive in WeHo, but on a much smaller level.

    Not quite the industrial military complex, more like the multi-use development with affordable housing units complex.

  24. A Big Thank You to WEHOville! Illegal or unethical (I’m sick of the slim distinction), almost everything the incumbents are doing to win this election is WRONG.

    This is just the latest revelation. At least there is hard evidence here – we don’t have to rely on people who have gotten “shake down” phone calls to find the courage to go public. It’s time we recognize how we’re getting bamboozled and sold down the river.

    1.) The incumbents make it clear to everyone with potential business in front of the Council or potential favors down the road that donations like these are “expected.” Their campaign manager, lobbyist Steve Afriat, knows just how to explain that to donors.

    2.) The incumbents take all that money they extort… uh, raise… and use it to reach many more potential voters than any challenger can afford to reach. They spread fairy tales about all the good things they do and distort the records or integrity of challengers or measures that would curtail their power. They do it with expensive mailers and paid workers to make calls and walk neighborhoods.

    3.) And who’s votes are swayed in all that outreach? All those citizens who are not engaged enough to know better. In other words (unfortunately)… the majority of voters.

    So the next time you hear someone say, “We have term limits… they’re called elections,” ask yourself whether you consider elections with this kind of lopsided fundraising and outrageous shenanigans fair?

    Together, we can make sure that this time… this election… the same old tricks don’t work. I’m working everyday for Steve Martin’s campaign and Yes on Measure C.

    We all can do something. Join up with Me’s group. Talk a few neighbors into voting the incumbents out of office and voting “Yes” on Measure C. Put a sign in your yard or window. Tell your neighbors to read WEHOville or print articles for friends who aren’t online. Host a meet & greet. Together we CAN make it different this time.

  25. UGH, APPALLING!!!….this piece speaks volumes as to why duran not only needs to go, but should also be investigated beyond the current investigation by the LA district attorney….

    if you are as sick as we are about this crap, and other hideous stuff going down in weho, please join our group….we are working on plans to inform the public (through demonstrations, video, gorilla street marketing etc) as to what is going on in the remaining days before the election

    please email us at: takebackweho@aol.com ….our belief is that most residents have NO IDEA whats happening at city hall and we want to get the message out there QUICKLY…..

    it’s easy to complain on these websites, but this is a call for ACTION!!!!

  26. Can’t we get rid of this rude Jude dude before March 5? I’m not in the least surprised, I had this guy’s number ages ago. It is my opinion that the voters, the alleged victims of his deceit, have treated him much too respectfully thus far. Are you listening now folks? If he wants to continue his career In politics, he might consider running for office in Bell. They would likely welcome a candidate who is already under investigation the for abuse of city money
    BTW, thank you to WEHOville News for your honest & forthright reporting of the facts. You are doing a great service to the city. Please don’t ever become an attack dog & propaganda machine like other on line “news” sources have done.

  27. Kudos to WEHOVILLE for some real investigative journalism and for exposing this web of corruption.

    Notice that Steve Martin’s donation sources are clean.

    Real estate developers don’t like him and for a good reason. He will work to change things to favor the people.

    Please, people, recognize the problem this article highlights and vote for change.

    Vote for a change to a revitalized, ethical City Council.

  28. I take my years of service to protect and serve seriously. It is clear West Hollywood deserves leaders it can trust, leaders who are not in the pockets of big business developers, leaders who seek to protect our small business community and the residents of our great city. My pledge to you is to continue to uncover conflicts of interest and to serve with honor, courage, integrity, transparency and above all to put the needs our our community first!

  29. thank you Wehoville for the investigative reporting. i’ve been pointing out these strangely bundled out-of town contributions for a while now. john duran is already under investigation for misuse of public funds. now we can add possible money laundering to the inquiry.

  30. I hope and pray that the citizens of WeHo, wake up and realize that the Council Members are bought and paid for by real estate developers and will owe those developers favors aka approval of projects that even the planning commissioners have rejected. Live in a small, older, rent controlled building in a quiet neighborhood? Pack your bags, your home could be next. The developers see it, buy it get it approved by the council and send you packing so they can build condo units and reap the profits. It’s wrong people. It is just plain wrong. Vote the incumbents out AND vote YES on measure C.

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