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Special Interests, Dark Money Mar Lynda Johnson’s Cerritos Council Campaign

Cerritos City Council candidate Lynda Johnson.

March 9, 2022

By Brian Hews

It’s campaign crazy season, and there is never a shortage in Cerritos, where candidates routinely spend nearly $60,000, and sometimes more, to secure a seat in the halls on Bloomfield to get paid $29,000.

Witness Lynda Johnson, the Cerritos City Council candidate, whose campaign donation documents show that special interests and dark money is once again attempting to influence a Cerritos City Council election, very similar to donations current Mayor pro tem Chuong Vo took in his last campaign.

In typical Cerritos Republican Old Guard tactics, Johnson, who works for Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, recently cashed  $5,000 in checks from top executives of the Newport Beach-based Picerne Group and $2,000 from KC Towers LLC, an obscure California Foreign Corporation.

Johnson delayed reporting the donations, waiting until after the first reporting period, which ended mid-February, to file the late donation FFPC Form 497’s.

Pay to Play

The donation from Picerne reeks of pay-to-play; the Picerne Group built the high-end Aria Apartment Homes on the corner of Bloomfield and Artesia in Cerritos, completed in 2016, and there are rumors of a high-density housing project to be built in the city.

The donation from KC Tower is classic dark money and could also be a pay-to-play donation; a donation that involved researching four Limited Liability Companies to find the connection between KC Towers, Picerne, and Johnson; the owner of KC Towers works for a company that recently completed a huge housing development in Newport Beach with Picerne.

Picerne Top Execs Open Their Checkbooks

Donating $2,000 to Johnson was President and CEO Ken Picerne, founder and owner of the company.

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Donating an additional $2,000 was Greg Nakihira, who indicated he was a “developer” for Picerne on the donation form; a quick look at Picerne’s website lists Nakihira as Co-Managing Director.

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Another $1,000 came from Leonard Moreau, who, like Mr. Nakahira seemed to forget his role at Picerne.

Moreau indicated on the donation form that he was a “foreman” for Picerne; the website describes him as the President of Construction at the company.

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None of the three men live in or around Cerritos; Picerne lives in Newport Beach, Nakahira in Torrance, and Moreau lives in Tustin.

Ken Picerne has not commented on questions sent by HMG-CN.

Dark Money Connection

Adding to the donations was another $2,000 from an obscure company incorporated in Delaware called KC Towers, LLC.

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California Secretary of State corporation records show members of KC Towers, which are similar to officers in a C Corporation,  are William Shopoff and Brian G. Rupp

Additional SOS records show KC Tower’s LLC Members are three Delaware companies, SRI Managing Member, LLC; SRIMM 2, LLC; and SRIMM 3, LLC.

SOS records show that William Shopoff, who owns Shopoff Realty Investments based in Newport Beach, is also a member of SRIMM 2 and SRIMM 3.

Researching Shopoff Realty’s website showed that Brian G. Rupp, whose KC Towers donated $2,000 to Johnson’s campaign, is employed by Shopoff Realty.

Connected to Picerne

Additional research found that Shopoff Realty once worked on a large-scale  joint venture with Picerne called Uptown Newport, a 462-unit luxury apartment project. Phase I of the development included up to 218 for-sale condos, 6,500 square feet of restaurants and a one-acre public park.

Questions sent into Shopoff went unanswered.

Other Donations and Possible Connections

Other questionable donations reported by Johnson include $1,000 from the engineering firm of Kling Consulting of Irvine, and $1,000 from Jon DeMorest of Pauma Valley; Pauma is over 100 miles from Cerritos.

In addition, Yunmi Martin is the President of Picerne Residential; records show a $1,000 donation from Carlos Martin in Irvine.

When informed about HMG-CN’s revelation of special interests and dark money, a high-level source inside Cerritos City Hall said, “Interesting timing, I heard there is interest to build a high-density housing complex at South and Bloomfield in the Carrows lot.”

In response to questions about the many donations, Johnson sent a one-sentence statement,  “In my 50 years in Cerritos I have developed many relationships because of my personal achievements and my professional career.”

Johnson’s career path consists of a paralegal position with the L.A. District Attorney; a short stint as a field representative for Supervisor Janice Hahn, and recently as a field representative for embattled Sheriff Alex Villanueva.

In addition to the donations, some are questioning the compatibility of offices; if Johnson is elected, she will hold the position with LASD’s Villanueva while Cerritos maintains an annual $12 million contract with the LASD.

 

THE MONEY FLOW

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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