LA Times: Major Democratic donor may have stolen donation money from his injured clients

Last year, a big Democratic donor named Ed Buck was convicted of nine felonies connected to the overdose deaths of two black men at his apartment. Buck had given a total of about $500,000 to a host of Democratic politicians including Ted Lieu, Adam Schiff, Karen Bass, Xavier Becerra, Gavin Newsom and Eric Garcetti.

Ed Buck was a small time Democratic donor when compared to LA lawyer Tom Girardi. Over decades of donations, Girardi and his wives donate around $4 million to various Democrats. About half of that money was donated at a time when Girardi’s fortunes were declining.

The Los Angeles legal legend was a major party donor for decades, a self-described “limousine liberal” who bragged about the influence his money bought him in the selection of judges. He poured millions into local, state and national races personally and lined up additional donations from his wife, “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Erika; the employees of his law firm; and the multitude of California trial lawyers who did business with him — or hoped to.

Girardi kept throwing splashy fundraisers and writing big checks even as his financial situation grew dire. In the last decade, he defaulted on a series of high-interest loans and was forced to liquidate his stock portfolio yet he and his wife still doled out more than $2 million to the national Democratic Party and individual candidates, election filings show.

Those receiving funds included presidential contenders Joe Biden ($11,200), Barack Obama ($62,500) and Hillary Clinton ($60,400), Gov. Gavin Newsom ($66,900), U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein ($18,700), former state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones ($37,244), L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti ($9,500) and City Atty. Mike Feuer ($11,000).

Those are just a few of the elected Democrats who’ve received money from Girardi. Other names mentioned in the story include Senators Mark Kelly, Tim Kaine, Claire McCaskill and Representatives Eric Swalwell and Katie Porter.

The obvious question becomes: Where did Girardi come up with the money? The Times suggests it’s likely it was stolen from settlement money that should have gone to his own clients.

In the years that he and his wife gave $2 million to candidates, Girardi treated a bank account meant to safeguard settlement money for clients as “his personal piggy bank… to support his lavish lifestyle,” according to a recent filing by the trustee overseeing the bankruptcy of his law firm, Girardi Keese. In that same time frame, the trustee wrote, Girardi “stole at least $14,000,000 in settlement funds that should have gone to the Firm’s clients.”

Those clients were mainly of modest means and already suffering from health problems because of toxic contamination, recalled pharmaceuticals, motor vehicle crashes or other misfortunes. Many are still trying to collect their full settlements, according to bankruptcy claims they have filed seeking compensation…

The Times could find no evidence any of the campaigns had returned the donations since Girardi became a pariah after the collapse of his storied firm nearly two years ago. Most candidates contacted by The Times did not respond to questions.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar said she had separated a $5,400 donation she received from Girardi and it would eventually go to victims of his fraud. Rep. Adam Schiff said he would give a $2,000 donation he received to legal aid, though he only offered to do that after being contacted by the LA Times. Everyone else is just keeping the money.

Of course not all the money Girardi allegedly took from clients went to Democrats. He spent money on a lot of other things including a $300,000 beach front condo for his mistress:

Tricia Bigelow, then a presiding justice of a state appeals court in downtown Los Angeles, wanted a weekend place at the beach.

She found an ocean-front condominium in a prime area of Santa Monica in 2015 and embarked on a luxurious makeover later described in a rental listing: custom kitchen cabinets, high-end appliances, a built-in wine fridge, a soaking tub and furnishings in an elegant nautical theme.

To pay the substantial price tag, she did not have to rely on her judicial salary alone. Tom Girardi, the powerful attorney with whom she was having an affair, wired her $300,000 in the week she closed on the Ocean Avenue property, according to financial records filed in a state court lawsuit.

The wire did not come from Girardi’s personal bank account, but rather from a trust account containing settlement money for clients of his Wilshire Boulevard law firm, Girardi Keese.

Anyway, Girardi turns out to be a crook who was (allegedly) stealing from his own severely injured clients and giving a portion of that money to a host of well known Democrats and they’re almost all keeping the money.

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