Facing dual probes by state and local authorities, embattled Santa Clara County Supervisor George Shirakawa Jr. has established a legal defense fund to offset mounting legal bills stemming from a series of financial improprieties.
Shirakawa is being investigated by both the District Attorney's Office for misusing his county-issued credit card, and the Fair Political Practices Commission for failing to file eight missing campaign contribution reports from his 2008 campaign.
Calls to Shirakawa's office for comment were not immediately returned. But on a committee form he signed Dec. 19, now filed with the county Registrar of Voters office, Shirakawa lists an assistant treasurer in Oakland and a bank account at a Mountain View Wells Fargo branch.
State officials said there's nothing unusual about setting up such a fund, which can be done while an elected official is in office, as long as all rules are followed.
The candidate-controlled committee he's established to raise legal funds is similar to the kind he set up to solicit campaign contributions in both his 2008 and 2012 runs for supervisor, except there is no monetary limit, unless a local ordinance says otherwise. But like campaign contribution reports, all names and donations are public record.
So far, Shirakawa has contracted a top-flight election law attorney, Thomas Willis of Remcho Johansen & Purcell, to represent him in his case before the state's political watchdog
Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone, who has spoken out frequently throughout the very public airing of Shirakawa's financial mishaps, said the supervisor's legal defense fund makes sense.
"I'm not surprised at all," Stone said. "But it is an indication that he finally recognizes the severity of the situation -- up to this time he's been in a total state of denial. I've watched him talk from the dais and thought, 'Boy, a lawyer is going to tell him to be quiet.' Each time he's said something in his own defense he's dug himself a deeper political and legal hole."
Attorney and former Shirakawa political consultant Rich Robinson, who has publicly called on the supervisor to resign from office, said Shirakawa will likely go back to the same campaign contributors he has relied on in the past.
But, he cautioned: "A drowning man -- even for people who are trying to save him -- will usually take them down with him.''