John Harrington, who has served two terms on the San Gabriel City Council, is up for reelection this March.
By Sean McMorris
A review of Harrington’s campaign finance reports reveals that his campaign is heavily funded by one San Marino family with development business in San Gabriel. The family is funding Harrington’s campaign with “dark money,” or funds where the true source of the contribution is not revealed.
Transparency in politics
Councilman Harrington’s reelection campaign has raised $20,052 through February 6, 2020, and $4,880 of that money is from the Lin family. One would not know this, however, from Harrington’s campaign finance reports because the Lin family gave the money through various corporations and businesses they own.
Under California law, both individuals and entities (or non-individuals) can donate to political campaigns, but their donations must be aggregated if the entities are majority owned and/or controlled by the same people. The requirement is meant to provide voters with insight into who is funding a campaign and to prevent individuals from circumventing campaign donor limits. Because the Political Reform Act, also referred to as California’s anti-corruption law, does not require ownership disclosure for entity contributions (only the entity’s name and address), the law is heavily reliant upon the honor system.
Why contribute under a name other than the donor’s given name?
San Gabriel does not have campaign donor limits, but the aggregate donor limits still apply. Furthermore, San Gabriel voters are no different than other voters who would like to know the true source of a candidate’s campaign contributions. Donating through a business entity makes that very difficult and sometimes impossible if the business is registered in Delaware where ownership disclosure is not required—hence, the term “dark money.” Another relevant question to ask is: why would a donor want to contribute to a political campaign under a name other than the donor’s given name?
That said, there are red flags to be aware of when questioning the true source of a non-individual campaign donation. Is the name of the entity obscure? Do multiple donor-entities and individuals have the same address? Were the contributions of multiple entities given on the same day? If so, these are all valid reasons to question the true source of the contribution(s) and the impetus behind it/them.
A tangled web to unweave
The Harrington contributions in question, as previously reported by ColoradoBoulevard.net, are:
- $1,700 from Garfield & Lincoln Properties LLC.
- $1,600 from Pelogic Consulting Corp.
- $1,580 from TML International Corp.
Councilman Harrington received all three of these contributions on the same day (11/23/2019). Harrington’s campaign finance reports also show that both Pelogic Consulting Corp. and TML International Corp. have the same San Marino address. Property records show that the San Marino address listed for these corporations is the residence of Mathew and Joy Lin. Filing records show that TML International Corp. is a consulting services business that was formed in 2010 by Timothy Lin, the son of Mathew and Joy Lin. There is no business information for Pelogic Consulting Corp., but Harrington likely misspelled the name on his Form 460 (“Pelogic” is likely “Pelagic”). Business registration records show that Pelagic Consulting Corp. is another consulting services business that was formed in 2010 by Jerry Lin, son of Mathew and Joy Lin. It is unknown the type of consulting in which either business is engaged.
Developing land in San Gabriel
According to business filings, Garfield & Lincoln Properties LLC is a real property development company formed by Mathew Lin in 1998 and registered in Delaware. As of 2017, public records show that the company is a real estate management business with George Lin as the company’s CEO/Manager. In addition, public records show that George Lin, via one of his many LLCs, is developing land in San Gabriel for a mixed use project for which he received a Conditional Use Permit and Tentative Tract Map approval for in 2014. The project received a Tentative Tract Map Amendment in 2018 and currently is under construction.
Further complicating the search for the true source of Garfield & Lincoln Properties LLC’s $1,700 contribution to John Harrington’s campaign is the fact that George Lin used a company called LSG Las Tunas, LP to apply for City entitlements for his mixed use project in San Gabriel. The listed officer of LSG Las Tunas, LP is not a person but another company named Everlin Investment Corporation which documents show Mathew and Joy Lin formed in 2012 and of which George Lin assumed control in 2017.
Had George Lin donated to Councilman Harrington’s campaign under his own name or even through the LLC by which he sought City entitlements for his project, it would have been easier for the public to connect the dots and make an informed decision about why George Lin, a San Marino resident and developer, would make such a large donation to Harrington’s campaign.
Who are the Lins?
Mathew Lin is an orthopedic surgeon who is associated with numerous corporations and LLCs. The LA Weekly described him as a “self-made hospital mogul.” In 2017, the Trump administration appointed Mathew Deputy as the Assistant Secretary for Minority Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, according to the San Marino Tribune. Mathew sat on the San Marino City Council for 8 years (2001-2009) and was the City’s Mayor 3 times. In 2012, Mathew Lin ran as a Republican for California Assembly, District 49, but lost to current District 49 Assemblyman and Democrat, Ed Chau. Mathew’s wife is Joy Lin. According to corporationwiki.com, Joy Lin is associated with multiple LLCs. George, Jerry, and Timothy Lin are Mathew and Joy’s sons. George is associated with at least 10 active LLCs.
Sources of funding of other campaigns
Other San Gabriel City Council candidates have received campaign contributions from special interest entities. Councilwoman Julie Costanzo received $2,500 from the City’s trash contractor, Athens Services. Candidate Tony Ding received $2,000 from JBM Prestigious Realty and Wealth, Inc. a real estate/development corporation. The Lins are highlighted in this article because of the size and coordination of their donations, the vagaries surrounding the companies through which they contributed, and the fact that their donations make up half of Harrington’s non-self-funded campaign funds.
It is appropriate that voters scrutinize a candidate’s campaign contributions. Money in politics affects the decisions of elected officials. Those elected in March and November of this year will make policy for the next four years.
> Since the publication of this article, additional pre-election campaign finance reports have been submitted by the candidates and more will likely be submitted in the lead up to the election. They can all be viewed here.
For those who wish to view local candidates' campaign finance reports with little hassle, the cities of San Gabriel, Pasadena, Monterey Park, and Los Angeles all post city candidate campaign finance reports online for easy public access.
[This article has been updated with more campaign info, February 21, 12:47 pm]
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