The contribution from SueYa exemplifies larger inconsistencies between Councilmember Ryu’s rhetoric and his funding.
“Now easier than ever to get a pesky tenant out of your property,” for the low price of $179.99. This is the promise of SueYa, a Pasadena-based service that gave $2,500 to a PAC supporting Los Angeles City Council District 4 incumbent candidate David Ryu.
There are few issues more immediate in LA at present than the impending eviction crisis, with the city at the precipice of 120,000 families potentially getting evicted in the next several months. The discovery of the SueYa contribution to Lead and Reform LA: Tenants for David Ryu for City Council comes at an interesting time, as the city council that Ryu is currently a part of is in the process of voting on a $10 million eviction defense fund. Even a cursory look at Ryu’s major donors and choices in the district shows he favors real estate by a large margin.
So what is SueYa? Founded by “Chief Executive Optimist” Takashi Cheng in November 2016, the service promises to automate lawsuits, judgement collections, and evictions at a flat rate. Cheng previously founded A-United Legal Services, a company that processed court documents for big banks, collection agencies, and law firms. In addition to SueYa, he’s also the founder of AchievaMed, a healthcare startup that Cheng describes as a “a first-of-its-kind technology-enabled Managed Service Organization” that deals with “traditional claims processing and integration of revenue cycle management components along with debt acquisition and recovery.” Back in April of 2020, AchievaMed received a PPP loan, a federal program that provided a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll, amounting to between $150,000 to $350,000, according to public records.
While SueYa is at least active enough to donate money to Ryu’s campaign, navigating SueYa’s services proves complicated. As of this writing, the site promises to automate removing “bothersome tenants” but is unable to register new users, and there are few customer testimonials to be found. It’s possible that Cheng is more active with AchievaMed, or is occupied with his consulting work on legal television shows — he’s previously worked on Franklin and Bash, Boston Legal, and Harry’s Law and appears to have a number of shorts currently in production with recently-formed entertainment company Corify Media.
SueYa’s contribution jumped out due to its extremely direct name, but Cheng has been a supporter of Ryu’s for at least the last two years — campaign contribution records indicate he gave to Ryu under his own name and A-United’s twice in 2018 in the amount of $800 each time. He appears to be one of the company’s two employees at present according to LinkedIn, while AchievaMed has nine listed employees on the same site.
Cheng is emblematic of large Ryu donors, pushing seemingly progressive causes through his work on the board of Children Mending Hearts while building a career on taking advantage of lax eviction laws and processing court documents for banks, and accepting large PPP loans while the program repeatedly failed to assist small businesses.
Cheng’s donation was to a PAC run by tech entrepreneur Andrew Lee, who has given over $100,000 to Ryu throughout his campaign. Other major donors of the campaign include prominent Republican supporter John Barger (brother of Republican County supervisor Kathryn Barger, whose endorsement Ryu recently bragged about in a controversial email), developer Steve Sungho Lee (who is facing charges after a building he owned exploded in May), and companies with a historical mistreatment of District 4’s residents, like PAMA Management owner Patricia Ninjar and multiple executives at energy supplier SoCal Edison. While Ryu’s bizarre endorsement from the LA Times implies his politics have moved left, there is little in the way of actions or those backing Ryu’s re-election campaign to suggest he is working in the favor of anyone but real estate development and energy.
The range of the gaffes and scandals that have dogged Ryu’s campaign since being forced into this runoff is overwhelming, particularly new discussion of his arrest for the rape of an unconscious woman in 2002 when we was 27 years old. Ryu’s refusal to discuss the case, which was dropped for unknown reasons, is both deeply disturbing and not atypical of his deception while in office.
Whether it’s directly lying to constituents through text about his opponent Nithya Raman, failing to file campaign expenditures with the ethics committee for months, facing accusations of funding potential illegal propaganda, or insinuating that nonprofit outreach organizations like SELAH are “promoting homelessness,” a contribution from a company like SueYa is just the latest in a long string of disqualifying politics-as-usual. And while it’s true that Ryu can’t control the funds donated to PACs supporting this campaign (beyond rejecting them altogether), you have to ask yourself: why does the eviction company think Ryu will be good for them?
With any luck, the “pesky tenants” won’t have to deal with him much longer — Raman has raised enough small-dollar, no-PAC donations in the general election to match Ryu’s historic dependence on big money.
KNOCK.LA is a project paid for by Ground Game LA. This article was not authorized by a candidate or a committee controlled by a candidate.
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