By Chris Reed
Wednesday, December 23, 2009 at 10:10 a.m.
The continuing unwillingness of DA Bonnie Dumanis
to confirm or deny she is considering or has begun a criminal probe into the campaign money-laundering scandal involving Assemblyman Joel Anderson
, R-La Mesa, invites speculation. The scandal, remember, broke nearly three months agp. Robert Stern
, the president of the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles and a leading expert on California campaign finance law, told me the DA’s approach was “striking.”
As noted in a Riverside Press-Enterprise story this week detailing the massive criminal indictments relating to similar but far bigger and more unseemly money-laundering scams run out of San Jacinto City hall, it’s unusual for a DA to pursue criminal charges. Normally, the state Fair Political Practices Commission handles attempts to get around state fundraising limits.
So Anderson might have thought that the $20,000 fine the FPPC assessed him earlier this month was it and that he would escape further repercussions for a complex scheme in which several of his prominent donors – Sempra Energy, the Barona and Sycuan Indian tribes, and three members of the Hamann construction family in East County – made contributions to Republican
county committees in Central and Northern California which were then redirected to an Anderson campaign fund.
And maybe Anderson’s right – because Dumanis’ focus could be on his prominent donors instead.
Remember, the donors in the San Jacinto scandal are facing criminal charges, not just the organizers of the schemes. And it is close to impossible to believe that such sophisticated political players as two wealthy Indian tribes and the parent company of San Diego Gas and Electric wouldn’t understand the shadiness of sending money to the Fresno, Placer and Stanislaus county GOP organizations that was meant for Anderson.
“The donors were sophisticated,” Stern told me. “There’s no doubt about that.”
Stern believes campaign money laundering “is one of the worst violations of the Political Reform Act,” the 1974 law he co-authored, because it is an assault on one of the law’s central goals of honesty aond openness in fundraising.
If Dumanis agrees, watch out. The DA taking on Sempra Energy and the Barona and Sycuan tribes for allegedly attempting to manipulate the political process via illegal contributions would be one of the biggest local stories of 2010.