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State ethics watchdog asks court to force assemblyman's campaign to turn over documents for investigation

Assemblyman David Hadley (R-Manhattan Beach) greets people after participating in a candidates forum in Torrance. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Assemblyman David Hadley (R-Manhattan Beach) greets people after participating in a candidates forum in Torrance. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

The campaign of Assemblyman David Hadley (R-Manhattan Beach) has delayed turning over documents related to an official investigation into his campaign practices, according to court documents filed by the state Fair Political Practices Commission.

The investigation grew out of a complaint from Hadley's opponent, Democrat Al Muratsuchi, that claims Hadley's campaign was illegally coordinating with an independent expenditure committee that also supported Hadley.

In a letter to the FPPC, Muratsuchi claimed Hadley's campaign and Spirit of Democracy, a group funded mostly by Republican donor Charles Munger, Jr., shared consultant Steven Presson during at least part of the primary campaign for Assembly District 66. 

In court documents filed Oct. 13, FPPC special investigator Garrett Micheels said he initially emailed Hadley Aug. 4, asking him to voluntarily provide certain records to the commission's enforcement division. 

The records requested included emails, letters and text messages between Jan. 1 and June 7 between Presson and the Hadley campaign, or any other individuals or groups concerning the Hadley race.

The next day, Presson responded that the campaign would require a subpoena to "avoid possible public exposure to sensitive emails within the Hadley campaign regarding our strategy."

After a subpoena was issued on Aug. 12, Micheels said in court documents, Hadley retained attorney Steve Churchwell, who asked for extensions to produce the documents at least three times, but never provided the records.

On Sept. 27, Hadley produced some of the documents, court filings say, but wrote to explain that he was withholding his communications with Presson because there are "hundreds or thousands of such correspondences" that contained "sensitive/confidential campaign communications" that he said he had not had the time to review. As of Friday, the FPPC says, they have not received the rest of the documents requested.

"There is only one reason Hadley would conceal documents, and that is because he is guilty and is trying to hide the evidence," said Mike Shimpock, a consultant for the Muratsuchi campaign.

A Hadley campaign spokesman declined to comment and Churchwell did not return a request for comment.

Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday in the Sacramento County Superior Court.

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