Assembly Republican leader Ross Johnson of La Habra denied Monday that he had any role in approving a campaign hit piece that led to a forgery charge against a GOP lawmaker.
“I want to state unequivocally I attended no meetings concerning the mailing or writing of any so-called ‘White House letters,’ ” Johnson said in a statement. “I had no discussions about any such letters, and as far as my personal knowledge goes, no such meetings or discussions ever took place.”
According to a grand jury transcript released Friday, Johnson participated in a 1986 meeting at which Assembly Republican leaders decided to send out, without White House approval, campaign letters containing Ronald Reagan’s purported signature.
The letters included a hit piece that accused Assemblyman Richard E. Floyd (D-Carson) of giving in to “the powerful underworld drug industry.”
An angry Floyd wrote Reagan, saying he could not believe that the then-President “would sign such an outrageous, below-the-belt piece of trash.”
After a subsequent investigation, Republican Assemblyman John R. Lewis of Orange, a key GOP campaign strategist, was indicted on one count of forging Reagan’s signature.
In testimony to the Sacramento County Grand Jury last Feb. 1, Tim Macy, president of a campaign mailing firm, said he had a telephone conversation with Lewis just before the letters were mailed.
Macy said he called Lewis at Johnson’s office in Fullerton in October, 1986, and asked Lewis “if they were sure they wanted to mail these letters not having (White House) authorization.”
Macy said Lewis told him that he needed to ask a group of legislators who were meeting in Johnson’s office what they wanted to do about the letters. Lewis returned to the phone a few minutes later and said “they wanted the letters mailed,” Macy added.
Later, Lewis told him that Johnson participated in the meeting, Macy testified.
Macy also said that Assemblymen Pat Nolan (R-Glendale), who was Assembly Republican leader at the time, and Dennis Brown (R-Los Alamitos) also participated in the meeting.
In his statement, Johnson also said he had “cooperated fully with the state attorney general’s office” in the investigation and “was willing to testify before the grand jury, but I was not called.”
Earlier, Johnson had told the Orange County Register that he initially refused to cooperate with investigators because he considered the inquiry a Democratic witch hunt.
He told the Register on Monday that he was subpoenaed to testify last February but that the subpoena was withdrawn after he met with Justice Department attorneys.