Records Reveal Campbell Forum Paid Wife's Firm

Times Staff Writer

A 1988 women's conference sponsored by state Sen. William Campbell (R-Hacienda Heights) paid $200,000 to a consulting firm owned by Campbell's wife and one of his former aides, state records filed last week show.

The amount paid to the firm, West Coast Seminars of Laguna Niguel, accounted for more than 40% of the $486,000 in expenses incurred by the three-day conference held at the Anaheim Hilton and Towers on April 2 and 4 last year, according to records filed Wednesday with the state's Registry of Charitable Trusts.

The filings are the latest disclosure about Campbell's controversial, nonprofit conferences, which have drawn the ire of feminists and attracted the interest of state investigators. Campbell also represents Whittier, La Mirada and La Habra Heights in the Southeast area.

The state attorney general's office is investigating the propriety of fees paid to the consulting firm, which Orange County records show was formed by Campbell's wife, Margene, and Karen L. Smith, then an aide to the senator, in early 1987.

Commission Checking Statements

And the state's Fair Political Practices Commission has also opened its own review to see if the payments to the consulting firm--as well as to one of Campbell's secretaries and his chief aide, Jerry Haleva--were all properly recorded on annual economic interest statements.

In addition, the federal Small Business Administration has asked Campbell to repay $49,300 that it spent on the 1988 gathering. The agency wants the money back because it contends that Campbell violated an oral agreement on the fee that he was to pay Smith as coordinator of the event, according to a recently released report by the General Accounting Office.

Although the repayment request was made in January, Campbell had not refunded the money by May 9, the report states.

Janice Graham, a Democrat who ran against Campbell unsuccessfully in 1988, said Wednesday's filings indicate once again that the Hacienda Heights Republican used the conferences to "line his own pockets. . . ."

"What appalls me is that this man who is supposed to be representing the people and women can take this money and walk away with it," Graham charged. "It blows my mind."

Campbell failed to return telephone calls on Wednesday and his wife couldn't be reached for comment. An employee at Campbell's El Toro district office said Wednesday that Smith quit the senator's staff in May.

Newspaper articles last year prompted the investigations by revealing the payments to Campbell's wife and staff members from previous women's conferences--annual affairs that began in 1984 to offer tips on careers, personal development and "life enrichment."

Over the years, such female luminaries as Jihan Sadat, the former first lady of Egypt, and talk show hostess Oprah Winfrey have addressed the gatherings. Last year, U.S. Labor Secretary Ann McLaughlin gave a luncheon address about the child-care problems of working women.

A program for the 1988 conference also lists Campbell's wife as a "community leader" who took charge of a seminar entitled "Secrets of a Successful Marriage."

Meanwhile, state records have shown that the conferences were lucrative for Margene Campbell and others close to Campbell. One of the prime financial beneficiaries has been Smith, formerly the senator's Orange County field coordinator, who earned a total of $61,500 for individual work on the conferences between 1984 and 1986.

Fee to Arrange Conference

In 1987, county records show, Smith formed a consulting firm with Campbell's wife four days before the 1987 conference. The firm was paid a fee of $165,000 to arrange the conference--an amount that totaled nearly 30% of the expenses for the event, state records show.

Filings on Wednesday show that the consulting firm did even better the next year, taking in $200,000 for the April, 1988 event. If Margene Campbell is half-owner of the consulting firm, that would mean that the senator's community-property share of the payments would be $50,000.

Wednesday's filings also show that the 1988 event paid out $40,947 in salaries, but the documents do not identify who received the money. The paper work shows that while the 1988 conference received $455,684 in revenue--most of it coming from corporate sponsors and attendance fees--it still ended with a $27,315 deficit, which was made up by more than $50,000 in surplus carried over from previous conferences.

The other major expense listed by the filings is $142,798 paid to the Anaheim Hilton to rent conference rooms in the hotel.

A Hilton employee said that the bill was sent to Campbell's El Toro office on Lake Center Drive, the same address that is given for the nonprofit group on Wednesday's filing.

Sponsorship Dropped

The employee also said that Smith is arranging another women's conference for the Anaheim Marriott this year, but the event will not be connected with Campbell, who has reportedly dropped his sponsorship in the wake of the investigations.

Attorneys for the nonprofit women's conference had sought to delay the filing of the organization's 1988 report until Oct. 15, but the state attorney general's office turned down that request on Monday.

In a letter denying the request, Deputy Atty. Gen. Yeoryios C. Apallas cited the department's audit of the organization and said the 1988 figures were needed "to enable us to make a determination as to the reasonableness and appropriateness of certain consultant fees paid to disqualified persons."

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