In his unsuccessful run for a Los Angeles City Council seat four years ago, Kenneth Orduna, a top aide to U.S. Rep. Mervyn M. Dymally (D-Compton), listed numerous campaign contributors.
The problem, according to the staff of the state Fair Political Practices Commission, is that dozens of them never sent him a cent. Their names, the FPPC staff alleges, were used illegally to mask campaign donations that exceeded the city limit of $500 per person per election.
The laundering of campaign contributions is one among many allegations made in a 134-count complaint that the commission's executive director, Gregory Baugher, has filed against Orduna and Lonnie Sanders, a Dymally aide who was Orduna's campaign treasurer. Others include under-reporting of campaign contributions, failure to file timely campaign statements and accepting anonymous contributions in excess of $100.
If the commission agrees with Baugher, the fine could be steep. Each of the violations is subject to penalties of up to $2,000. The five-member commission is tentatively scheduled to consider the case in October, according to commission spokeswoman Carla Wardlow.
Wardlow declined to say whether the FPPC is seeking a settlement in the case, and neither Orduna nor Sanders could be reached for comment.
But Edward Masry, a Los Angeles attorney representing the Dymally aides, said the FPPC staff had proposed a settlement calling for a fine totaling "six figures."
The settlement was rejected, Masry said. "They tried to offer us something, but the figure was so high it was impossible," he said last week.
The FPPC staff complaint, issued June 5, concerns financing of Orduna's 1987 campaign for the 10th District City Council seat, which is centered in the Crenshaw area and reaches west into parts of Fairfax, Palms and Beverlywood. Nate Holden won the 13-candidate race.
The complaint grew out of an earlier case in which the commission fined a Gardena aircraft parts distributor $20,000 last October for laundering contributions to the Orduna campaign. The company, F.E.A. Logistics Support Corp., acknowledged giving Orduna $5,000 and identifying 10 employees whose names the contributions could be reported under on public disclosure forms.
The FPPC staff accuses Orduna and Sanders, his campaign manager, of false disclosure in connection with these donations, which are among dozens of contributions cited in the 58-page complaint against the two men.
"In falsely disclosing 10 individuals as contributors when, in fact, FEA was the contributor, Orduna, Sanders and (the Orduna campaign committee) committed 10 violations" of state campaign law, the complaint says. Another fund-raising operation cited in the complaint deals with the Orduna campaign's listing of 15 individuals as the source of 15 money-order contributions of $300 each.
Of the seven members of that group who were interviewed by the FPPC staff, all said they had not made the $300 donations. Three of them said Sanders had asked if he could sign their names on the money orders, and four said he had not asked them for permission to use their names.
The money orders were purchased in sequential order from a check-cashing center by a person who gave his last name as Wong, according to the FPPC complaint.
"In an effort to conceal the use of these sequentially numbered money orders," the complaint says, "Mr. Sanders varied the reported contribution receipt dates for these 15 individuals." One of the checks carries the date March 38, according to the complaint.
Other violations cited by the FPPC staff involve nine money orders, also of $300 each. Interviewed by FPPC officials, Sanders acknowledged receiving the anonymous money orders and signing them, but claimed he did not remember who gave them to the campaign.
State campaign law prohibits candidates from receiving anonymous contributions of $100 or more, requiring that they be turned over to the state instead.
Orduna's campaign was also cited for under-reporting campaign donations. In one case, the campaign is charged with accepting a $3,000 check from International WauiCo., but reporting it as a $500 contribution.
The complaint also cited Orduna's use of a $5,000 check from Texim Corp., a Gardena business. Orduna cashed the check, purchasing four $500 money orders and keeping the remaining $3,000 in cash, the complaint said.
It charges that the names Lonnie Sanders, Clarence Wong and Al Shepard were inserted in the "Signature of Purchaser" section of three of the money orders, which were then made out to Orduna's campaign and deposited in its account. Wong was Orduna's campaign manager.
"In omitting his own name and making the contributions under the false names of 'Lonnie Sanders,' 'Clarence Wong,' and 'Al Shepard,' Kenneth Orduna committed three violations of (state campaign law)," the fair political practices panel's complaint said.