An employee of a Tarzana medical firm said Thursday that she had been reimbursed for at least one political contribution by a former top aide at the Los Angeles Marathon, where workers are the focus of an investigation into alleged political money laundering .
Jacquie C. Wilkinson, the head of contracting for Medical Management Alliance Inc., told The Times she was reimbursed for a campaign donation at least once--and probably twice--in recent years by George A. Beasley, a former assistant to Los Angeles Marathon President William A. Burke.
The Times disclosed last week that the state Fair Political Practices Commission and the city Ethics Commission are conducting a joint investigation of two suspected money-laundering networks in Los Angeles that may have funneled tens of thousands of dollars in illegal contributions to politicians. Specifically, investigators are studying allegations that contributors were recruited to make donations to favored candidates and then secretly reimbursed--a violation of state and local statutes.
Court records show that the inquiries appear to focus on former Councilman Arthur K. Snyder, now a prominent City Hall lobbyist, and employees of the firm that holds a city contract to stage the multimillion-dollar Los Angeles Marathon.
Wilkinson's comments were the first public indication that alleged money-laundering by Beasley extended beyond employees of the Los Angeles Marathon. Two marathon employees have given sworn statement to investigators that Beasley used them to make more than 40 laundered contributions totaling nearly $21,000 since 1989, court records show.
Beasley's attorney said Thursday, "To my knowledge Beasley did not intentionally violate any laws." Synder's lawyer also said his client has done nothing wrong.
Wilkinson, who described Beasley and Burke as family friends, said she was subpoenaed and gave investigators a sworn statement Thursday.
At the request of investigators, Wilkinson declined to give details of the contributions that were allegedly laundered.
She said Beasley came to her office and asked her to write a check to a candidate and then paid her back with his own check. "I really didn't think about it," said Wilkinson. "I was just doing a favor for a friend."
Typically, money laundering occurs because a large donor is seeking to hide the source of contributions or is trying to get around strict contribution limits, such as the $500-per-candidate cap in Los Angeles City Council races.
No evidence has surfaced that candidates knew they were receiving allegedly laundered donations. But candidates often know which fund-raisers are helping to fill campaign coffers and many believe this gives the fund-raisers special access and influence with decision-makers.
Interviews show that several council members who received contributions that are under scrutiny knew they were coming at the behest of Burke and Snyder, whom they sought out to help round up donors.
Councilwoman Ruth Galanter personally telephoned Burke and Snyder last year to enlist their help, a campaign spokesman said. Later, she received at least $7,000 from more than a dozen Snyder and Burke associates, records show.
Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas said he went to Burke's office last year to ask him to line up donors, and Councilwoman Rita Walters said she solicited Burke's help and then dropped by Burke's office to collect contribution checks.
"I put money where my mouth is," Burke said, explaining why contribution-hungry candidates beat a path to his door. But he denied doing anything improper.
"It was George's (Beasley's) responsibility to help raise money," Burke said. "Quite frankly, if I'm guilty of anything . . . I probably did not provide him with the kind of guidance and support I should have.
Among other things, Burke said he did not know Beasley was going to marathon staff people to raise money until the investigation broke.
Snyder's attorney said his client frequently helps raise money for City Hall candidates, but never reimburses donors.