Lee M. Anderson, the wife of former San Pedro Rep. Glenn M. Anderson, is the target of a grand jury investigation into alleged misuse of public funds in the 1992 congressional campaign of her son, Long Beach Councilman Evan Anderson Braude, a federal prosecutor said Tuesday.
Lee Anderson was identified in court documents during a sentencing hearing Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the congressman's former Washington administrative assistant, Jeremiah Bresnahan. Bresnahan has pleaded guilty to one felony count of theft of government services and, in hopes of a lighter sentence, has agreed to cooperate with federal officials investigating the case.
An attorney for Lee Anderson has denied any wrongdoing on her part.
According to court documents, Bresnahan was instructed by Lee Anderson to bring along several staff members from the Washington office before making a visit to California in October, 1992. "At all times, it was clear to Mr. Bresnahan that Mrs. Anderson wanted him and other staffers to campaign for . . . Braude," the documents said.
While in California, Bresnahan scheduled events "as a pretext to cover the true purpose of the trip," prosecutor Lynn C. Mattucci said during the court hearing.
Bresnahan and the other staffers subsequently sought reimbursement from the government for more than $19,000 in air fare, hotel bills, meals and rental cars, according to the court documents. They also received their normal salary while they campaigned, the documents said.
"Mr. Bresnahan understands that what he did was illegal, what the other individuals did was illegal, and wants to put this situation behind him," Mattucci said after the hearing.
Bresnahan's attorney, J. Daniel Hull, refused to comment Tuesday.
Mattucci said the grand jury was also examining Braude's actions in the case, "because he benefited" from the illegal activity. Braude declined to comment Tuesday, saying that he knew nothing about the issue.
Former Rep. Anderson, who also served two terms as lieutenant governor of California, is not a target of the grand jury investigation, Mattucci said.
Prosecutors said at the time Bresnahan pleaded guilty that he was operating "at the direction of another."
Lee Anderson, long known as a political insider with great influence over her husband's decisions, has previously denied any wrongdoing. The family's Long Beach attorney, Wayne T. Kistner, acknowledged that some of Rep. Anderson's aides worked on Braude's campaign, but he maintained that if they did work on taxpayers' time, it was not at the behest of Lee Anderson or Braude.
"At all times the policy in the congressman's office and the instructions that Mrs. Anderson gave to the staff members were in compliance with the House rules governing those activities," Kistner said.
"If there was any deviation from that, it was done . . . without her consent."
As for Anderson's stepson, the attorney added: "Evan had no authority to issue any instructions to any of the congressman's staff or any of the employees. He wasn't on the congressional payroll and had no official function in the congressman's office. So it still remains a mystery to me why his name has come up in this matter other than, obviously, it was his campaign."
To date, Kistner said, neither Anderson nor Braude has been interviewed by federal authorities or scheduled to appear before a grand jury. But a nascent investigation was evident last December when federal investigators subpoenaed records from the Braude campaign and Anderson's congressional office, Kistner said.
U.S. District Judge John J. Hogan delayed sentencing Bresnahan at the request of prosecutors while the investigation continues. Under federal guidelines, Bresnahan could be sentenced to a maximum of 27 months imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. Mattucci said that in some similar cases, defendants were spared going to jail.
According to court documents, Lee Anderson, who is Braude's mother and a Los Angeles harbor commissioner, called Bresnahan in May and October of 1992 and told him to travel to California to assist in her son's House campaign during the primary and general elections.
Earlier in the year, Rep. Anderson had announced that he was retiring from the House after serving 24 years and was endorsing his stepson, Braude, in the reapportioned 38th District.
Braude won the primary but lost the general election to Rep. Steve Horn (R-Long Beach).
Congressional staffers who "were quite disgusted by the continuing use of staff members for campaign purposes" provided important corroborating evidence, Mattucci said.
Bresnahan, 63, worked for Anderson from 1986 to 1992; he is retired and living in the Boston area.
Former Rep. Anderson, 80, was an automobile salesman and owned a service station before he was elected mayor of Hawthorne when he was 27. After four terms in the state Assembly, he served two terms as Gov. Edmund G. (Pat) Brown Sr.'s lieutenant governor. Anderson suffers from Alzheimer's disease and was unavailable for comment. "I think it's fair to say that he's not aware what's going on," Kistner said.