Money Controversy Dogs New Assemblyman : Politics: Scott Baugh admits repaying a $1,000 donation with cash but says he thought a check was in the envelope.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Newly elected Republican Assemblyman Scott Baugh acknowledged through his lawyer Wednesday that he personally repaid in cash a $1,000 contribution from the husband of onetime Democratic challenger Laurie Campbell.

Baugh made the cash payment to the Campbells at his house, handing over a sealed envelope to them on the evening of Sept. 21, the day that Laurie Campbell entered the race, said Ron Brower, Baugh's lawyer, who said he speaking for the assemblyman.

Brower said the newly elected assemblyman was unaware at the time that the envelope, which had been given to him by campaign treasurer Dan Traxler, contained $1,000 in cash rather than a check.

It is illegal in California for a campaign to receive or make any payments in excess of $100 in cash, according to the Fair Political Practices Commission.

"Baugh does not know what's in [the envelope]," Brower said. "He does not think, ask or know, or pay any attention to the contents of the envelope."

Baugh (R-Huntington Beach) also acknowledged on Wednesday--through his lawyer--that he has known and been friends with the Campbells since 1987, when they lived in the same apartment complex in Sacramento. During the campaign, Baugh at first said he did not know Laurie Campbell, then indicated the two had a passing acquaintance.

Laurie Campbell was removed from the ballot a month before the election amid allegations that she was a "stealth candidate" recruited by GOP leaders seeking to siphon votes from Baugh's chief Democratic opponent, Linda Moulton-Patterson. Republican leaders and Baugh have insisted they had nothing to do with her candidacy.

Robert Rinehart, a lawyer for Traxler, disputed Baugh's account.

"I have no information about whether [Traxler] places $1,000 in an envelope," Rinehart said. "My client obtained the funds in cash. He gave it to Mr. Baugh for the return to Mr. Campbell. He got cash because Baugh told him to get cash."

The dispute over the form of the payment is a backdrop for expected visits to the Orange County district attorney's office next week by Baugh and Traxler.

The Orange County district attorney is investigating Campbell's candidacy. She was removed from the ballot in October after a Sacramento judge ruled that her nomination papers had been falsified.

Supervising Deputy Dist. Atty. Guy Ormes has also said the office is investigating Baugh's ties to Laurie Campbell and his campaign disclosure statements.

At the heart of Baugh's statements through his attorney is his previous failure to disclose the contribution from Rick Campbell, which came in a check to the campaign. Baugh's Republican and Democratic opponents contend that he hid the contribution because his campaign fostered the Campbell candidacy and needed to conceal links between the two.

Baugh did not report the $1,000 check throughout the three-month race, then revealed it in an amended campaign finance report filed three hours before the polls closed Nov. 28. The contribution was left off three reports filed between the time he received the money and the election day report, in which he wrote that it had been "inadvertently omitted."

His attorney said Baugh relied on Traxler to prepare his four reports correctly and promptly. Brower said Baugh neither signed nor read the first report, nor did he read the second report before it was submitted. However, he acted to amend the filing as soon as he discovered that the contribution had been omitted.

Traxler has said he first listed the $1,000 as coming from Baugh because Baugh told him he made the contribution himself in cash.

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