The Orange County district attorney's office alleges that GOP Assemblyman Scott Baugh has committed at least six felonies by violating state campaign finance laws, including money laundering and failing to report donations made to his campaign, according to court papers filed Thursday.
Baugh (R-Huntington Beach) also was instrumental in recruiting a longtime friend to run as a Democrat last year in the hope of siphoning support from a Democratic rival of Baugh's in a Nov. 28 special election, according to an investigator's affidavit filed in support of a search warrant.
Prosecutors back up this claim with pages of testimony from the former decoy Democratic candidate, Laurie Campbell, who contends that Baugh was involved in the plan from the very beginning. Campbell said Baugh had conversations with her about "diluting the Democratic vote" and about paying her legal bills when the plot went sour, according to a district attorney's investigator.
Baugh has repeatedly denied any knowledge of any GOP plot to manipulate the election. Three political workers, one a former aide to Assembly Speaker Curt Pringle (R-Garden Grove), pleaded guilty this month to participating in the scheme, which involved GOP aides circulating nominating papers for Campbell and helping her file as a Democratic Assembly candidate on Sept. 21.
Campbell told investigators that, according to Baugh, the plan to put her on the ballot had the "blessing" of Pringle, who was counting on the recall of maverick Assemblywoman Doris Allen (R-Cypress) and Baugh's simultaneous victory to give him the speakership, the documents show.
"Campbell said Baugh told her it was Curt Pringle's people who [were] behind this nomination paper incident," according to the investigator's affidavit. "Baugh told Campbell that [Rep.] Dana Rohrabacher is 'really ticked' at Pringle's office for allowing this to happen." Rohrabacher had chosen Baugh to run as his candidate in the 67th District race.
"Campbell said that Baugh said it is Baugh's understanding that this whole idea was [Rhonda] Carmony's but she had Pringle's blessing to go forward with it." Carmony is Rohrabacher's campaign manager.
Baugh and Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) declined comment Thursday. Carmony could not be reached, but her attorney, Creighton Laz, said she has been instructed to appear in court at 9 a.m. today. Being asked to appear, Laz said, "would indicate there's been an indictment." All three have long maintained they have done nothing wrong.
Through a spokesman, Pringle also said he had no involvement in Campbell's candidacy. But Pringle refused to comment on the search warrant details.
It is not a crime for a member of one party to recruit a candidate from another party to run in an election. But it is illegal to falsely fill out any part of a nomination paper or to knowingly file a falsified nominating petition.
According to the affidavit, filed by prosecutors to obtain telephone, computer, bank and credit records of Baugh and others:
* Prosecutors believe Baugh committed perjury repeatedly by filing incomplete and incorrect Scott Baugh campaign finance reports and other required campaign documents from October through January;
* Baugh omitted a $1,000 contribution from Campbell's husband, Kendrick, from campaign reports filed in October and November, effectively hiding his relationship with Campbell, according to Baugh's former campaign treasurer, Dan Traxler.
* Pringle acknowledged that his chief of staff, Jeff Flint, knew about the plan to recruit Campbell and that Flint knew another Pringle staffer, Mark Denny, was involved.
* Campbell said Baugh made the key overture to her. She was contacted a day later by a GOP campaign worker, Richard Martin, who helped her obtain her candidacy paperwork, she said.
* Campbell said Baugh told her that her legal bills would be paid by others. She said that Dave Gilliard, Baugh and Pringle's campaign consultant, help her obtain two attorneys.
The investigation into the irregularities in the 67th Assembly District election began almost five months ago, after The Times reported that Campbell had filed falsified nominating petitions and the Orange County Democratic Party filed a complaint with Dist. Atty. Michael R. Capizzi's office.
The Orange County Grand Jury has taken testimony since mid-February from a series of witnesses in the two-pronged case. Campbell, one of the first, appeared Feb. 13.
One aspect of the case involves Campbell's candidacy and the effort to dilute the vote for well-known Democrat Linda Moulton-Patterson. A second aspect involves the fiscal affairs and campaign reporting by the Baugh for Assembly campaign.
Baugh succeeded Allen by capturing the winner-take-all special election Nov. 28, the same day Allen was recalled. Baugh's election gave Republicans the votes to take control of the Assembly. They elected Pringle speaker in January.
In an interview with The Times last October, Baugh at first denied ever having met Campbell, then corrected his statement after a reporter noted that he and Campbell attended the same Newport Beach church and that Democrats were calling her a plant.
He has always denied having any involvement in her candidacy.
But Campbell's statements to prosecutors contradict that. According to interviews she gave prosecutors, her entry into California politics began at a party at Baugh's house last August.
Campbell said she met Carmony and Martin, one of the Republican aides who recently pleaded guilty to election fraud, and was drawn into a discussion about the field of candidates, where those present noted that the only Democrat in the race at that point was Moulton-Patterson.
"Well, I should run," Campbell recalled saying.
Over the next few weeks, Campbell said, she talked several times about the election with Baugh, whom she had known since 1986, when both worked at the Sacramento offices of the law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe.
Campbell said that only two days before the filing deadline, she talked to Baugh and that Baugh told her "some people were interested in backing her" to run as a Democrat. The next day, Campbell received a phone call from Martin, who worked in the recall and Baugh campaigns, the affidavit shows.
Martin instructed Campbell to pick up her candidacy papers at the registrar of voters' office and then retrieved them from her at her Irvine office, the documents show. They also detail Campbell's meeting with four GOP aides in the parking lot of the registrar's office, where she received and signed the petitions that had been circulated by others.
According to the affidavit, Campbell paid the $699.36 filing fee using $700 in cash "from her husband, Kendrick (Rick) Campbell [which came] from the return by Baugh of a $1,000 contribution Rick had made earlier to Baugh's campaign."
The affidavit details frequent contacts between Baugh and Campbell. When the decoy candidate ploy soured in October and Democrats challenged the Campbell candidacy in court, Baugh told her not to worry about her attorney's bills.
"[Your] attorney fees will be taken care of," she said, according to the affidavit. Campbell was ousted from the election in October, when a judge determined she filed falsified nominating papers.
The district attorney's office contended in the affidavit that Baugh committed multiple felonies between January and November of 1995, all related to his alleged failure to truthfully disclose the source and repayment of thousands of dollars in loans to his campaign.
Perjury, the applicable charge, is punishable by two to four years in state prison.
Some of the allegations concern Baugh's omitting contributions. Others involve his accepting personal loans from individuals, then turning around and loaning similar sums to his campaign to, in effect, conceal the source. These loans were reported as coming from Baugh rather than their originator, the affidavit contends.
Baugh omitted a $1,000 loan from Kendrick Campbell by listing it on two 1995 campaign statements as coming from himself, investigators contend.
In another instance, Baugh listed $27,000 in loans as outstanding when they had been been repaid within five days. Baugh misstated the dates they had been repaid, investigators contend in the affidavit, so it would appear there was more money in the campaign treasury.
Democrats reacted with disdain to the reports in the affidavits.
"This proves that dirty tricks are still alive in Orange County," said Assembly Democratic Leader Richard Katz of Sylmar. "They believe their cause is so righteous they're untouchable and can do whatever it takes to win, even if that means lying and cheating."
County Democratic Party Chairman Jim Toledano, whose complaint sparked the investigation, called on the district attorney to charge Rohrabacher, Pringle and Baugh with conspiring to throw the election.
Pringle could not be reached for comment, but his spokesman continued to stick by the speaker's version of events: That he knew nothing about the efforts to put Campbell on the ballot.
"If he had known he would have forbidden it," said Gary Foster, Pringle's spokesman. "Curt Pringle had barely even met Scott Baugh. Scott Baugh was Dana Rohrabacher's guy and his candidate."
According to the affidavit, Flint knew on Sept. 21 that Pringle staffer Mark Denny was circulating petitions for Campbell, Pringle told investigators.
In interviews with investigators on Feb. 23 and March 10, Pringle said that Flint told him "that he never talked to Laurie Campbell and he did not circulate her nomination papers." Pringle also told investigators that Flint told him "he was aware of Denny's activities." The affidavit also contends that Gilliard, a Sacramento political consultant, played a role after the plan went awry. When legal problems later developed that led to Campbell's removal from the ballot, Campbell told investigators it was Gilliard who aided her.
Campbell told investigators that she personally did not pay her attorneys, Mike Rothschild and Emmett Mahle.
Baugh's version of events, also contained in the court papers, differs sharply from Campbell's. According to the affidavit, he told investigators he didn't know who had asked Campbell to get into the race.
Baugh said he was approached by Rohrabacher "at the last minute" in August to run for the seat, the court papers say.
"Baugh said his campaign was put together fast, mostly by Rohrabacher," according to the affidavit, and that he even received campaign contributions before he announced his candidacy.
Baugh refused to let investigators question him inside his house, but gave them a 15-minute interview on his doorstep.
Two days later, Baugh told the investigator, "Quit harassing me. Quit calling me at home or we'll file a civil rights action against you." He went on to tell investigators, "I'm going to win my election and when things calm down a little bit you can talk to me."
But through his attorney, Ronald G. Brower, Baugh has declined to be interviewed by investigators, the papers said.
Times staff writers Eric Bailey and Dexter Filkins contributed to this report.
* SEARCH WARRANT EXCERPTS: What Baugh and Laurie Campbell told investigators. A20
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
Allegations Against Baugh
An affidavit in support of a search warrant, released Thursday, refers to a series of instances in which Assemblyman Scott Baugh allegedly perjured himself by filing what district attorney's investigators say were false campaign statements and economic interest statements for 1995.
* Jan. 13, 1995--Baugh signs his economic interest statement and fails to list the following loans: $6,000 from girlfriend Wendy Ward, $2,000 from contributor Ahmad Zaidan and $3,000 from friend Donna Loren.
* Aug. 26, 1995--Baugh "willfully and unlawfully" accepts a $100 cash campaign contribution from Adel Zeidan in apparent violation of state law.
* Sept. 20, 1995--Baugh signs his economic interest statement and fails to list a $6,000 loan from Ward.
* Oct. 19, 1995--Baugh authorizes his campaign treasurer, Dan Traxler, to sign his campaign statement. The statement lists a $1,000 contribution or loan from Baugh to himself, which was actually a $1,000 campaign contribution from Kendrick Campbell, Laurie Campbell's husband. Also contained on the statement: three loans totaling $27,000 and listed as outstanding that had been repaid within a five-day period; and a $7,000 Baugh loan to himself that was actually covered by a $6,000 check signed by Ward.
* Nov. 1, 1995--Baugh signs his campaign statement, again failing to list the $1,000 contribution from Kendrick Campbell and the $6,000 loan from Ward. He also continues to list the $27,000 in loans as outstanding--apparently to show that he had a lot of cash on hand--and misstates the dates they were eventually repaid. He also fails to report the $2,000 loan from Zaidan and a $3,000 loan from Loren.
* Nov. 16, 1995--Baugh again signs his updated campaign statement, and fails to report that a $6,000 loan he said he made to himself actually included the $2,000 Zaidan loan and $3,000 Loren loan.
* Nov. 28, 1995--Baugh amends his campaign statement. It again lists a $7,000 Baugh loan to himself, which was covered by Ward's $6,000 check. But it also discloses for the first time that Baugh has accepted a $1,000 campaign contribution from Kendrick Campbell.
Source: Orange County district attorney's office