Cardenas remains quiet on questions surrounding subpoena of aide

Cardenas remains quiet on questions surrounding subpoena of aide
Council member Tony Cardenas at Los Angeles City Hall in 2011, before he was elected to the U.S. House. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

U.S. Rep. Tony Cardenas, a Los Angeles Democrat, declined to answer questions from The Times this week after a top aide in his district, Gabriela Marquez, received a subpoena to testify before a federal grand jury in Los Angeles.

Marquez wrote a letter to House Speaker John A. Boehner, read aloud on the House floor last Thursday, informing him she had received the subpoena. The disclosure process is required under House rules.


Marquez's letter did not specify the nature of the inquiry, nor did it say whether she had any other contact with federal investigators. Since then, she has not responded to requests for comment from The Times. Cardenas declined to grant an interview and his spokesman, Paul Kincaid, would not make the congressman available.

Kincaid said Marquez followed House rules by reporting the existence of the subpoena. "Other than that, there isn't anything I've found out," he said.

News of the subpoena was broken this week by Roll Call, a publication that covers Congress. In a brief interview with the media firm, Cardenas said he had not been contacted by the FBI.

Cardenas hired Marquez in 2011, when he was a member of the Los Angeles City Council, paying her roughly $35,000 annually, according to city officials. Two years later, after Cardenas won his congressional campaign, she took a position at his San Fernando Valley district office.

Marquez is now director of that office and earned more than $62,000 last year, federal records show.

Cardenas has backed an array of politicians in the San Fernando Valley, including L.A. City Council members Felipe Fuentes and Nury Martinez and former State Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra. Those politicians routinely support each other, providing endorsements and other campaign resources.

Last fall, Marquez signed in as one of many observers at the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk's office to monitor ballot counting for the tight state Assembly race between Bocanegra and community volunteer Patty Lopez. Three of those days were weekdays, according to county records. Lopez eventually won. 

Kincaid declined to say whether Marquez had taken any leave to work on campaign issues, citing an internal policy that prohibits disclosure of personnel matters. He also would not say what, if anything, Cardenas has been told about the investigation.

Many congressional aides serve dual roles, as both political and campaign staffers. At times, they use vacation days or unpaid leave, especially to work on close elections.

Campaign records show Cardenas' campaign committee paid Marquez $5,775 in 2013 and 2014, including $475 for phone expenses. Other payments were for administrative or political services, according to records.

Times staff writer Jean Merl contributed to this report.