California’s political watchdog agency is investigating whether money laundering took place during Assemblyman Roger Hernández’s 2010 campaign and is fighting with his lawyer to get access to bank records, according to a filing this week in Los Angeles Superior Court.
The document says the Fair Political Practices Commission subpoenaed Hernández’s lawyer, Aldo A. Flores, for information about a $3,900 contribution he made to the assemblyman’s campaign in 2009. The matter landed in court this fall when Flores challenged the FPPC’s requests for his bank records.
“Evidence from the bank records may show (Flores) was reimbursed for his payment to the Hernández for Assembly 2010 campaign committee,” says the FPPC’s filing that asks the court to uphold the subpoenas that are part of a “larger investigation.”
“The FPPC is actively investigating political money laundering,” the filing says, adding that “evidence uncovered thus far provides sufficient grounds to support the subpoenas.”
Flores, according to the filing, is seeking sanctions against the agency for “abuse of process” and claims the FPPC is singling him out and violating his privacy. The FPPC contends it has the right to review bank records as part of its investigation. A hearing is scheduled for Jan. 16. Messages The Sacramento Bee left for Flores were not returned Wednesday.
Hernández issued a statement late Wednesday, suggesting the FPPC’s case is “about one very old fact” and that “the FPPC has no information that the check was improper … This blanket attack is nothing more than an attempt to tarnish my name by powerful interest groups that see me as a threat for the work that I am doing on behalf of hardworking Californians.”
Hernández, a Democrat from West Covina, raised $706,000 in his 2010 campaign for Assembly. Records show he collected money from 383 contributors.
State law limits the amount donors can give to candidates. The limit for contributions to legislative candidates is now $4,100 per election but was $3,900 in 2009, when Flores made the donation to Hernández.
Hiding the identity of a donor by passing the money through someone else amounts to political money laundering and violates state law.
“Making a contribution in another person’s name is one of the most serious types of violations of the (Political Reform) Act, because it denies the public of information about where a candidate receives his or her financial support,” the FPPC’s filing says.
The agency said last year that it was investigating two complaints against Hernández. One questions a $100,000 loan he made to his campaign in 2009. The other alleges that spending on some campaign fliers in West Covina was not properly reported. Those investigations remain open, said Gary Winuk, the FPPC’s chief of enforcement.
Hernández has faced other allegations of wrongdoing in recent years, but has never been found guilty.
Flores represented Hernández last year when a former girlfriend hired high-profile attorney Gloria Allred and filed a civil suit against him, alleging that Hernández had hit her with a belt and slammed her into a wall. Flores told The Sacramento Bee at the time that her allegations were baseless and amounted to a “frivolous lawsuit designed for monetary gain.” Allred’s staff later asked the court to dismiss the suit.
Los Angeles County prosecutors decided there was not enough evidence to charge Hernández with domestic violence when the same woman complained to law enforcement.
In 2012, a Contra Costa County jury found he was not guilty of driving under the influence when Concord police stopped him at 2 a.m. on March 27 of that year.
Hernández served on the West Covina City Council before being elected to the Assembly in 2010. He was sued by a West Covina city employee for creating a hostile work environment, but a Los Angeles jury threw out the case.
Call Laurel Rosenhall, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1083. Follow her on Twitter @LaurelRosenhall.