Rep. Bobbi Fiedler and a top aide have been secretly indicted in connection with an alleged offer of a substantial contribution to the campaign of state Sen. Ed Davis to secure Davis' withdrawal from the Republican U.S. Senate primary, The Times learned Thursday.
The indictment, which also names Fiedler's administrative assistant and political adviser, Paul Clarke, was returned by the Los Angeles County Grand Jury. It is expected to be unsealed today in the courtroom of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Aurelio Munoz, who supervises the court's Criminal Division.
Fiedler, who is running against Davis and seven other candidates for the nomination, could not be reached for comment Thursday. However, in a telephone interview, Clarke, said:
"Nothing improper or illegal has been done by the Fiedler campaign or anyone connected with it. We believe this is a political dirty trick, and we are certain that will be proven in court and all the parties will be exonerated.
Advice of Attorneys
"We can only conclude that the grand jury acted on erroneous information. Our attorneys have advised that any other comment at this time would be inappropriate."
Clarke said the Fiedler campaign's attorneys are Herbert Steinberg of Santa Monica and Stephen Grohs of Los Angeles.
While many details of the case were not available, Davis, a Valencia Republican, provided this account:
"A member of my campaign was approached by an emissary for another campaign, and they asked us to engage in a process that would be a felony violation of California election law.
"We discussed this with legal counsel and with a district attorney in California and the district attorney said that he had a moral obligation to inform the district attorney in the district where the discussion started. That turned out to be the Los Angeles office.
"I can't say any more than that because I do not want to interfere with anyone's right to a fair trial."
Neither Davis nor other officials would identify who is alleged to have approached the Davis forces. Nor would they say how much money was allegedly offered.
Under California law, anyone who directly or indirectly offers money or other consideration to a candidate in an attempt to induce him to withdraw from a campaign is guilty of a felony that is punishable by up to three years in state prison.
Repeated attempts to reach Fiedler were unsuccessful. Judy Ridgeway, an aide in Fiedler's campaign office, said the Northridge congresswoman was in San Luis Obispo Thursday night for a campaign appearance and could not be contacted.
Ventura County Dist. Atty. Michael D. Bradbury said Thursday, in response to an inquiry from The Times, that he first learned of the accusation from a Davis staff member Nov. 13 and that he referred the matter to Los Angeles County prosecutors, the U.S. attorney and the California attorney general two days later.
Bradbury said he immediately disqualified his office from investigating the accusation, because he has taken an active role in recruiting law enforcement support for Davis' bid for the Senate.
"The (Davis) staffer, I think, called me because of my position in the Davis campaign and not as a law enforcement officer," Bradbury said. "I would obviously have a conflict of interest."
Bradbury said he later determined that the alleged offer of money occurred in Los Angeles County and that he therefore did not have jurisdiction to investigate the incident, even if there had not been a conflict.
Bradbury confirmed that the allegation involved someone identified as a Fiedler supporter. He said that the offer was not for a direct cash payment to Davis, but that "it was to be a contribution to his campaign to clear up deficits. . . . The information conveyed to me was that it was not (an offer of) a direct payment to the senator."
He refused to discuss other details of the case.
Bradbury said at first he believed that federal law might take precedent, because the election involved is for a federal office. Later, he said, federal authorities told him that "the state statute was specific and they had no similar, specific federal statutes."
Fiedler, 48, formally entered the Republican U.S. Senate primary Jan. 6 of this year. She was first elected to Congress in 1980, when she defeated 20-year Democratic Rep. James Corman by 752 votes. Her 21st Congressional District in the San Fernando Valley includes parts of Woodland Hills, Northridge, Granada Hills and Sunland-Tujunga.
She was an early organizer of the anti-busing movement in Los Angeles and was elected to the Los Angeles Board of Education in 1977.
Davis, 69, former chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, was elected to the state Senate in 1980 and reelected in 1984. His 19th District includes parts of Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties. He entered the Republican U.S. Senate primary in February, 1985.