SACRAMENTO — The state Fair Political Practices Commission has launched an inquiry into whether phony presidential endorsement letters mailed on behalf of six Republican Assembly candidates--including Roger E. Fiola, who lost to Assemblyman Richard E. Floyd (D-Hawthorne)--were prepared by legislative employees on the state payroll.
The so-called endorsement letters were mailed shortly before the Nov. 4 election to voters in the 53rd Assembly District, which includes Carson, Gardena, Lawndale, Hawthorne and North Redondo Beach.
But the White House later said that authorization to use President Reagan's signature was never obtained. Further, White House Counsel Peter J. Wallison has singled out two aides to Assembly Republican Leader Pat Nolan (R-Glendale) and a direct-mail specialist, as among those responsible for preparing the campaign material.
In a letter last week, Floyd urged the Fair Political Practices Commission to investigate one of the Nolan aides, Henry Olsen, because Assembly personnel records "indicated that during the period in which the mailers were composed, printed and . . . mailed, Mr. Olsen was on the state payroll doing state business."
Jeanette Turvill, a spokeswoman for the commission, said Floyd's complaint prompted the political watchdog agency to look into whether the letters were prepared by employees of the Legislature.
She said investigators will try to determine whether the Assembly campaigns, including Fiola's, should have reported services rendered by legislative staff members as campaign contributions.
Also, she said, the commission staff will seek to determine whether the letters were, as required by law, clearly marked as being sent by a campaign committee. Violations would be punishable by civil fines and penalties.
Olsen directed inquiries about the letters to Nolan's office. Anne S. Richards, Nolan's press secretary, said that when Olsen "was working on political stuff he took time off." Assembly Rules Committee records indicate that Olsen took off last Oct. 10 without pay, claimed vacation on Nov. 4, election day, and called in sick Nov. 3, 5 and 6.
Richards minimized Floyd's allegations, saying, "Henry didn't write the letters. The campaigns wrote the letters."
As for other Republican legislative staff members who served on campaigns, Richards said, "people took off, took vacation, took leave to work on campaigns and then came back. That's standard practice throughout the Capitol."
Two Other Incidents
Besides Fiola, the unauthorized Reagan endorsement letters were sent on behalf of two other unsuccessful GOP Assembly candidates--Matt Webb, who lost to Assemblyman Steve Clute (D-Riverside), and Henry Velasco, who lost to Assemblywoman Sally Tanner (D-El Monte).
The campaigns of three winning GOP Assembly candidates--Bev Hansen of Napa, Richard E. Longshore of Orange and Trice Harvey of Tulare--also mailed out the phony endorsement letters.
Last week Floyd also released a copy of a letter he sent the White House seeking an explanation for what happened and questioning why the President had not replied to an earlier Floyd letter.
In his latest message to the President, Floyd said: "Frankly, Mr. President, I believe that I deserve to hear directly from you that you were not involved and that the White House was not involved" with the phony endorsements.