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 Henry J. Velasco, who lost to Assemblywoman Sally Tanner (D-El Monte)--were prepared by legislative employees on the state payroll.
The so-called endorsement letters were mailed on the eve of the Nov. 4 election to voters in the 60th Assembly District, which covers Rosemead, El Monte, Baldwin Park, La Puente, City of Industry and West Covina.
But the White House said authorization to use President Reagan's signature was never obtained. Further, White House Counsel Peter J. Wallison singled out two aides to Assembly Republican Leader Pat Nolan (R-Glendale) and a direct-mail specialist, Tim Macy, as among those responsible for preparing the campaign material.
Assemblyman Richard Floyd (D-Hawthorne), whose opponent's campaign used one of the letters, has led the call for an investigation.
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."
Referred to Nolan's Office
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 Olsen "didn't write the letters. The campaigns wrote the letters."
As for other Republican legislative staffers 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."
Jeanette Turvill, a spokeswoman for the commission, said that the complaint by Floyd prompted the political watchdog agency to look into whether the letters were prepared by employees of the Legislature.
Turvill said investigators will try to determine whether the Assembly campaigns, including Velasco's, should have reported services rendered by legislative staffers as campaign contributions.
Also, she said, the commission 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.
Velasco said he had presumed his endorsement letter "was authorized by the White House" and thinks it was prepared by Computer Caging--a Sacramento-based direct-mail firm principally owned by state Sen. H. L. Richardson (R-Glendora). Macy--among those singled out by the White House--is president of the firm.
In his campaign contribution statement filed Jan. 30, Velasco reported paying $31,483 to Computer Caging for campaign literature.
Besides Velasco, 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 Roger E. Fiola, who lost to Floyd.
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.