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Westside Digest : Santa Monica Mountains : Investigators Clear Soka

July 01, 1993

Soka University officials have won their second battle in a month against legislators who accused them of financial improprieties.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission announced Monday that it had cleared the Japan-based university of charges, made by Assemblyman Terry B. Friedman last year, that the school had secretly backed three Calabasas City Council candidates with financial donations.

Friedman (D-Brentwood), long at odds with the small university and its expansion plans, had accused Soka of funding an organization called the Calabasas Taxpayers Committee. The committee, which was hastily formed during the general election last fall, contributed about $7,600 to pro-development candidates.

The committee was headed by an Orange County lobbyist who represents Soka. But a state investigation "failed to show evidence that the true source of the contributions to the Calabasas Taxpayers Committee was the university," a statement released by the commission said.

The short statement went on to say that the investigation, now closed, "yielded insufficient evidence that money laundering occurred."

By law, the true source of campaign contributions must be reported to the commission, and the committee said its money came from another lobbyist for development interests.

The ruling came about three weeks after the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and the state Franchise Tax Board announced that their investigations into the tax-exempt status of the university also yielded no violations.

The tax investigations, begun at the request of state Sen. Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica) nearly two years ago, were based on accusations that the university discriminated on the basis of race.

Soka spokesman Jeff Ourvan said Monday that university officials were elated that the Fair Political Practices Commission had found in their favor.

The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, a state agency that acquires parkland, has been trying to seize 248 acres of Soka's land to use for a headquarters for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

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