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Feinstein Worker Entered U.S. Legally, but Visa Lapsed : Politics: INS records indicate no violation of federal law. Huffington continues to make the hiring an issue.

November 05, 1994|PATRICK J. McDONNELL and JAMES RAINEY and RICHARD C. PADDOCK | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Richard Kenney, an INS spokesman in Washington, said a woman identified as Annabella del Rosario Legrand-Cabrera Realegeno, 44, entered the United States on Nov. 17, 1979, on a one-year visa that allowed her to work for the Guatemalan Consulate in San Francisco. He said that visa was good until Nov. 16, 1980--months after Feinstein has said she hired the woman.

Kenney said INS records show that the woman's work authorization was limited to employment at the Guatemalan Consulate. But Kenney said it would have been very difficult for someone who was not an expert to determine what its limitations were.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday November 6, 1994 Valley Edition Part A Page 3 Column 2 Zones Desk 1 inches; 25 words Type of Material: Correction
Campaign funds--A caption that appeared in Saturday's edition misstated the amount of money Mike Huffington has recently given to his own Senate campaign. The amount is $500,000.

Although the INS said the records did not suggest any violation of the law, the Huffington campaign said the information showed that Feinstein employed an illegal worker and that this constituted a violation of state law.

But the California labor code only prohibits an employer from "knowingly" hiring an illegal immigrant and nothing the Huffington campaign said on Friday undercut Feinstein's contention that she thought the woman had proper documentation when she hired her.

"As I've said, this was back in 1980, the person in question handed me documentation," Feinstein told reporters as she campaigned in Northern California. "It looked verifiable to me. And I hired her."

The Feinstein campaign called on television stations to stop running the Huffington ad on the issue, saying it was "potentially libelous." In a letter to the stations, campaign manager Kam Kuwata noted that Associated Press has challenged the accuracy of the ad.

Associated Press San Francisco bureau chief Dan Day, who faxed a letter of protest to the Huffington campaign Thursday night, said Friday the news service was asking that the ad be pulled.

"The erroneous information in your ad can substantially damage (Associated Press's) reputation. Please confirm to me that you will discontinue this misrepresentation of the AP's reporting," Day wrote.

In other developments this week:

* A Senate ethics complaint filed Friday contends that Feinstein would have personally benefited from her efforts to allegedly influence the Justice and Agriculture departments to drop 34 civil fraud suits against Sunkist Growers and its members.

Feinstein wrote officials this year, supporting dismissal of the whistle-blower suits, which seek $80 million to $400 million from Sunkist Growers for violating federal quotas on citrus shipments, the complaint said.

The complaint alleges that Feinstein held an interest in Newhall Land and Farming, which grows oranges and lemons for Sunkist--based on Feinstein's 1992 financial disclosure statement showing an investment of $500,000 to $1 million.

Her 1993 disclosure lists the investment at less than $1,000, however. Richard Blum, Feinstein's husband, said one of his partnerships divested the Newhall asset in September, 1993.

The ethics complaint was filed by James Moody, an attorney for Sequoia Orange Co., the firm that filed the whistle-blower suit against Sunkist.

Ethics experts said Feinstein's letters appear to fall within Senate rules. Hadley Roff, Feinstein's staff director in California, said her letters were proper.

The Justice Department in September sought dismissal of the Sunkist case, despite having previously intervened on behalf of Sequoia. A spokesman said Feinstein's letter played no part in the decision.

* State tax officials have questioned a former bookkeeper for the Huffington family as they opened a preliminary inquiry to determine if sales taxes of about $6,250 were paid on furnishings for the candidate's Montecito mansion.

The inquiry was prompted by the claim of bookkeeper Claudia Bratton that Huffington's wife, Arianna, purchased at least $100,000 worth of chairs, draperies and other items with a tax card issued to her sister, Agapi Stassinopoulos, by the State Board of Equalization.

The card allows interior designers to buy items from wholesalers without paying sales tax, if the goods are to be resold. But if the items are for personal use, the cardholder must pay the tax.

Bratton's lawyer said his client is merely reporting what she saw while working for Arianna Huffington during several months in 1990. Jennifer Grossman, a spokeswoman for the Huffington campaign, denounced the assertions as "outrageous" and said Stassinopoulos had paid all the required sales taxes. Bryan G. Gaggs, an accountant who worked for Stassinopoulos, said he believes "all returns were filed on a timely basis, and that full compliance with California sales tax laws was effected."

Also contributing to this story were Times staff writers Dave Lesher and Greg Krikorian in Los Angeles, Mark Gladstone and Virginia Ellis in Sacramento and Ralph Vartabedian in Washington.

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