SANTA ANA — A Latino rights organization Wednesday turned over four boxes of documents that were subpoenaed by a congressional committee investigating alleged voter irregularities in Orange County.
Hermandad Mexicana Nacional, which helped thousands of legal residents become citizens and registered about 1,400 voters before the 1996 election, rebuffed earlier attempts to obtain the documents, contending the requests were not valid.
The House Oversight Committee asked for the information as part of its long-running investigation into the 1996 defeat of former Rep. Robert K. Dornan by Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove). Dornan has blamed his 984-vote loss on voter fraud.
Hermandad, which is under county investigation for allegedly registering noncitizens to vote, also has been a focus of the Oversight Committee.
For months, Republican committee members have complained that their work was stymied because Hermandad officials refused to cooperate.
But at a news briefing Wednesday morning at the group's office, Hermandad Director Nativo Lopez and two attorneys, Mark Rosen and Edward Munoz, said two earlier requests for information--in the form of subpoenas from Dornan and interrogatories from Congress--were not supported by law.
"They've spent $700,000 in the House of Representatives on this investigation so far, and in my view, they've done a very poor job," Rosen said.
Hermandad challenged the earlier requests, and the issue is before an appellate court, Rosen said.
Munoz said the four cardboard boxes, shipped to Washington on Wednesday, contained financial reports for Hermandad and Lopez; campaign literature from Lopez's successful 1996 run for the Santa Ana school board; campaign mailers for Citizens Forum, a get-out-the-vote organization run by Lopez and anti-Dornan partisan Michael Farber; literature and financial records from Farber's group Dump Dornan, and a videotape promoting U.S. citizenship, filmed at Disneyland two years ago.
Munoz and Rosen said district attorney's investigators already had taken the bulk of Hermandad's citizenship and voter registration documents during a January raid.
From the beginning of the investigation, Lopez has conceded that some people registered to vote at Hermandad before completing the citizenship process, but he said it was due to confusion or overeagerness on the part of the voters.
He said a congratulatory letter issued by the Immigration and Naturalization Service to applicants after they passed a citizenship test added to the confusion. The letter led some to believe they had become citizens, although they had not yet taken the oath. The wording of that letter has since been changed.
Among the materials sent to Congress is a memo Lopez said he wrote before the election advising Hermandad staffers and volunteers that no one could vote until they had taken the oath of citizenship.
Orange County Dist. Atty. Michael Capizzi opened an investigation into Hermandad after evidence surfaced that some voters registered there before becoming citizens. A short time later, prompted by complaints from Dornan, the House of Representatives opened its inquiry.
The Orange County Grand Jury heard testimony in the case last month, but has not yet issued any conclusions.
Lopez said there was no criminal intent in signing up noncitizen voters.
"Our worst fear is that there will be an indictment based on the politically charged atmosphere in Orange County, and not because there is a legal foundation," he said.
Lopez said the number of citizenship applicants processed by the center has dropped sharply since the investigation began, from about 2,000 a month to about 1,000 a month this year.
Many are going to other citizenship centers, he said.
"But we're still here, providing services," Lopez said. "And we intend to be in full swing in 1998."