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Audits Question Contributions of $70,000 to Hahn

Donations from business owners and their businesses, listed as from separate sources, exceeded city campaign limits, the reports say.

March 18, 2003|Jessica Garrison | Times Staff Writer

Mayor James K. Hahn's election committee may have violated the city's contribution limits in accepting more than $70,000 in excess contributions during the 2001 election, according to city Ethics Commission audits.

The audits, which were released last month, said Hahn's campaign should have flagged and declined to accept dozens of contributions in which a business owner donated the $1,000 maximum and then the business itself contributed. Under city law, those donations are considered to be from one source, not two. In other cases, businesses sharing the same address each contributed.

LeeAnn Pelham, executive director of the Ethics Commission, said the findings will be referred to the city attorney's office and the state Fair Political Practices Commission, which is standard procedure for all audits. She said the Ethics Commission could impose fines, but has not yet decided whether to do so.

Deputy Mayor Matt Middlebrook said Hahn's campaign treasurer is cooperating with ethics officials to identify problems.

"This is 74 contributions out of thousands received by the campaign," Middlebrook said. "The campaign did everything it could to make sure all of the contributions were appropriate."

In a written response, Hahn's treasurer disputed many of the findings, but conceded that there had been some excess contributions. The law does not require contributions to be returned, and the campaign has not refunded them.

City Councilman-elect Antonio Villaraigosa, who opposed Hahn in the 2001 mayoral election, also was audited. Ethics officials found that he may have received about $8,000 in excess contributions during the campaign.

Villaraigosa's campaign refunded all contributions that were questioned.

Auditors wrote that Hahn's campaign committee had not provided enough information "to substantiate that it had taken all necessary steps to ensure the contributions it received during the campaign had complied with contribution limits."

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