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The Recall Campaign

FPPC Fines Bustamante's Brother

October 01, 2003|Rich Connell and Robert J. Lopez | Times Staff Writers

FRESNO — Cruz Bustamante's younger brother, who worked for the lieutenant governor's Democratic allies in the Legislature before taking a job last year with an Indian casino, has been ordered to pay a fine for failing to file his financial disclosure statement on time.

The state Fair Political Practices Commission also has warned Andrew Bustamante that he could face further enforcement action, according to records obtained by The Times under the state Public Records Act.

Andrew Bustamante, 42, was hired late last year as general manager of the Mono Wind casino in the foothills east of Fresno. The casino, operated by the Big Sandy Rancheria of Mono Indians, is housed in wood and plastic tent-like buildings and is among the smaller ones in the state.

When he was hired, he was on unpaid leave from a job as Central Valley representative for Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson. Bustamante did not officially leave his state post until mid-June of this year, months after he was hired by the casino, according to records and interviews.

Bustamante said he was late in filing because he was busy running the casino. "It was an oversight. They're gonna ding me. I'll pay, and life goes on," he said.

He stressed that he wasn't "double dipping" when he took a state leave to work for the casino. "I'm not taking the people's money," he said. "I'm not tagging the state."

Cruz Bustamante has been criticized for taking millions of dollars in campaign contributions from California Indian tribes. Andrew Bustamante said that opponents of his brother are trying to suggest that he got his casino job because of the lieutenant governor's close connections with the tribes. That suggestion is unfair, he said. The small band of Big Sandy Indians has not contributed to the lieutenant governor's campaigns.

"I think that is insulting to the folks of Big Sandy Rancheria.... It's implying these folks don't know how to choose someone with business acumen," Andrew Bustamante said Tuesday.

The lieutenant governor also said he had nothing to do with his brother's job at the Assembly speaker's office. He did acknowledge speaking about his brother with former Democratic state Sen. Richard Polanco, who hired Andrew Bustamante as an aide before he worked for the speaker's office. Polanco helped launch Cruz Bustamante's political career when he backed him to run for a Fresno-area Assembly seat a decade ago.

Records show the younger Bustamante failed until Aug. 4 to file a statement of his personal financial interests covering last year and the first part of this year -- several months after legally required. When he filed the form, he declared he had no reportable outside income or assets over the preceding 18 months, records show.

The FPPC first ordered the younger Bustamante to comply with the law in May. Additional letters were sent in June and July. On Sept. 18, two days after The Times filed its request for public records, the FPPC wrote Bustamante to seek the $100 late filing penalty he owed -- the maximum allowed. The letter also warned him of the possibility of further action.

On Tuesday, an FPPC spokeswoman said the agency had not yet received a response from Andrew Bustamante. Speaking generally, the spokeswoman, Sigrid Bathen, said additional enforcement actions can be prompted by late filings alone or by evidence that sources of income were not properly reported.

The younger Bustamante volunteered in his brother's first campaign in 1993. At one point, he considered running for his brother's old Assembly seat.

Cruz Bustamante said he turned his brother down for a job when he went to the state capital. Andrew Bustamante said he continued working on Democratic political campaigns in the Central Valley.

In late 1996, Cruz Bustamante became Assembly speaker. Bustamante said he recalled receiving a phone call from Polanco, asking if he should hire Andrew Bustamante. "If you think he adds value," the lieutenant governor recalled saying.

Polanco hired the younger brother as an aide to the Latino Legislative Caucus in February 1997. He was paid $2,698 a month, state legislative records show.

While still working for Polanco, Andrew Bustamante created a consulting business in Fresno called Bustamante & Associates, according to Fresno County records. He said he had political and business clients, and his financial disclosure statement for 2001 showed he had between $1,000 and $10,000 in income. He declined to name his clients.

Cruz Bustamante said last week that he was unaware of his brother's business.

In October 2000, Andrew Bustamante moved to a better-paying job, making about $4,000 per month, as a senior field representative in the Central Valley for then-Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg. He was set up in a state office in downtown Fresno.

"I was impressed by the kid," Hertzberg said in an interview, adding that the younger Bustamante played a crucial role as a liaison to the state's agricultural interests. "He was Polanco's guy. He always seemed to be kind of Johnny-on-the-spot in the valley."

Bustamante's Sacramento supervisor in the speaker's office was Lynn Montgomery, a longtime Democratic political operative who is now running the lieutenant governor's campaign.

She said she couldn't recall specifically what projects Andrew Bustamante concentrated on. "I just don't remember.... I would get verbal reports," she said.

The Assembly Rules Committee, citing special protections afforded legislative employees under state law, denied a Times request for documents showing what work Andrew Bustamante performed.

As the speaker's representative, Andrew Bustamante said, he met a previous Big Sandy tribal council, but never worked on a specific issue for the group.

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