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Major Hahn Backer Accused

L.A. ethics panel staff says developer Abrams repeatedly violated laws on campaign financing.

January 11, 2005|Rich Connell and Robert J. Lopez | Times Staff Writers

Los Angeles ethics officials on Monday accused a Westside developer and major campaign fundraiser for Mayor James K. Hahn of orchestrating about $90,000 in illegal contributions.

Mark Alan Abrams is accused of violating city election laws 48 times and could face hundreds of thousands of dollars in penalties, among the largest in the history of the Ethics Commission, according to a formal accusation made public by the commission's staff.

The matter now goes to the full five-member commission, which is expected to consider Abrams' case in the next few months and impose civil fines, if warranted.

The biggest share of the illicit cash funneled to City Hall politicians by Abrams supported Hahn's 2001 mayoral bid, according to the staff filing.

Abrams' attorney, Nathan Hochman, said, "We are cooperating with the L.A. Ethics Commission to try to resolve this matter as expeditiously as possible." He declined to elaborate.

The Times previously reported that the commission was investigating Abrams, who met Hahn in a Beverly Hills restaurant nearly five years ago and quickly angled his way into the upper echelon of the mayor's political organization. In all, Abrams and his partner, Charles Elliott Fitzgerald, directed more than $300,000 to the mayor's political causes.

As the money flowed, Hahn's office helped Abrams receive high-level City Hall access on a troubled development project and the mayor named the developer's real estate attorney to the city Planning Commission. Abrams and Fitzgerald are now central figures in a federal investigation of a massive mortgage fraud scheme.

Hahn's office said Abrams did not receive special treatment, and the mayor said he had no reason to suspect Abrams' fundraising was improper.

Hahn's reelection spokesman said Monday that the mayor was glad the ethics agency was "taking this matter seriously and is acting quickly."

The alleged violations include using straw donors to hide the true source of $18,000 in contributions to Hahn and arranging an illegal $24,500 independent expenditure to pay for mailers in 2001 attacking Hahn's opponent, Antonio Villaraigosa.

Abrams also is accused of funneling dozens of illegal contributions through companies he controlled.

Two Hahn allies at City Hall, Councilman Tony Cardenas and former Councilman Nick Pacheco, also received thousands in allegedly improper donations. Both men have said they did not know the contributions were improper.

The district attorney's office also is reviewing contributions arranged by Abrams for possible criminal violations.

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