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L.A. ethics commission fines San Fernando Valley campaign committee

Citizens for Dependable and Reliable Leadership, the subject of an ongoing investigation by the county district attorney, is fined $2,000 for minor infractions.

July 15, 2009|David Zahniser

The City Ethics Commission issued a $2,000 fine Tuesday to a San Fernando Valley-based campaign committee that for the last year has been under investigation by Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley.

In a 3-0 vote, the commission fined Citizens for Dependable and Reliable Leadership, which spent more than $54,000 in the 2005 mayoral election, along with individuals affiliated with the committee -- three of them politicians.

The Times reported last year that lawyers for Cooley were trying to determine whether the committee was controlled by state Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) and Los Angeles City Councilman Tony Cardenas. State law bars elected officials from controlling independent expenditure committees, which usually have no limit on how much they can spend on candidates.

A district attorney spokeswoman said the investigation remains open. Still, city ethics investigators identified only minor violations by the committee, saying it failed to submit copies of four campaign mailers -- each supporting the 2005 mayoral bid of then-City Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa -- in a timely way for the public to review.

The agreement to pay the fines was signed by Padilla, Cardenas and Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes (D-Sylmar), as well as Padilla aide Bill Mabie and Cardenas aide Jose Cornejo. All acknowledged that the committee bore responsibility for the violation, said attorney Stephen Kaufman, speaking on their behalf. The committee's treasurer, Kinde Durkee, also signed the agreement.

However, Kaufman said none of the politicians or their aides controlled the committee. Kaufman said he believes the committee was created by campaign consultant Mario Solis-Marich, whose company has provided election day automated "robo calls" to voters on behalf of various campaigns.

Durkee's office was raided by district attorney investigators last year.

Villaraigosa was not a subject of the probe.

Solis-Marich did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment. Last year, he appeared before the grand jury as part of the investigation, said a source familiar with the situation. Kaufman said he believes that Solis-Marich ran the committee for at least part of its existence.

The committee also spent money on behalf of candidates in the 2005 San Fernando City Council election and, a year later, the candidacy of Lt. Gov. John Garamendi.

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david.zahniser@latimes.com

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