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In southeast L.A. County, the Chacons are political power players

Hector Chacon and his family are admired and feared. They are go-to campaign gurus with checkered pasts whom candidates hire when they want to break into politics — or bat down a challenge from an upstart.

February 25, 2012|By Hector Becerra and Sam Allen, Los Angeles Times

Then, in 2010, Argumedo was charged with perjury for allegedly signing a false affidavit supporting an attorney in a fee dispute with the city of Commerce. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of obstruction of justice and resigned from the City Council as part of the plea deal.

Last year, Art Chacon drew a $30,000 penalty from the FPPC for failing to report transactions made by his campaign committee, among other things. Some of the unreported payments went to his siblings, the commission said.

In fact, the Chacon brothers used funds from their committees to pay siblings or other relatives at least 30 times over the last six years, according to campaign finance records reviewed by The Times.

In 2010, Art Chacon's campaign committee awarded $5,000 in consulting fees to his brother and sister, even though he was running unopposed for the Central Basin water board. (No election was held: Chacon was proclaimed the winner.) Hector Chacon said the money was for work completed before the family learned that Art had no challenger.

California Citizens for Good Government, a political action committee Hector Chacon helped manage in 2008 and 2009, raised thousands of dollars from attorneys, trash haulers and construction management firms who relied on contracts from government agencies across Southern California. The money was used to fund some notably heated campaigns, including a City Council election in Bell and a recall in Commerce.

One day in late 2008, Art Chacon visited Gustavo Villa, who ran a small water company in Maywood. He gave him $2,000 in cash and asked him to write a check for the same amount to the political action committee, Villa told The Times. It wasn't clear why Chacon wanted the arrangement; campaign finance rules require that all donors be specifically identified.

Villa said he didn't have a checkbook, so he asked his assistant, Beatriz Ortega, to write the check in exchange for the cash. Ortega confirmed the account.

Enrique Curiel, who hired Art Chacon to help manage his unsuccessful campaign for the Maywood City Council, is also listed as giving the committee $2,500. He told The Times he never made the contribution.

Hector denied that his brother acted inappropriately; Art Chacon declined to be interviewed for this story.

Hector Chacon was a major beneficiary of the political action committee that he helped manage. From January 2008 through mid-2009, the group raised just over $102,000 and paid nearly $75,000 to Hector Chacon's consulting firm, Quantum Management Services.

Hector Chacon says he had limited control over how the fund's money was spent and that, in any case, some of it went to subcontractors.

Who were those contractors? According to disclosure forms, they included his brother Fernando's graphic design company and Victory Outreach, his brother Art's church.

::

By the time election results began rolling in at Crabby's restaurant, Hector Chacon had barely touched his shrimp soup.

A little after 8 p.m., his cellphone rang. It was his sister Leticia, who weeks before had left her husband and five children behind in El Paso to work on several of the campaigns.

Leticia had spent much of the day getting out the vote for the Montebello council candidate, Jack Hadjinian, and battling a rumor that he was anti-Mexican.

On the phone, Leticia told Hector that Hadjinian was leading the absentee count.

A wide grin crossed Hector's face, and he flashed two thumbs up.

"An Armenian! Never before in the history of Montebello!" he exclaimed.

The phone calls kept coming. Nearly every one of the family's candidates was winning.

hector.becerra@latimes.com

sam.allen@latimes.com

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