Friday, August 27, 2010
Harris Camp Blasts Cooley Over Campaign Donations
By STEVEN M. ELLIS, Staff Writer
The campaign of Democratic attorney general candidate and San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris yesterday blasted her Republican opponent, Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, for accepting campaign contributions from a felon later convicted of campaign finance fraud.
A Harris spokesperson said Cooley should return the disputed donations and bring in an independent counsel to investigate.
The comments came during a conference call with reporters in the wake of a story that appeared yesterday on the website of LA Weekly accusing Cooley of laundering campaign money while prosecuting Democratic contributors for the same offense.
A Cooley spokesperson rejected the charges, calling them and the story a “petty political attack” manufactured by Harris’ campaign.
As district attorney and as a candidate for attorney general, Cooley has touted his corruption-busting credentials, which include having brought felony charges against contributors to Democrats who allegedly reimbursed friends and associates for donations to city politicians to get around contribution limits.
But LA Weekly reported that he failed to bring similar charges against Gladwin Gill, a contributor to Cooley’s 2004 re-election campaign.
Gill—a Pakistani immigrant who runs a small, Glendale-based home health agency specializing in hospice care—pled guilty in 2008 to a federal charge of campaign-finance fraud and was sentenced to a year in prison, which he is scheduled to start soon. According to prosecutors, he reimbursed relatives and employees for $67,000 in “straw” contributions to Republicans in four federal campaigns between 2003 and 2005, including the re-election campaign of President George W. Bush.
However, Gill and many of the same contributors also gave to Cooley’s re-election campaign in 2003 and 2004, and the district attorney, whose office would be responsible for investigating allegedly phony contributions in local elections, never did so.
Gill contributed $1,000 to Cooley’s campaign in 2004, the maximum amount allowed, but 11 employees of his business or its affiliate also contributed $1,000. Six of those contributors were identified in the federal case as conduit contributors to Bush’s campaign, as well as to the U.S. Senate campaign of Rosario Marin.
Gill previously served more than two years in state prison for participating in a real estate–fraud scheme that bilked 20 investors of more than $1 million, and for firing a gun a two gas company employees who entered his property to collect on an unpaid bill.
Cooley’s campaign spokesperson told the MetNews that no complaint about the contributions to Cooley’s campaign was ever filed with the District Attorney’s Office’s Public Integrity Division. He said the division requires a complaint before it opens an investigation in order “to avoid accusations of political witch hunts.”
The spokesperson maintained that Cooley’s re-election campaign was “completely independent” from the District Attorney’s Office, meaning that the office had no knowledge of the contributions and no basis to open an investigation. He also said that Cooley was unaware of the federal charges against Gill, who the district attorney “doesn’t really know.”
Cooley’s campaign said it would not return the donations, explaining that the funds were spent “three campaigns ago” and that the 2004 campaign accounts had been “zeroed-out” as required by law.
Cooley’s camp further noted that the statute of limitations on any charges related to the contributions at issue had already expired, and said the Harris’ campaign’s “outrage” that the statute was brought up—a Harris spokesperson called invocation of the statute “disgraceful” coming from a member of law enforcement—was “hollow” and an attempt to distract voters.
Cooley’s spokesperson also accused Harris’ campaign of attacking not only Cooley’s integrity, but the professionalism of career prosecutors in the District Attorney’s Office who he said “would have investigated” any complaint about the contributions brought to them.
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company