California's political watchdog agency is investigating whether money laundering took place during Assemblyman Roger Hernandez's 2010 campaign and is fighting with his lawyer to get access to bank records, according to a filing this week in Los Angeles Superior Court.
The document says the Fair Political Practices Commission subpoenaed Hernadez's lawyer, Aldo A. Flores, for information about a $3,900 contribution he made to the assemblyman's campaign in 2009. The matter landed in court this fall when Flores challenged the FPPC's requests for his bank records.
"Evidence from the bank records may show (Flores) was reimbursed for his payment to the Hernandez for Assembly 2010 campaign committee," says the FPPC's filing that asks the court to uphold the subpoenas that are part of a "larger investigation."
"The FPPC is actively investigating political money laundering," the filing says, adding that "evidence uncovered thus far provides sufficient grounds to support the subpoenas."
State law limits the amount donors can give to candidates. The limit for contributions to legislative candidates is $4,100 now but was $3,900 in 2009, when Flores made the donation to Hernandez, a Democrat from West Covina.
Hiding the identity of a donor by passing the money through someone else amounts to political money laundering and violates state law.
"Making a contribution in another person's name is one of the most serious types of violations of the (Political Reform) Act, because it denies the public of information about where a candidate receives his or her financial support," the FPPC's filing says.
Hernandez issued a statement late Wednesday, suggesting the FPPC's case is "about one very old fact" and that "the FPPC has no information that the check was improper...This blanket attack is nothing more than an attempt to tarnish my name by powerful interest groups that see me as a threat for the work that I am doing on behalf of hard-working Californians."
The agency said last year that it was investigating two complaints against Hernandez. One questions a $100,000 loan he made to his campaign in 2009. The other alleges that spending on some campaign fliers in West Covina was not properly reported. Those investigations remain open, said Gary Winuk, the FPPC's chief of enforcement.
Messages The Sacramento Bee left for Flores have not been returned.
A hearing is scheduled for January 16.
PHOTO: Assemblyman Roger Hernandez at the California State Capitol in Sacramento in January 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton
Editor's Note: This post was updated at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 8, 2014 to include Hernandez's statement.