Tag Archives: Campaign Contributions

Ingrid Lee Was Fined $16,455 In December 2017 By The Ethics Commission For Making Excess Campaign Contributions Through Front Corporations — Including Injae LLC And Coastland Project LLC — $1,700 Of That Money Went To Gil Cedillo — So Why Was Dean Matsubayashi Of The Little Tokyo Service Center Carrying Messages Between Injae And Gerald Gubatan — Cedillo’s Senior Planning Director — In 2016? — And Why Were They So Vague In Their Emails — Repeatedly Insisting On Talking Via Phone?

You’ll recall that this incredibly useful trove of emails between Cedillo staffer Gerald Gubatan and various Little Tokyo folks has contributed significantly to the story of José Huizar’s famously cooked-up community buy-in Parker Center demolition thing, not just in the main story but also, e.g., in this little tidbit about op-ed placement. And, it turns out, there is one more story to be squeezed out of this seething mass of information.

Take a look at this email conversation from 2016 between our friend, Gerald Gubatan, and his behind-scenes buddy Dean Matsubayashi of the Little Tokyo Service Center. And I mean, you can read it, and of course there is a transcription after the break, but the apparent content is a rounding error away from nothing. Gubatan and Matsubayashi go on and on about some entity called Injae LLC and how they need to discuss something on the phone.

That, of course, is a veritable without-which-not1 for political shadiness. There’s nothing in the genre of political communications which portends corruption and impending exposure, contempt, mockery, and disgrace quite like a series of emails each of which says essentially nothing more than “call me.” And we’re never gonna know what they talked about on the phone, but let’s take a look at this Injae LLC thing, yes?

This California LLC, which is still active, is a front for real estate developer In Soo Lee, aka Ingrid Lee through which she funneled contributations over the legally allowed amount to Gil Cedillo and Monica Rodriguez. This was reported in the L.A. Times in December 2017 when the Ethics Commission fined Lee $16,455 for her willful evasion of municipal election laws. The article also reveals the fact that Coastland Project LLC was another of Lee’s contribution fronts.

And Cedillo accepted contributions from both Injae and Coastland. Take a look at the Ethics Commission’s reports on Injae and on Coastland Project to see that Injae gave him $500 in 2014 and $700 in 2015 and that Coastland gave him $500 in 2014. And after taking all this money, evidently Gerald Gubatan had some top secret business with Injae and Dean Matsubayashi, so sensitive that neither of them would commit details to writing.

After all, shady criminal developers like Ingrid Lee ultimately want something from their vendidos in exchange for their illegal money, don’t they? Too bad we’re really unlikely ever to learn what it was. Turn the page to read the emails!
Continue reading Ingrid Lee Was Fined $16,455 In December 2017 By The Ethics Commission For Making Excess Campaign Contributions Through Front Corporations — Including Injae LLC And Coastland Project LLC — $1,700 Of That Money Went To Gil Cedillo — So Why Was Dean Matsubayashi Of The Little Tokyo Service Center Carrying Messages Between Injae And Gerald Gubatan — Cedillo’s Senior Planning Director — In 2016? — And Why Were They So Vague In Their Emails — Repeatedly Insisting On Talking Via Phone?

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The Story Of How The Central City East Association Evidently Violated City Ethics Laws Restricting Campaign Contributions, Gave Illegally To Mitch O’Farrell and Marqueece Harris-Dawson In 2015, Lied About It On Their Tax Form, And I Turned Them In To The IRS And The Ethics Commission

CCEA: The truth may be out there but it’s not out there on our tax forms.
This story begins with the fact that the Central City East Association, which runs the infamous Downtown Industrial District BID, contributed $700 each to two City Council candidate campaigns in 2015. The money was given to Mitch O’Farrell of CD13 and Marqueece Harris-Dawson of CD8. You can see the record at the City Ethics Commission and also if it’s more convenient, here is a PDF of the same information.

This turns out to be a huge problem for a number of unrelated reasons. First and most simply, the CCEA is a nonprofit 501(c)(6) organization. Unlike the more famous 501(c)(3) organizations, 501(c)(6) groups are allowed to engage in lobbying, but it’s unclear whether they’re allowed to support candidates for office.1 However, irrespective of any restrictions on donations, there are very clear reporting requirements.

Take a look at the CCEA’s 2015 tax form. In particular, take a look at question 3 of part IV, found on page 3 of the form. It asks unambiguously:

Did the organization engage in direct or indirect political campaign activities on behalf of or in opposition to candidates for public office?

And, as you can see in the image that appears somewhere near this paragraph, the CCEA unambiguously stated that they did not. It’s hard to imagine a less ambiguous form of direct political campaign activities than giving actual money, amirite? Hence I turned them in to the IRS and also to the Franchise Tax Board for this lacuna. Stay tuned in case anything happens!

And it turns out that there are some more subtle, but potentially equally serious, problems with these two donations involving various municipal laws. Turn the page for the highly sordid but highly technical details!2
Continue reading The Story Of How The Central City East Association Evidently Violated City Ethics Laws Restricting Campaign Contributions, Gave Illegally To Mitch O’Farrell and Marqueece Harris-Dawson In 2015, Lied About It On Their Tax Form, And I Turned Them In To The IRS And The Ethics Commission

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Some Money Is Even Too Dirty For Mike: A Look At One Of Bonin’s Recent Returned Campaign Contributions And Subsequent Trip Down A Lobbyist-Money Rabbit Hole

Mike Bonin making kissy-face with Eric Garcetti in 2013 just before laying waste to the canals like Godzilla laying waste to Tokyo.
The L.A. City Ethics Commission website is a marvelous repository of fascinating minutiae. It more than repays the kind of obsessive poring-over in which we here at MK.Org specialize. Today’s subject is the quarterly reports that every qualified candidate has to submit detailing their expenditures. You can find all of Mike Bonin’s here.1 In particular, take a look at his 3rd quarter report for 2016. On Schedule E, the list of expenditures, note that some items are labeled “Returned contributions.” No reasons are given for the returns, but at least in some cases it’s possible to track down at least some elements of the story via the Google.

For instance, consider the case of Shannon Murphy Castellani. She gave Mike Bonin $700 on June 14, 2016. Exactly four weeks later, on July 12, 2016, she registered with the Ethics Commission as a lobbyist.2 Now, section 470(c)(11) of the City Charter forbids candidates from accepting campaign contributions from registered lobbyists. It’s vague on the timing, and I don’t see that it actually explicitly prohibits someone from donating money and then registering as a lobbyist the very next day, but on the other hand, does Mike Bonin want to argue that case in public? Obviously not, so the best thing to do is to return the contribution. Just as obviously, the $700 itself isn’t so important. These people are all zillionaires, after all. It’s the good will that the $700 creates, and that lingers on after the money is returned.
Continue reading Some Money Is Even Too Dirty For Mike: A Look At One Of Bonin’s Recent Returned Campaign Contributions And Subsequent Trip Down A Lobbyist-Money Rabbit Hole

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