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Volume Of Dumanis Donors Linked To Mexican Businessman Renews Questions About What DA Knew

August 16, 2016 1:19 p.m.

Volume Of Dumanis Donors Linked To Mexican Businessman Renews Questions About What DA Knew

GUEST:

Amita Sharma, investigative reporter, KPBS

Related Story: Volume Of Dumanis Donors Linked To Mexican Businessman Renews Questions About What DA Knew

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. San Diego County district Attorney Bonnie Dumanis has cast herself as a victim of a fundraising straight scheme by a Mexican mogul. They are on trial for trying to pump $600,000 into San Diego campaigns. Are investigative reporter Amita Sharma says document shows disguised giving to Dumanis. It raise questions about what she knew and should've known.
Federal election law is written to ensure political races are decided by Americans or legal residents. US government says Mexican tycoon, Jose Susumo Azano Matsura skirted the lot to try to get Bonnie Dumanis elected as Mayor in 2012. A full 25% of the money Dumanis received came from Azano but never in his name.
One donation coming from a straw donor is unacceptable.
The fact that so many contributions corresponded with money that had been transferred from an outside source is a very alarming figure.
The figure was even higher on a single day on December, 2011. That is the month prosecutors say Dumanis went to Azano house looking for crucial financing. The San Diego ethics commission records from a single day December 29, 2011. The review revealed more than 40% of the donations Dumanis received came from straw donors allegedly financed by Azano.
It's not a good fact for Mr. Dumanis.
It certainly would make a prosecutor question and investigate further how directly involved she was. In these types of contributions.
Also on that same game -- day, an additional 14% came in from towing companies previously investigated for straw giving. The commission would not say whether the companies had been investigated for contributing that day. The timing of the towing company donations is curious.
Whether it ends up being tied together -- will have to wait and see.
Dumanis haven't -- hasn't been charged and she declined to speak to us for this story. She says her election is a stickler for the rules.
I am the DA and I'm very careful and my campaign is very careful to make sure we don't cross any lines.
Prosecutors say after the December meeting between Azano and Dumanis, he said he would raise $100,000 for her. He set up a political action committee through a shell company to place the money. One question hanging over the trial is what did Dumanis know of Azano mitigation status?
It's illegal for a candidate take campaign donations from a foreign national. She should have known or least checked.
Just by reputation alone, this individual is known as a successful businessman in Mexico. The first thing she has to ask herself, can he contribute to elections in the United States? John Wainio has testified he asked Dumanis on the phone in 2012 weather Azano had a green card. She was silent on the other and. That silence could have legal implications for Dumanis.
There's a concept in the criminal law that if you are confronted with an allegation and you provide in response of silence -- you provide no response whatsoever -- that could be deemed an admission of knowledge.
Dumanis changed her story. She first said she only met Azano once. , but the Sheriff testified Dumanis attended a meeting between him and Azano. Dumanis write a college letter of recommendation for Azano his son. The onus is on --
The law says you can't turn a blind eye to this evidence in front of you and say I didn't know.
Former federal prosecutor says that is called conscious avoidance and it's illegal.
That story from investigative reporter Amita Sharma. Welcome Amita .
It's good to be here morning.
Why did some of the people interviewed imply that if Bonnie Dumanis no Azano with a foreign national bash she should've known.
The first is she's the District Attorney and she knows the rules. About affecting -- accepting donations from a foreign do -- donor because she prosecutes campaign violations. So due diligence is the main reason because she is a top law enforcement officer in San Diego County. That would presume she would ask the question of some month. The second reason is the fact that Azano is so well-known just across the border. He's a successful businessman. It would not have been hard for her to tease out that answer. And finally, she did meet with him twice and had a conference call with him about social media services for our campaign. She had the opportunity to ask him.
Do we know who on her campaign staff in 2012 might have been in charge of determining if the donations she received complied with the law?
The woman is Kelly [ name unknown ] who was in charge of fundraising in compliance. The law prohibits any candidate or staffer from soliciting, receiving or accepting a contribution from a foreign national. I think what some campaign experts would tell you, it's unrealistic to expect the campaign to investigate each and every donor to see if they are giving legally. This case is a bit different because raised on what prosecutors have said, Dumanis actually went to Azano house asking for crucial financing for her campaign . And then prosecutors say he got word to her that he would get her $100,000, which he did through an independent expenditure committee. So there is an assertion by a political consultant that Dumanis sent Azano employee to a pack controlled by the District Attorney Association to get his money. We thought the money was fishy. Wainio testified in court he asked Dumanis if Azano had a green card and got silence on the other and.
Straw donors are people donating money given to them by someone who can't legally get to our campaign is all right?
Yes. They are either ineligible to get because they don't have legal residency status. Or they have already exceeded contribution limits. But they still want to ensure more of their money gets into a campaign.
Who are the alleged straw donors?
There are several straw donors. They have not been prosecuted. One of them, Mark Chase has pleaded guilty. They just haven't been charged in the case.
How did prosecutors find out about the scheme?
I don't know that prosecutors have said this explicitly, but I have been told that Azano attracted law enforcement attention a while back. Because he was traveling in and out of round filled a lot with a large security detail. He was flying around the United States frequently and he was flying to the Middle East in a cause people to want to take a harder look at him to see if he was up to something. It was during the course about look that officials discovered Azano was meeting with local politicians like the former San Diego Mayor and Bonnie Dumanis.
Bonnie Dumanis has been called to testify but since the responsibility is on the foreign national not to donate in elections, for the purpose of this particular prosecution, what does it matter what she knew?
It does matter because there is some onus on her. It is a violation of election law if she knowingly accept contributions from a foreign donor about a green card. It would be interesting to see how the issue of her knowledge of his legal status is handled if she takes the stand. If she says she thought Azano had a green card, she will have to be asked why she thought that and whether she asked him directly. The defense would not be calling Dumanis if they thought she would hurt bash their case. They want her to say I didn't know him and he didn't know me. But how do you explain the meetings, a conference call about campaign social services, and the college letter she wrote for his son. It appears there is actually another letter she wrote. Harbor there is no information on it except that it exists.
When can we expect the a, Dumanis to take the stand? Be met the prosecution might wrap up testimony today. She could take the stand as early as tomorrow or next week.
I have been speaking with investigative reporter, Amita Sharma. Thank you so much.