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San Diego Politicians Return Donations From Alleged Schemers

As more donations are linked to those involved in an alleged illegal campaign finance scheme, local politicians are rushing to return them.

Just Thursday, the U-T San Diego reported San Diego representatives Sen. Ben Hueso and Assemblywoman Shirley Weber returned a total of $2,250 their campaigns received from local lobbyist Marco Polo Cortes since 2010.

All of the background information on campaign contributions illegally funneled from a wealthy Mexican businessman to local candidates.

Federal prosecutors say Cortes is one of three men who helped funnel funds to local politicians from a foreign national, whom KPBS has identified as Mexican businessman Jose Susumo Azano Matsura.


Retired San Diego police detective Ernesto Encinas and Washington, D.C.-based campaign services CEO Ravneet Singh were also named in a federal complaint.

Hueso and Weber join a number of local legislators who have returned donations from the men involved, including District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.

Although she previously returned money when news of the scandal initially broke, Dumanis made headlines this week for saying she would not return any additional funds. According to the U-T San Diego, Dumanis said this was because the funds came through committees that supported her but were not under her control.

However, the U-T pointed out committees under her control were on the receiving end of more than $13,000 linked to those involved in the finance scandal.

Since then, the San Diego daily paper says she's changed her mind: Dumanis will return funds given to her re-election campaign and dispose of other funds received during her mayoral run by giving to charity.


Furthermore, the U-T reports Dumanis actually met Azano — the man at the center of the illegal finance probe — in person at his home.

And according to Voice of San Diego, the San Diego District Attorney has even another link to one of the men accused of the campaign finance no-no:

"In April 2012, Dumanis enlisted ElectionMall, whose CEO Ravi Singh is accused of receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal, hidden donations from a wealthy Mexican citizen, Jose Susumo Azano Matsura, to work on Dumanis’ campaign and others in San Diego."

In the story, which includes links to internal Dumanis campaign emails, a Dumanis representative says Singh did the work as a volunteer so it was not necessary to disclose his services.

Singh, Encinas and Cortes face five years in prison and $250,000 fine. Azano has not been charged.