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The Real Deal Los Angeles

State agency begins investigation of Harbor Gateway developer donations

FPPC is looking into whether developer Samuel Leung violated campaign finance laws
January 12, 2017 10:30AM

A Rendering of Sea Breeze and Mayor Eric Garcetti (Credit: City Planning, LA Mayor)

UPDATED, 7:20 a.m., Jan. 13: The California Fair Political Practices Commission has joined the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office in launching an investigation into the Harbor Gateway political contribution scandal unveiled by the Los Angeles Times in October.

The report showed that developer Samuel Leung may have violated state campaign finance laws when he and his associates — including former construction workers and their relatives — contributed more than $600,000 to the campaigns of numerous local politicians and their causes, including a committee that supported Mayor Eric Garcetti’s 2013 bid.

Nearly a dozen contributors denied making the donations or said they didn’t recall having made them. It would be a violation of finance law if Leung had made the donation on their behalf. The donations were made when City Hall was in the midst of reviewing Leung’s proposed 352-unit project called Sea Breeze.

The FPPC only opens an investigation into cases in which there is sufficient evidence that the California Political Reform Act has been potentially violated, commission spokesperson Jay Wierenga told the Times. It could impose a fine of up to $5,000 per violation.

Just days after the Times broke the news, the L.A. District Attorney’s office announced that it commenced an investigation into the campaign contributions. It’s unclear whether the city’s Ethics Commission is also probing into the case.

Five city council members proposed a new set of laws Tuesday that would ban developers from making political donations while their projects are under city review. [LAT]Cathaleen Chen