Donor Tells of Campaign Gifts
Contractor in Casden ethics probe told grand jury he gave $10,000 to Kathleen Connell's mayoral campaign.
A termite contractor made $10,000 in illegal contributions
to a Los Angeles mayoral candidate after an executive in a
prominent real estate firm solicited the donation,
according to transcripts of Los Angeles County Grand Jury
testimony reviewed Tuesday by The Times.
The contractor testified that John Archibald, vice
president of Casden Properties LLC, later told him not to
worry about an investigation of the contributions by the
city Ethics Commission. At worst, Archibald said, according
to the contractor's testimony, the city might impose a
Archibald and 13 of the Casden firm's subcontractors were
indicted last month on charges of conspiring to illegally
funnel more than $200,000 in campaign contributions during
2000 and 2001 to Los Angeles City Council members Jack
Weiss and Wendy Greuel, City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo and
Kathleen Connell, who was a candidate for mayor. Archibald
and the subcontractors have pleaded not guilty to the
felony charges and are free on their own recognizance.
Prosecutors said the Casden firm, which has a $100-million
Westwood development pending before the city, had sought to
buy influence with the contributions. Larry J. Higgins,
owner of a Sun Valley termite-control company, testified
that he had the impression that he needed to make the
political donations as a condition for getting a contract
from the Casden firm. He has been granted immunity from
prosecution in exchange for his testimony.
The four volumes of transcripts do not contain evidence
that Archibald explicitly told subcontractors to illegally
launder political contributions. But prosecutors say the
grand jury testimony shows a conspiracy to subvert Los
Angeles' political system by collecting contributions from
employees and relatives, then reimbursing them to hide the
source of the money.
According to the transcripts, at least five contractors
told investigators that Archibald or another Casden
employee asked them to make contributions that prosecutors
say were illegal.
Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley has said that
Alan Casden, a prominent Southern California real estate
developer who had tried to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers, is
a target of the investigation, though he has not been
charged. One of Casden's attorneys, Thomas Nolan, said
Cooley does not have any evidence of wrongdoing by Casden
"Our position is that the grand jury transcripts support
what we have said all along, that neither Alan Casden nor
his companies have ever violated campaign contribution
laws, and further that John Archibald should never have
been indicted," Nolan said.
Robert Corbin, an attorney for Archibald, said he had not
reviewed the transcripts. "John Archibald is innocent,
period, as will be seen at trial," Corbin said.
During secret proceedings in November, grand jurors heard
testimony from 51 witnesses during eight days of testimony.
At least 30 people testified that they were reimbursed for
making donations, the transcript shows. Under the City
Charter, individuals can contribute no more than $1,000 for
candidates for citywide office and $500 for candidates for
the Los Angeles City Council.
The key witness appears to be Higgins, who told grand
jurors that he bid for a $211,000 contract to fumigate an
Anaheim apartment building owned by Casden's firm in
December 2000. Higgins told the grand jury that just as the
Anaheim contract was about to be signed, Archibald called
him and said there were a "couple of things" they had to do
Higgins said that included collecting $10,000 worth of
contributions from employees for the Connell campaign.
Higgins testified that he raised the issue of reimbursing
employees and Archibald suggested extra vacation or holiday
pay, according to the transcript.
"He talked about reimbursing them in some way or another,"
Higgins testified, "but he didn't specifically say, 'You
have got to reimburse your employees.' "
Higgins said he told Archibald that he was not going to
collect the contributions before he had a down payment on
the Anaheim job. Higgins testified that Archibald gave
Higgins a $37,000 check as a deposit.
After the Los Angeles Ethics Commission launched an
investigation into the contributions, Higgins said,
Archibald called him. Higgins testified that Archibald told
him "not to worry about it, it's no big deal." After
Higgins told Archibald that he had reimbursed some of his
employees for the political contributions, Higgins
testified that Archibald responded, "The Ethics Commission
may fine you," according to the transcripts.
Higgins testified that at the request of prosecutors, he
made a tape-recorded telephone call to Archibald in June. A
transcript of that phone call was entered as evidence but
not included with the transcripts.
"John Archibald is the linchpin of this conspiracy," Deputy
Dist. Atty. Richard Ceballos told grand jurors in his
closing argument. "Everything revolves around John
Archibald. He controls it."
The plot was a "pre-designed, deliberate attempt" to evade
election laws and to influence future decisions by city
officials in favor of Casden Properties, Ceballos told the
"The motives are simple," he said. "For John Archibald on
behalf of Casden Properties, it benefits Casden properties
and its influence, its future influence, on these city
officials and other candidates. And how are these
businesses benefited? Well, simple. They are benefited
because they get future business with Casden
Some of the contractors have admitted to The Times that
they unknowingly violated campaign finance rules, but they
have strongly denied being part of a money-laundering
Among the evidence submitted to the grand jury was an
eight-page list seized from Archibald's Simi Valley home.
It breaks down the $201,750 in contributions for Connell's
campaign made by companies and individuals. The district
attorney's office has not released the amount of alleged
contributions to Weiss, Delgadillo and Greuel.
Dozens of friends, family members and employees testified
that the subcontractors asked them to contribute money to
campaigns and that they were reimbursed for those
donations. Many of the witnesses were given immunity to
testify in front of the grand jury.
Several of the indicted subcontractors rely on business
from Casden Properties. Among those is Gerald Lundgren, who
heads Freedom Paint and faces a trial on conspiracy
charges. Casden projects bring in about $800,000 to $1
million each year to the company, roughly 50% of its annual
business, according to Stacey Lundgren, the defendant's
daughter. She testified that her father asked her in
January 2001 to make campaign contributions and that he
told her, "Casden is doing a donation. He asked us to
"And I guess because we do so much work for them," she
testified, "my father was willing to do the donation."
Prosecutors told grand jurors that Archibald bundled the
contributions from subcontractors and gave them to the
campaigns "with a notation that said contributions were
collected by Casden." The treasurer for Connell's mayoral
campaign testified that she didn't notice Casden's name
written on campaign donor cards.
Ed Hutcherson, one of the indicted subcontractors, told
investigators that he had been to a lunch meeting with an
unidentified Casden employee and five to six other
subcontractors, the transcripts said. The Casden employee
asked that the contractors support various candidates for
Los Angeles city offices, the transcripts said. Hutcherson
told the investigator that he agreed to collect the
donations and made reimbursements.
Another one of the defendants, William Isaac, told
investigators that Archibald said he needed Isaac to raise
$5,000 for Connell's campaign. Isaac gathered donations
from his wife and his employees and then reimbursed them,
according to the transcripts. After investigators began
asking questions, Isaac said he asked Archibald, "What have
you gotten us into?" according to the transcripts.
Archibald responded not to worry, the investigator
The indicted subcontractors include Anthony Boozel of the
concrete company TBCI; Brian Larrabure of framing company
BLF; Laszlo Furdek of Cal State Steel; Jerry Hein of Desert
Roofing; Bruce Shaffer of Starlight Showers and Doors;
James Gates of Capital Drywall; Randall Carpenter of Design
Masonry: Gerald Lundgren of Freedom Paint; David Mercer of
HMK Engineering; William Isaac of Isaac Construction; Ed
Hutcherson of Seems Plumbing; Simon Rubin of Simon's
Electric; and Isaac Zaharoni of Zaharoni Industries.
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