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    Former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner met with Mexican national Jose Susumo Azano Matsura at Azano’s Coronado estate weeks before Azano is alleged to have spent $340,000 in illegal donations to Filner’s successful mayoral bid, according to a source who witnessed the meeting and who would only speak on the condition of anonymity.

    Lobbyist Marco Polo Cortes and former San Diego Police Department detective Ernesto Encinas also attended the meeting, the source said. Federal law enforcement officials allege Cortes and Encinas worked to illegally funnel a Mexican national’s money to local campaigns over the past two years. Azano and Filner are not specifically named in the federal complaints, but are widely believed to be involved.

    Azano, the source said, brought in a chef from the high-end Nobu sushi restaurant chain to cater the meeting. Filner and Azano did not discuss fundraising during the meeting, the source said. But immediately after the meeting, and multiple times following, the source overheard Cortes and Encinas say Azano might be interested in funding an independent expenditure on Filner’s behalf.

    It’s illegal for foreign nationals to donate money to American campaigns.


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    Two weeks after the Azano meeting, Cortes and Encinas escorted Filner to around 15 downtown bars and restaurants on a walking fundraiser, said the source, who also witnessed this meeting.

    The source’s account is supported by a copy of Filner’s campaign calendar separately obtained by Voice of San Diego.

    The calendar lists a “meet and greet” on Aug. 17 with Cortes and someone identified on the calendar as “Mr. Affano,” a misspelling of Azano, the source confirmed. The calendar also lists a “Walking the Gaslamp” meeting with Cortes and Encinas on Sept. 1.

    A month after the Gaslamp fundraiser, federal law enforcement officials allege Cortes, Encinas and others approached a representative of Filner’s campaign about social media spending to assist his mayoral bid. The Filner representative agreed to the spending even though that person knew it would be illegally off the books, the complaints say. Soon after, the complaint alleges Azano’s company gave a campaign consultant $190,000 for social media to support Filner.

    Around the same time, a straw donor working on behalf of Azano, reportedly La Jolla car dealer Marc Chase, donated $120,000 through his companies to an independent expenditure that supported Filner and $30,000 to the Democratic Party on Filner’s behalf, the complaints said.

    Both Azano and Filner, who is serving three months of house arrest stemming from charges related to a sexual harassment scandal, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. Lawyers for Cortes and Encinas declined to comment.

    Encinas worked as a San Diego police officer for more than three decades before retiring in 2009. He’s since started his own security firm that primarily handled bars and restaurants downtown. Federal officials say Encinas also handled security for the Mexican national believed to be Azano. Cortes is a San Diego lobbyist who worked on behalf of entertainment and towing companies, among others.

      This article relates to: Campaign Finance Scandal, News, Share

      Written by Liam Dillon

      Liam Dillon is senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He leads VOSD’s investigations and writes about how regular people interact with local government. What should he write about next? Please contact him directly at liam.dillon@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5663.

      14 comments
      nora1
      nora1

      FACT CHECK PLEASE! it is NOT illegal for a "foreign national" (the big boogie word used all over the media in this scandal) if that "foreign national" is a permanent US resident, which according to all reports I have read, Mr. Azano is.

      http://www.fec.gov/pages/brochures/foreign.shtml#Individuals_Green_Card


      So, where is the scandal - is it that he earned money abroad? so, what, so do many major CEOs and corporations that give freely in our elections. Or is this more of a garden variety scandal - failure to report social media spending (which by the way, is extremely poorly regulated, and therefore may not even be a campaign finance violation).

      And if the only genuine issue is one of social media campaign spending disclosure why are we demonizing a man because of his immigration status? I don't know Mr. Azano, but it is a scary precedent being set by VOSD and the entire media to use the word "foreign national" and "foreign" as a slur... It feels uncomfortably like a misleading campaign hit piece, that plays straight into people's xenophobia.

      I genuinely have yet to grasp what the proposed offense is worthy of so much press, of trashing a private man's reputation. He walked through the Gaslamp with bob Filner? He was active in politics? He gave political contributions? So what??? this is called civic involvement and the lincoln club, some shady corporation called "Stuck in the Rough, LLC" and millions of individuals and corporations, for better or worse, across the US do it daily without being trashed in the press.

      Yes, social media spending should be reported, but the laws on this are NOT clear, since social media is not always subject to campaign disclosure laws. It should be better regulated, it should be reported, but these stories are not focusing on the poor regulation of social media, they are focused on making one man so toxic that former allies run away from him. And from where I sit, until I hear some actual concrete evidence of an ethical violation, this is wrong.

      Foreign Nationalshttp://www.fec.gov/pages/brochures/foreign.shtml#Individuals_Green_CardPublished in July 2003 The ban on political contributions and expenditures by foreign nationals was first enacted in 1966 as part of the amendments to the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), an "internal security" statute. The goal of the FARA wa...

      La Playa Heritage
      La Playa Heritage subscribermember

      There was very limited social media efforts from the Filner campaign.

      The Social Media guru guy may have took $190,000 for himself, then did no work.

      Besides the two Retweets, [which costs zero dollars (not $190,000)] what other evidence exist that the Filner campaign received social media help?

      If the campaign's Social Media and Google ads presence increased, the media and supporters would have commented on the change.

      Liam Dillon
      Liam Dillon memberadministrator

      Also, worth noting that the $190k allegedly given to Filner campaign social media efforts was off the books, which is illegal green card or not. And the $150k allegedly given to a Filner IE and Democratic Party were through an alleged straw donor, which is illegal green card or not.

      Andy Cohen
      Andy Cohen subscriber

      "Foreign national" is the term used by the FBI in the complaint. It is a legal term, not a derogatory term.

      But I do agree with you, Nora, that our media is tending to sensationalize the relationship a bit. There are simply far too many facts that we don't yet have. At this point it's all guilt by association, without any proof of wrongdoing on the part of the candidates/elected officials. More concerning is the role the candidates' representatives played in facilitating the illegal donations (outside of working with the FBI, that is), or at the very least knowingly turning a blind eye..

      nora1
      nora1

      Interesting, because I read both in the UT and in Citybeat that he is a green card holder. http://www.sdcitybeat.com/sandiego/blog-914-new-dumanis-super-pac-backed-by-mexican-businessman.htmlNew Dumanis superPAC tied to Mexican businessmanhttp://www.sdcitybeat.com/sandiego/blog-914-new-dumanis-super-pac-backed-by-mexican-businessman.htmlBonnie Dumanis A political action committee supporting District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis' campaign for mayor has raised $118,000, with the largest donation coming from an obscure company registered to a Mexican citizen. The independent-expenditure com...

      nora1
      nora1

      Good point. Lets see how the facts play out. Mr. Azano ownes a home in Coronado, apparently told people he was a green card holder and obviously participated heavily in politics. It would stand to reason that he probably is a green card holder, even though the FBI complaint states differently. That said, if he is not,he acted extremely stupidly, since the laws regarding non-green-card-holders are very clear.

      Andy Cohen
      Andy Cohen subscriber

      No, that's what the guy heading the Dumanis independent expenditure committee told the campaign representatives. It turns out that it wasn't true, and that, according to the FBI, Azano did not/does not have a green card.

      Liam Dillon
      Liam Dillon memberadministrator

      According to the federal complaint, Mr. Azano does not have a green card.

      Andy Cohen
      Andy Cohen subscriber

      Meeting with a "foreign national" is not against the law. For all we know at this point, Filner could have been discussing Azano making donations to the Balboa Park Centennial or to CiclosDias or some other charitable cause. As of right now there is no evidence to suggest that Filner knew of the illegal campaign finance scheme, just as there is currently no evidence to suggest that Bonnie Dumanis knew of the illegal donations to her campaign.

      That could change, of course, but at this point it's unfair to characterize any meeting at all as sinister. The meetings in and of themselves are not indicators of illegal activity or wrongdoing. Otherwise we'd have to bring Councilwoman Marti Emerald under suspicion for taking a meeting with Encinas and Cortes. But again, there is no evidence that anything untoward came of that meeting.

      The real culprit here is the Citizens United decision and the independent expenditure committees it more or less spawned. Even if there was illegal participation on the part of the candidates or campaigns, Citizens United makes it all too easy to hide behind the law, since coordination in any way between the campaigns/candidates and the committees is strictly illegal.

      La Playa Heritage
      La Playa Heritage subscribermember

      The only Social Media or Google ads placement for Filner came from two Retweets from @CampaignCloudOS on October 31, 2012.

      https://twitter.com/CampaignCloudOS

      The Filner campaign had little Social Media or Google presence, and many supporters complained about the lack of free advertising using Facebook and Twitter.

      There could not have been any in-kind social media or google help without everyone noticing at the time. The two Retweets would not have cost any money.Campaign Cloud (CampaignCloudOS) on Twitterhttps://twitter.com/CampaignCloudOSThe latest from Campaign Cloud (@CampaignCloudOS). The Ultimate Campaigns and Elections Platform. Worldwide

      christine mann
      christine mann subscriber

      once again all smoke. There is no fire here. Independent expenditure committees are on their own. that's why they are "independent" and should be outlawed. Filner is not even a little corrupt. He is naïve as hell but not corrupt.

      David Crossley
      David Crossley subscriber

      I agree with you that the so-called "independent" campaign donations should be outlawed, but until everything plays out on the Filner fiasco, I would not be too quick to say that Filner is not even a little corrupt. Coming from you though, I wouldn't have expected anything else. By the way, he is not naïve, but he is more than a little disturbing.

      Don Blucher
      Don Blucher subscriber

      At the very least, Filner may be greedy, and is self-centered, power-obsessed, selfish, arrogant, and overly egotistical.(like many other politicians and "public figures"). He, unfortunately, put himself in the position he is presently in.

      Grammie
      Grammie

      You state "Filner is not even a little corrupt." How do you know this with such assurance?