Over the past 18 months, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis has said repeatedly that she barely knew José Susumo Azano Matsura, who’s accused of making illegal campaign donations to Dumanis and other San Diego politicians.

But it turns out she knew Azano well enough to give him a nickname, hold a private conference call with him and personally email her campaign staff to tell them about Azano’s request that Dumanis use his preferred political consultant during her ill-fated 2012 mayoral campaign.

These new revelations come in recently filed documents in the criminal case against Azano and others accused of illegally funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars into San Diego campaigns, including Dumanis’, from 2011 to 2013. Azano is a Mexican national; federal law bars foreign citizens from donating to U.S. campaigns.

Dumanis hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing in the case. But she has consistently misrepresented the extent of her relationship with Azano. At the scandal’s outset, she said she only met with Azano once – at a luncheon at his Coronado mansion around December 2011. But we revealed another meeting she had with Azano and Sheriff Bill Gore. Dumanis has also said she doesn’t remember the content of any of the discussions she had with Azano.

“In a campaign, I meet thousands of people,” she told KUSI last summer.

Also in December 2011, Dumanis wrote an email to her mayoral campaign staff describing a conference call she held with Azano, political consultant Ravi Singh and her friend and Azano confidante Ernesto Encinas, according to the court filing.


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She told her staffers that Azano was very wealthy and that he’d told her to speak with Singh, “a master of Internet campaign stuff.”

In the email, according to the filing, she referred to Azano as “Mr. A” and was excited that Azano had put her in touch with Singh.

Singh, she wrote, “apparently flew to SD just to talk with Mr A who wanted him to talk to me!”

Throughout the mayoral campaign Dumanis had fundraising problems. Dumanis told her staff in the email it was unclear whether Singh wanted to volunteer or do paid work, but that she told him “about our budget issues.”

Prosecutors have said Singh provided $100,000 in undisclosed campaign work to Dumanis’ mayoral bid that was financed by Azano. Prosecutors also have said that straw donors tied to Azano funneled $13,000 to Dumanis’ campaign. Dumanis has said she knew nothing about either effort.

But she was aware of Singh and Azano’s attempts to help her. In spring 2012, she allowed Singh to run her campaign website without disclosing the work on campaign forms. Around the same time, one of Azano’s U.S. businesses donated $100,000 to a political action committee supporting Dumanis.

Dumanis also helped Azano. In fall 2012, she wrote a college recommendation letter for Azano’s son, calling him “an exceptional student and individual.”

Later that year, Azano sent her a holiday food basket, which she disclosed on gift forms.

Dumanis spokeswoman Tanya Sierra said the district attorney is looking forward to the case against Azano moving forward.

“The district attorney looks forward to the resolution of this criminal case and to seeing those who broke the law held accountable for their actions,” Sierra said.

Azano is facing a mountain of charges related to allegations he illegally donated to Dumanis and other San Diego politicians. There’s strong evidence to suggest Azano was seeking out politicians to help in his fight against San Diego-based Sempra Energy. He’s attempting to get much of the evidence against him thrown out and a key hearing in the case is scheduled for next week.

    This article relates to: Campaign Finance Scandal, Must Reads, Politics

    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.

    16 comments
    Sam Ballard
    Sam Ballard

    Rocky Neptune reported extensively about Her corruption as well as Todd Gloria, he was murdered in cold blood!  I was brutally attacked last May she has refused to charge the individual.  Between the two of them I am not sure who is worse.  When a sitting councilman's staff member and San Diego Police Department claims a victim of a violent crime is responsible for the attack because I have asked for an investigation into Tobacco Rhoda's and hold public meetings there is smoke! https://www.facebook.com/sam.ballard.96/posts/10207714126678001?pnref=story

    DavidM
    DavidM subscriber

    "Dumanis spokeswoman Tanya Sierra said the district attorney is looking forward to the case against Azano moving forward."


    I'll bet she is!  The sooner the case against "Mr. A" is resolved the sooner she can say "it's time to put this old news behind us."  Then she'll hit the morning news circuit, refuse to answer questions about this "old news," and talk about some new law enforcement initiative her political consultants dream up.


    The voters should be ashamed.

    Tyred
    Tyred subscriber

    All the folks who said I was mistaken during her campaign and here we are again. No surprise at all. The apathetic public 1. barely showed up to vote, 2. voted her back in as DA.  "I recognize that name, I'll check that one"....like high school student body elections or something.


    There's a recently promoted person at the DA's office that has businesses in TJ and is very tight with #2. It wouldn't surprise me at all if he was mixed up in this, either. So much corruption, buried by those in power and those afraid to lose their jobs. Those who get a spine are punished and their careers stop.  All dictators have used this model throughout history.


    Hell yes, she should go to jail, as should Gore.  As a former FBI SAC, he had to know the extensive history of who was meeting in his office as Sheriff.  But, Bonnie gave him a job as the Inv Chief during his transition, so he was scratching her back.  Pathetic.

    moleman
    moleman subscriber

    so Azano gets to fall on the sword and Dumanis walks away scot free?  nonsense.  Bonnie belongs in jail if this Azano character is going to go to jail.  it's illegal for foreign citizens to donate to campaigns, but U.S. citizens face no repercussions when they accept foreign donations???  boggles the mind to say the least...

    moleman
    moleman subscriber

    @BonnieDaMantis probably no laws on that, knowing how the American political system is.

    dave stutz
    dave stutz subscribermember

    Teflon Bonnie better remember that the Teflon Don died in prison.

    dave stutz
    dave stutz subscribermember

    Dumanis has lied over and over about her relationship with Mr A because she knows what she did was wrong and probably illegal. She would fire any Deputy DA who did the same thing.

    richard brick
    richard brick subscribermember

    Nice to add another layer of corruption to San Diego politics in addition to the lies told by office holders. I was wondering when an election would be held to get rid of the bought and paid for politicians that now hold office? 

    Chris Brewster
    Chris Brewster subscribermember

    There are many reasons to view Ms. Dumanis with disdain; but so long as she wins elections, it matters little.

    amy roth
    amy roth subscribermember

    @Chris Brewster the sad thing is that the American electorate doesn't care if someone is a crook; if they're going to vote for them they're going to vote for them, don't confuse them with the facts.

    Joe Jones
    Joe Jones subscriber

    @amy roth @Chris Brewster Amy, I yearn for the day when you become dictator. We can then do away with these irritating "elections" and simply follow your lead.

    David Crossley
    David Crossley subscriber

    Teflon Bonnie just keeps rolling along...