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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.
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.