Party says it will hold tainted funds in trust for now
By Jeff McDonald
Feb. 21, 2014

One month after pledging to dispose of $30,000 pegged by prosecutors as an illegal campaign contribution from a foreign national, the Democratic Party of San Diego County has yet to send back or donate the money.

Instead, the contribution was deposited into an escrow account controlled by the party until federal or state officials tell them where it should go, Chairwoman Francine Busby told U-T Watchdog.

Busby said it was not clear whether the money should be returned to the original donor or given to the state or federal government, so the party attorney recommended holding it in trust.

“We are not expecting to keep the money, but to ensure that we don’t send it to the wrong place our attorney has advised that we take this step pending more information and direction from legal authorities,” she said.

Busby declined to identify the attorney or provide a copy of the legal opinion.

U-T Watchdog surveyed 10 politicians and political groups that apparently accepted money originating from Mexican tycoon Jose Susumo Azano Matsura, who pleaded not guilty on Thursday of an illegal effort to funnel $600,000 of his funds into local campaigns.

Seven either returned the funds or are in the process of identifying a charity to accept the donations.

Two recipients — former Mayor Bob Filner and Congressman Juan Vargas — did not respond to requests asking what they did with the contributions. Vargas’ campaign stated earlier that it planned to return the money, but the purpose of the follow-up survey by the Watchdog was to confirm funds had been disposed.

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