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Ramani campaign under investigation

Complaint alleges 33 violations in reporting his finances for Assembly race.

June 22, 2010|By Christopher Cadelago

State election officials are investigating claims that Republican Sunder Ramani, a candidate for the 43rd Assembly District, violated campaign finance laws by failing to file campaign statements within 24 hours of receiving contributions.

Roman Porter, executive director of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, on Monday confirmed the investigation into Ramani, but declined to provide specifics about the breadth of the probe.

The complaint alleges 33 reporting violations. At $5,000 per infraction, the commission could levy a fine of up to $165,000.

The commission has determined that the allegations "appear to be accurate" and gave Ramani one week from June 7 to provide proof that he reported within the deadlines. Campaign officials said they responded with all the necessary documents.

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John Thomas, Ramani's campaign manager, said the campaign relied on a volunteer treasurer who "graciously donated her time and efforts."

"But I guess she missed the deadline on several of our contributions taken in from the day," Thomas said. "There was a slip-up. We try to operate a lot with volunteers, but of course this turned out to be a mixed bag."

The complaint, filed as the hard-fought battle for the seat vacated by Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian drew to a close, alleges that Ramani failed to file electronic "late contribution report(s)" within 24 hours of receiving contributions of at least $1,000 during an election cycle.

Ramani's campaign finance report from late March to late May shows that he took in $74,100 in contributions that he was required to report within 24 hours. The 33 contributions allegedly make up more than 63% of the candidate's total haul of $117,958.

The complaint states that by "hiding his contributions, Ramani is depriving voters in the 43rd Assembly District the opportunity to know who is bankrolling his campaign."

Among those listed are: $3,900 from Burbank Mass Associates LLC; $3,900 from National Fire Systems and Services and $1,000 from Warner Bros. Entertainment.

Thomas characterized nearly all of the campaign's contributions as "mom and pop," and said the alleged violations amounted to a "clerical error."

"I think the FPPC will be lenient with us," Thomas said.

Ramani, former president of the Burbank Chamber of Commerce, conceded the special June 8 election for the 43rd Assembly District to Democrat Mike Gatto, but has since declined to say whether he planned to campaign for November's general election.

His concession statement thanked supporters for helping to break the "chain of uncontested local races" in the district, which includes parts of Los Angeles and nearly all of Burbank and Glendale.

"I think he needs another couple of days and we'll have an announcement," Thomas said Monday.

Whatever his decision, his name would remain on the November ballot.

The commission this month said it was also investigating Democrat Chahe Keuroghelian, a former candidate for the same seat, for allegedly failing to file proper campaign disclosure reports.

The complaint says Keuroghelian failed to meet the 24-hour deadline for reporting money raised through a telethon on AMGA Channel 280, and that he supplemented his campaign through independent expenditures financed by Gatto operatives.

Keuroghelian and Gatto have repeatedly denied any collusion. Keuroghelian characterized the complaints as "absolutely false" and malicious.

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