State Launches Money Laundering Investigation into Andrew Do and OC Republican Party

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

OC Supervisor Andrew Do at the Jan. 8, 2019 county Board of Supervisors meeting.

State authorities have launched a money laundering investigation into Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do, focusing on whether he secretly – and potentially illegally – steered over $22,000 last month to his own campaign through the Orange County Republican Party.

Do and OC Republican Party Chairman Fred Whitaker didn’t return phone messages Monday seeking comment on the allegations.

Do’s campaign treasurer, Lysa Ray, also is accused in the complaint of violating state law as part of the alleged money laundering. She declined to comment when reached by phone Monday.

The complaint centers on Do’s transfer last month of $24,000 from an account he controls that has no contribution limits – known as a Central Committee account – into the Orange County Republican Party’s campaign account. Less than two weeks later, the party transferred $22,326 to Do’s supervisor campaign committee.

“This appears to be thinly veiled attempt to disguise the true source of the donations to Andrew Do’s Supervisor account in an effort to skirt Orange County’s TIN-CUP ordinance and the campaign contribution limits contained therein, which would apply to Andrew Do’s Central Committee account,” states the complaint, by a person named Mario Angeles, Jr.

“In Short, this was an illegal transfer of funds, with the Orange County Republican Party acting as an intermediary in a money laundering scheme perpetrated by Supervisor Andrew Do.”

Investigators with the California Fair Political Practices Commission opened an investigation into Do’s campaign and the Orange County Republican Party, according to a letter Friday responding to the complaint.

Under Orange County’s voter-approved contribution limits, known as TIN CUP, county supervisor candidates are limited to accepting $2,100 per donor.

Political parties are exempt and can donate unlimited amounts directly to candidates, but it’s illegal to use a county party to launder money meant for specific candidates and to hide the true source of money on campaign documents.

The money laundering allegations are similar to a prior investigation that led to a guilty plea by Do’s campaign treasurer in 2016.

Ray, the treasurer, was among those who agreed to a $40,000 fine for eight counts of money laundering and false campaign statements in Tony Strickland’s 2010 campaign for state controller.

Do’s chief of staff since early 2017, Chris Wangsaporn, was Strickland’s chief of staff at the time of the laundering and kept Strickland informed of plans to run about $37,000 of the donations from an oil and gas businessman through the Ventura County Republican Party to Strickland’s campaign, according to emails obtained by state investigators.

Both Wangsaporn and Ray declined to cooperate with the state investigation into the laundering and blew off interviews they were subpoenaed to appear at, according to state authorities.

“Strickland, Wangsaporn and Ray did not cooperate with the investigation of this matter,” according to the final investigation report from the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

“Strickland, Wangsaporn and Ray were subpoenaed for interviews with the Enforcement Division on November 19, 2014. None appeared, and their attorney failed to respond to telephone and email inquiries regarding the interviews.”

Ultimately, Ray, Strickland and his campaign admitted to eight counts of violating state law.

Democrats, who are backing Do’s opponent in November’s election, seized on the FPPC’s announcement to criticize Do.

“Andrew Do and his allies have proven time and time again that they are willing to do whatever it takes to protect and advance their political careers, including bending and breaking the law,” said Sergio Contreras, the Westminster councilman who’s challenging Do in the November election, in a statement.

“In these times of crisis we need leaders with integrity, and Andrew Do clearly isn’t cut for it,” said Ada Briceño, chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Orange County, in a statement.

“Enough is enough: No more corruption on the OC Board of Supervisors. This latest FPPC violation — hardly Do’s first — shows we have a clear choice this November.”

Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. You can contact him at [email protected].