This tumultuous year has proven the essential nature of nonpartisan local news. Every day we bring you news critical to staying informed and active in the community. Join us with a tax-deductible donation.
Two of Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do’s top aides were previously involved with a state election campaign that pled guilty to laundering $65,000 in campaign money – with both officials refusing to cooperate with investigators and failing to show up to an interview they were subpoenaed to appear at, according to state records.
Do’s campaign treasurer, Lysa Ray, 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 in 2016 and agreed to a $40,000 fine.
As part of the plea deal, Ray and the campaign admitted they violated state law when they “purposefully or negligently caused, or aided and abetted, three persons to make four earmarked, over-the-limit contributions totaling $65,000” and “filed false campaign statements” that concealed the violations by falsely reporting the money as coming from county parties that were serving as intermediaries.
Do and Wangsaporn didn’t respond to phone messages seeking comment for this story.
Ray, when contacted for comment Wednesday, said she didn’t know the money was being laundered and that treasurers are always named as defendants in such cases.
“Treasurers are always named in everything,” Ray said. “I certainly wouldn’t have accepted earmarked money.”
In a written statement she sent state investigators in 2016, Ray said she assumes her clients know the law, though state authorities said the law makes her responsible for ensuring campaign money reports are accurate.
“Ray contends that, for all campaigns for which she serves as treasurer, she verifies that contributions and expenditures ‘conform on their face’ with the [Political Reform] Act. She also contends that when political party committees send checks for her clients, she assumes political party committees know campaign laws. And Ray contends that she used ‘reasonable diligence’ in preparing the Committee’s campaign statements,” states the final report from the California Fair Political Practices Commission.
“Even so, as treasurer of the Committee, the Act holds Ray strictly liable concerning the receipt and expenditure of funds and the reporting of such funds.”
Emails obtained by state investigators show Wangsaporn notifying Strickland he received $32,400 from one donor and $15,000 from another, for a “Total of 47,400.”
Wangsaporn said the Ventura County Republican Party would be taking 7 percent and a fundraiser another 15 percent, and that “Mike [Osborn, VCRP Chairman] will be cutting you a check for 37,490.”
The local Democratic Party, which is backing Do’s opponent in the November election, says Do’s decision to hire Wangsaporn and Ray is concerning.
“It’s just concerning that Do would be working with folks that are not thoughtful…it just shows his disregard and that he cannot be trusted,” said Ada Briceño, chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Orange County. The party is backing Sergio Contreras, a Democrat and Westminster councilman, against Do, a Republican.
“[Do] holds a very important position, and he should be working with people who are doing things properly. It doesn’t give me confidence. And he should let them go,” Briceño said.
Do didn’t return a message asking if he wants to respond to criticism of his decision to work with Wangsaporn and Ray.
Fred Whitaker, chairman of the Republican Party of Orange County, didn’t return a phone message for comment.
Do also is facing renewed allegations that he’s been illegally living outside the central-county district he represents.
An August complaint to the state Attorney General claims Do has been illegally living at a home he and his wife own in the 3rd District, despite serving as the 1st District’s elected supervisor and stating in election paperwork that he lives at a smaller home in the 1st District.
Do has declined to comment on the latest round of residency fraud allegations.
The complaint alleges Do engaged in felony fraud by falsely stating on voter registration and candidacy paperwork that he lives at a smaller, Westminster home owned by Do and his wife in the 1st District. In 2014, 2016 and 2019, Do attested in candidacy paperwork that he meets the residency requirements for the supervisor seat.
A separate state law says county supervisors automatically lose their seat if they live outside their district at any point in their term.
Attorney General officials have declined to comment on the complaint, which requests a criminal investigation of Do.
Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.