By Doug Porter
San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis appeared on KUSI-TV’s morning talk show today to release a copy of her letter of recommendation written for the son of indicted Mexican financier Susumo Azano.
A consortium of media organizations including City News Service, inewsource, KFMB News 8, KNSD/NBC 7, KPBS, KSWB/Fox 5, the San Diego Daily Transcript, San Diego Press Club, Society of Professional Journalists San Diego, U-T San Diego, and Voice of San Diego had made repeated requests for a copy of the document.
At 5pm yesterday a deadline passed for what was essentially a demand letter (the last thing you do before you sue somebody) written by attorney Guylyn Cummins on behalf of the media organizations.
KUSI, it turns out, wasn’t one of those news organizations, apparently not wanting to displease a powerful prosecutor (whose office–wink,wink– can provide reliable news tips). Or maybe it’s just because the station is proud of their record of sucking up to politicians.
Financier Anzano has been indicted in an ongoing investigation focusing on $600,000 in illegal foreign cash ended up in local campaigns, including Dumanis’s failed 2012 run for mayor. The DA has repeatedly minimized her connections with the Mexican billionaire, even as more stories about her encounters with him have appeared in the media.
Dumanis stonewalled the media for weeks about the letter, who became aware of its existence following a courtroom appeal by political rival Bob Brewer who sought to have it released from evidence collected by federal prosecutors.
From this morning’s UT-San Diego story:
The reference was written on District Attorney’s letterhead in September 2012 on behalf of Edward Susumo Azano, who was seeking admission to the University of San Diego.
The letter may shed more light on the relationship between Dumanis and the Azano family. She has refused to release it, saying it’s not a matter of public business, and that she is protecting the student’s privacy.
Guylyn Cummins, the attorney representing the media organizations, said in her letter on Monday that those justifications are not valid under state open records laws.
The 8am interview (audio) with the DA was (accurately, in my opinion) described by one wag on Twitter as “performance art.”
Dumanis proclaimed that media accounts of her obstinacy were “much ado about nothing.” The KUSI talking head agreed, saying the document “seems like a standard letter of recommendation.”
“I’m the only one that was open on this from the beginning,” Dumanis told KUSI, “I think it’s time to move on.”
The DA went on to say there were “two kinds” of recommendation letters, one issued when “someone I know personally asks” and another when “some one I know” asks for a letter. She even tried to make the point that the letter for Anzano’s son was on less-than-official stationary. (It contained the DA’s seal, her name, phone number and the name of her title)
Even though the letter of recommendation was written four months after City Beat reporter Dave Maass revealed Anzano’s donations to a Super PAC supporting Dumanis, the DA sat up there at KUSI and said she had no reason to question the request.
Dumanis also apparently had no reason to remember the letter when Maass filed a public records request for all documents relating to “Susumo Azano” one month after she’d signed it. Even if she’d opted not to release the letter as part of the request, the law says the DA’s office should have given a reason. The fact is they simply didn’t acknowledge its existence.
So DA Dumanis’ brilliant public relations move just makes her look more sleazy.
Voice of San Diego has an excellent recap of stories about this campaign finance scandal. Here’s the second paragraph of their introduction:
Prosecutors say San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis was the first and last target of Jose Susumo Azano Matsura, a Mexican citizen who allegedly illegally funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to Dumanis and other local candidates.
The above is an excerpt from Doug Porter’s daily column over at our online media partner, San Diego Free Press.