Variety: FPPC Rejects Claim Wanda Used Foreign Money in Beverly Hills Election
News story originally published at Variety.com
By Gene Maddaus
The California Fair Political Practices Commission has declined to investigate the Dalian Wanda Group for allegedly using foreign money in a Beverly Hills ballot fight.
In a letter dated Thursday, the FPPC said it had “no evidence” that the money used in the campaign originated from overseas.
Wanda is engaged is a fierce battle with the Beverly Hilton over rival developments along Santa Monica Boulevard. The Hilton put an initiative on the November ballot in an effort to gain approval to build a 26-story condo tower.
At the same time, the Hilton is opposing Wanda’s plans to build a large hotel and condo project immediately to the west of the Hilton property. Wanda, in turn, has formed a committee to defeat the Hilton’s ballot initiative.
So far, the committee has reported receiving $1.2 million in donations from Lakeshore East Parcel P, an entity associated with a Wanda development in Chicago. UNITE HERE Local 11, which represents the Hilton’s employees, filed complaints with the FPPC and the Federal Election Commission alleging that Lakeshore was acting at the direction of the parent company in China. If true, that would be a violation of state and federal election law.
UNITE HERE retained Gary Winuk, the FPPC’s former head of enforcement, to file the complaints.
Galena West, Winuk’s successor at the FPPC, advised Winuk in the letter that he had offered no evidence to suggest that the funds came from abroad or were controlled by foreign principals. She also stated that Wanda Beverly Hills had sought the FPPC’s advice on how to report the source of the funds in order to comply with the law.
“The Enforcement Division will not open a case on this matter,” West wrote.
In an e-mail Winuk said he was still hopeful that the FEC would examine the allegations.
“They have highlighted the issue of foreign contributions recently. Also foreign contributions are more strongly a federal regulatory issue than a state one,” Winuk wrote. “We put together the best case we could using open source materials. This clearly needs to be examined by a government agency with subpoena power to acquire the evidence needed to provide further evidence that the Wanda Group was involved in the contribution. Clearly from everything submitted this is very likely to have occurred.”
A Wanda representative said the allegations were based on “innuendo and speculation.”
The conflict between the Hilton and Wanda is playing out as Wanda faces increasing scrutiny on Capitol Hill. Several lawmakers have recently expressed concern that Wanda is buying up entertainment companies, and could use them as an arm of Chinese propaganda.