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A prominent San Diego political consultant, under indictment over a $5,890 payment to a video company, charged this week that he is part of a “Justice Department witch hunt” against Democrats. Larry Remer, who was indicted by a federal grand jury on Aug. 20, claimed in an opinion piece that ran in the San Diego Union-Tribune that he is innocent of any wrongdoing, and that there’s plenty of evidence that the Justice Department is “cherry-picking Democrats.” Remer cited the local prosecution of three Democratic city council members to bolster his case. Michael Pancer of the Law Offices of Michael Pancer in San Diego, a veteran federal court defense attorney who represents Remer, alleged that there is a “push within the Justice Department to target Democrats, and I have two clients who wouldn’t be clients if they weren’t Democrats.” He was referring to one of the indicted city council members. The councilmen were indicted last August on conspiracy and wire fraud charges Deborah Hartman, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Carol Lam, countered that “[p]olitical affiliation plays no role in prosecutorial decisions.” She also noted that Lam is nonpartisan and has been appointed and endorsed by both Demo-crats and Republicans. However, local lawyers say, it seems odd that in a region where most politicians are Republican-and most federal criminal prosecutions have to do with border-related crime-that so many Democrats have been indicted since Lam took office in November 2002. Candace Carroll, a prominent local Democrat and past president of the San Diego Bar Association, charged that “[i]n the very least, it’s naivete combined with political opportunism. When someone handed them a prominent Democrat consultant, they had to bite.” In California, a state board called the Fair Political Practices Commission usually handles investigations of campaign finance irregularities, generally as civil matters. But Remer and Southwestern College’s former president, Serafin Zasueta, came under federal grand jury investigation over payment to a media company for a $5,890 video produced for the college’s 2000 campaign to get approval for $89 million in bonds. According to Remer, after voters approved the bonds, the media consulting company was not paid for the video because the campaign had no money left. But, he said, he suggested that the college could use the raw tapes to, among other things, help teach public relations and advertising. At Zasueta’s direction, the college paid for the tapes. The transaction came into question earlier this year, as college board members audited Zasueta’s business dealings. Remer and Zasueta were charged with alleged conspiracy, two counts of wire fraud and theft. The federal indictment alleges that the payment, from college district funds after the campaign ended, violates state education code barring the use of district funds for ballot measure campaigns. U.S. v. Remer and Zasueta, 04 CR 2233 (S.D. Calif.).

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