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It's time again for safely reelected House member Juan Vargas to be out shaking his big-money trees for the Democrat's annual "Torrey Pines Golf and Family Weekend."
With contributions starting at $1500 for "sponsor" and $2500 for "host," the February 20 through 22 shindig promises to be as lucrative as ever for the Democrat's campaign fund.
According the latest disclosure report of his main campaign committee, Vargas — who easily defeated an elderly, self-styled transgendered Republican candidate in the fall — raised a total of $762,170 during the 2014 election cycle as of November 24.
Heavy hitters included employees and principals of Duty Free Americas, the Florida-based border shop operators who are lobbying heavily for a new mega-complex at the Mexican border crossing here, with $15,600; Sunroad Enterprises, run by big-giving border magnate Aaron Feldman; the Chandi Group USA of regional gas and fast food outlet mogul Singh Chandi; the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees; and the political action committees of military contractors BAE Systems, Northrup Grumman, and General Dynamics.
As the party standard bearer in one of the safest Democrat congressional seats in California, Vargas has been largely able to avoid probing questions regarding his involvement with the federal money-laundering cases of Mexican money mogul José Susumo Azano Matsura and La Jolla luxury car dealer Marc Chase.
Federal indictments have charged that Chase funneled $30,000 in campaign cash to the Democratic national congressional campaign committee from Azano, a Mexican national barred by law from making such contributions, after a dinner meeting with Vargas.
Chase has copped a guilty plea and is awaiting sentencing; Azano is fighting the charges.
Vargas met Azano for dinner on September 17, 2012, but denied in an August 2014 interview with U-T San Diego that he did any fundraising that night.
Present at the dinner was Marco Polo Cortes, a longtime San Diego city hall insider and strip-club lobbyist who also faces charges in the money-laundering case. Ernesto “Ernie” Encinas, an ex–San Diego cop who has entered a guilty plea in the case and is said to be cooperating with the government, was there as well.
“I never asked for money," Vargas was quoted by the paper as saying. "They never told me they would give me money. They never gave me money.”
The cash for the Democratic committee rolled in a week later, on September 24, the report says. According to the U-T’s account, Vargas subsequently wrote Chase a thank-you letter.
As previously reported here, last year's family and golf benefit for Vargas was headlined by House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland. The latest invitation, posted online by PoliticalPartyTime.org, omits mention of cosponsors.