Report alleges 'campaign contribution laundering scheme' involving Oakland mayor, city officials

According to ABC7 News analysis of state and federal data, Andy Duong and his father contributed over $250K to 28 CA candidates.

Wednesday, June 26, 2024
What we know about family behind Oakland political corruption probe
Report details Andy Duong family's political ties and who they donated to, including Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao whose home was raided by the FBI.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- There are new details about one of the individuals at the center of the FBI's political corruption investigation, which resulted in the raid of the Oakland mayor's home last week.

A short search on Andy Duong's Instagram page shows he frequently posts with people in high places in the political world - including President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Governor Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Rob Bonta, and Health and Human Services Secretary and former state Attorney General Xavier Becerra. The list includes elected leaders in other states, such as Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford.

According to an investigation by the Fair Political Practices Commission, which is a state oversight arm, "Andy Duong was the true source of at least 93 contributions to multiple local campaign committees when he created a campaign contribution laundering scheme to benefit his family-owned company, California Waste Solutions."

The report states Duong was, "falsely using the names of intermediaries or straw donors, instead of disclosing CWS, as the true source of the contributions."

VIDEO: Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao sheds tears in fiery speech responding to FBI raid, recall effort

The public heard from Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao for the first time on Monday since her house was raided by the FBI last week.

According to the FPPC, this is an ongoing investigation with evidence suggesting it started around 2016 through 2018 and included some campaign contributions that were reported to be fraudulently concealed from the public.

The FPPC conducted the investigation in coordination with the Oakland Public Ethics Commission. It's unclear if there will ever be formal charges filed. The I-Team asked the FPPC for further clarification on the status of the investigation. We received the following statement:

"This remains an open investigation/open case. Per regulation and longstanding practice, I/we do not and cannot comment on any complaint or open case/investigation," said Jay Wierenga, FPPC Communications Director.

According to an FPPC report, all but one of the campaign committees targeted were in jurisdictions with local contribution limits. The investigation found that during this time, the city of Oakland prohibited campaign contributions from contractors providing services to the city, requiring approval from the city council.

Yet, documents show many of the targeted committees were candidates running for city council.

For example, Sheng Thao running for City Council in 2018 received $9,900 from Duong that the FPPC alleges was laundered through 13 different people.

MORE: Attorney Anthony Brass no longer representing Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao

According to the FPPC:

  • Larry Reid also received $5,600 allegedly laundered through eight different entities.
  • Dan Kalb received $4,200 allegedly laundered through six different people or entities.
  • Rebecca Kaplan received $3,500 allegedly laundered through seven people.
  • Former Councilmember Desley Brooks received $18,700 over two campaign cycles, allegedly laundered through 24 people.
  • Former Councilmember Abel Guillen, who's currently California's Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction, received $4,200 allegedly laundered through 12 people.

"Shady, shady, unethical... they tend to operate in this bribery system," said Shirley Gee, describing the Duongs.

Gee is the Executive Director of the Vietnamese American Community Center of the East Bay. She is not speaking on behalf of the organization but as a community activist.

She says she got to know the Duongs at a gala fundraiser for Vietnamese American seniors.

"At the gala, he jumped up and said he was going to pledge $1,500 to the seniors, everybody clapped... but when we went to collect from him, we sent multiple emissaries... we asked where it was, he first did a hiding game... in the end, he stiffed us," said Gee.

According to an ABC7 News analysis of state and federal data, both Andy Duong and his father, David Duong, made contributions totaling more than $250,000 to 28 candidates across California. Across the country, the family made more than 300 contributions to candidates or political action committees totaling over $2 million.

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This includes donations to the campaigns for Rep. Eric Swalwell, Rep. Adam Schiff, Rep. Barbara Lee, and even former President Donald Trump.

Statewide, the contributions also span both the Democratic and Republican parties. About 13% of state campaign donations were to Republican candidates and committees.

Graph not displaying correctly? Click here to open in a new window.

A campaign spokesperson for Congressman Schiff wrote the I-Team, "Following public news reports, the campaign will be giving $26,000, the total contribution received from Mr. Duong and his family, to a local nonprofit helping address housing and homelessness."

We reached out to the other public officials directly but haven't immediately heard back.

California Waste Solutions sent the following statement to the I-Team:

Mr. David Duong and his family have been conducting business in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 4 decades. Over these 40 years, we have established numerous relationships with the community, various associations, and businesses everywhere, especially in the Bay Area. We were very surprised by the federal law enforcement's search of our homes and office on June 20. To help facilitate the law enforcement agencies in carrying out their duties, we, as good citizens who always obey the law, have cooperated, and provided every possible condition for the law enforcement agency to perform their work effectively. We believe that we have not engaged in or committed any illegal activities and are awaiting the decision of the law enforcement agency. In the meantime, CWS will continue to proudly provide recycling services to countless communities throughout the Bay Area.

Mayor Thao broke her silence since last week's FBI raid during a press conference Monday.

"I'm seeking the truth right now just as much as you all are, but I will not be bullied. I will not be disparaged. I will not be threatened out of this office," Thao said, pointing to concerns the raid may be connected to the recall. "Well guess what I'm not going down like that ... the people who voted for me deserved to have their voices heard and communities prioritized."

The FBI has not formally accused Thao or members of the Duong family of wrongdoing.

Take a look at more stories by the ABC7 News I-Team.

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