NBC 7 has learned both mayoral candidates David Alvarez and Kevin Faulconer met with a key player in a major campaign finance scandal.
San Diego-based lobbyist Marco Polo Cortes has been charged with conspiring to finance political campaigns using money from an illegal foreign source. That source has been identified as Mexico businessman Jose Susomo Azano Matsura. It is against the law for a foreign national to contribute to American political campaigns.
Alvarez’s calender, which is pubic record, shows the mayoral hopeful met with Cortes at least five times since 2010. Alvarez said what was discussed at the meetings had nothing to do with what’s involved in the investigation.
"We were meeting about bus transportation in the San Ysidro area. He worked for a bus company. In addition to that-- food truck ordinance. The city is considering a food truck ordinance to regulate trucks in the city, and he was representing both of those interests,” Alvarez said in an interview with NBC 7 on Monday.
NBC 7 also learned mayoral candidate and City Councilmember Kevin Faulconer met with Cortes once in March 2013. His campaign spokesperson said Cortes wanted to promote a gelato business in the Midway area. The spokesman said nothing came of that meeting and Faulconer's mayoral campaign never received contributions from anyone charged in the investigation.
Alvarez told NBC 7 his campaign received $750 dollars from Cortes for the 2014 special mayoral election, which he has returned. Alvarez also received $999 from Cortes for the primary election, which his campaign still has. Since the primary is over, his campaign spokesperson said returning it is a more complicated process, but that they fully intend to pay it back as soon as possible.
Alvarez said the money received was legal, and he returned it because “it was the right thing to do.”
When asked how he knew it was legal and not from Anzano, Alvarez responded, “I don't think you can keep track of that, but in this case we knew it was coming from him, and this had no connection to this case, but I thought it was the right thing to do. “
A detention is hearing is scheduled for Cortes on Tuesday.
Federal prosecutors have not accused any politician of any wrongdoing in the case.